The standoff June 19, 2011

Gayle v WICB all over again

Their differences date back to 2007, and there is no end in sight

As the one-time baseball legend and master of malapropisms Yogi Berra might have put it, it is like déjà vu all over again. Rows between board and players have become as much a part of West Indies cricket over the last ten years or so as diplomatic flare-ups at the United Nations. Those involving Chris Gayle especially have been a recurring theme.

The script is constant. One of Gayle's typically forthright criticisms offends the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). It demands that he retracts. He tells them just where to get off. The animosity becomes inevitably and increasingly bitter.

The latest standoff has flared over the past couple of months, since the end of the World Cup, mainly over the contradictory reasons given by WICB chief executive Ernest Hilaire and Gayle for the opener's omission from this season's home series, his flight to the Indian Premier League (IPL) and his resentment at the way he felt he was treated by the WICB.

Gayle stated his case in a lengthy and widely circulated radio interview in which he was bitterly critical of Hilaire, the selectors, coach Ottis Gibson (who he termed "a user") and the WICB in general. For their part, Gibson, Hilaire and WICB director Sir Hilary Beckles said some pretty uncomplimentary things about Gayle, either directly or indirectly.

It was clear that his return to the team was untenable against such a background. The upshot was the meeting between Hilaire and West Indies' team management, on the one hand, and Gayle, West Indies Players Association (WIPA) president Dinanath Ramnarine and vice-president Wavell Hinds, on the other, at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston last Wednesday.

Given that Hilaire and Ramnarine, two fierce, unyielding adversaries, were on opposite sides of the table and conscious of the history of Gayle's earlier run-ins with the WICB, it was not surprising to learn that the discussions were tempestuous and inconclusive.

Intended to clear the air, it left it, instead, more polluted than an Icelandic volcano.

While the two sides now engage in their usual propaganda war, it would surely have been more beneficial for the matter to have been heard by the WICB's independent disciplinary committee, headed by Justice Adrian Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), rather than by those so directly concerned.

As it stands, Gayle's relationship with the WICB remains even more strained than when he acknowledged, after their first standoff in 2007, that "there is no love lost between myself and the board". He was two weeks into the captaincy he was to hold until last October when, in his regular column on the internet on behalf of sponsors Digicel, he slated the WICB for its incompetence in failing to get specialist players to England in time for a warm-up match prior to the three ODIs. He also let it be known that he wasn't too pleased that the WICB had initially knocked back the selectors' choice of him as captain for that series, only to subsequently relent.

Ken Gordon, then WICB president, so resented such public comments by the captain that he and tour manager Mike Findlay told Gayle, at a "lengthy meeting", that such remarks were "totally unacceptable, ill-advised and caused unnecessary embarrassment to the WICB". They were sentiments almost identical to the WICB's in the present case.

Back then, Gordon issued what was termed "a strong reprimand" and insisted on an apology. In addition, he said he would have his board "take the matter further after the tour". Gayle's response was as belligerent as his batting. "Will I stand up to the board? Yes, that's me," he countered. "I always stand up for what I believe in and when I'm wrong, I'm wrong and when I'm right, I'm right. If there are going to be any consequences you have to stand up and deal with it as a man. I'm always ready for anything." Nothing much has changed in the interim.

While the two sides now engage in their usual propaganda war, it would surely have been more beneficial for the matter to have been heard by the WICB's independent disciplinary committee, headed by Justice Adrian Saunders of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), rather than by those so directly concerned.

By the time Gayle returned home from the 2007 England tour, Gordon had resigned. Julian Hunte, who remains in office four years on, took his place. In an effort to regain the players' confidence, he let the matter rest, going as far as appointing Ramnarine a WICB director.

By 2008, Gayle was entrenched as captain but was again unhappy, now that he was not engaged enough in selection. Once more, he publicly expressed his frustration. "The majority of the time we discuss about selection and sometimes I get something totally different," he told the Trinidad Express during the home ODIs against Australia the West Indies would lose 5-0. "It's difficult on my side."

Soon, he had had enough. Immediately after the series, he sent in his letter of resignation as captain to the WICB. He decided to change his mind, reportedly only after discussions with teammates and with Hunte.

It was an ironic twist in light of future events.

By June 2009, Gayle and the leading players went on strike two days before the first home Test against Bangladesh. Hunte was scathing in his condemnation. "It was not about action against the Board, it was a statement on the attitude of the players towards West Indies cricket," he fumed in his annual report. "It was simply a case of players feeling so invincible, drunken by the numerous occasions on which they had gotten away with whatever behaviour they chose, that they can act with wanton disrespect for the game of cricket."

Then, on the 2009 tour of England, followed Gayle's notorious and widely quoted interview in the Guardian newspaper in England in which he said he "wouldn't be so sad" if Test cricket were to die out. He stated he preferred Twenty20 cricket, claimed that he "didn't want to be captain" in the first place and would be "giving it up shortly".

What has followed since has been contradictory and confusing.

As captain, his batting average in Tests was almost ten runs an innings higher than when he was in the ranks. When he declined to sign a WICB retainer contract last year and was sacked as captain, it was widely interpreted as his release to play more of his supposed preferred Twenty20 cricket in the IPL, the Australian Big Bash and whatever else might be available. Yet, in his first Test under the new skipper, Darren Sammy, he amassed a small matter of 333 against Sri Lanka. It was hardly the way of someone who wouldn't be so sad if Test cricket died out.

After the World Cup, he said he wanted "to get back on track as quickly as possible" after treatment for a groin injury since his "ultimate goal was…to play and represent West Indies" (for the home series against Pakistan and India). It is a goal that can only be realised if he, and the WIPA, and the WICB suppress egos and grudges and adopt a more conciliatory attitude towards each other. Otherwise, Gayle's future could be confined to Twenty20 bashes and the West Indies denied their most dominant and entertaining player.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • charlie on June 21, 2011, 15:08 GMT

    So many are constanty condemning this board for every move they make , but former boards were subject to the same from the same individual over the years . Those of you who think that a player should be selected based on ability alone with total disregard for discipline ,are totally wrong as far as I am concerned . When this guy Gayle gives to West Indies ,he counts his cost ,but when he gives to the IPL ,its quite a DIFFERENT MATTER . Those of you who are his supporters should not encourage him in his own undoing ,but instead discourage him from such . You never question WIPA's actions on many isues ,with the likes of Ramnarine and W.H inds on this board ,nothing will ever get better . I hope the board sticks to it's plans for West Indies cricket and avoid those who are disruptive forces ,or their plans will fail again .

  • Sathyen on June 20, 2011, 13:54 GMT

    @Malocom Grant: The players that you have mentioned i.e. Simmons and Darren Bravo and so on all don't have IPL contracts today but the way they are performing they will soon have one. Once it happens they too are going to take the same route as Gayle or Taylor or Sr. Bravo or Pollard have done. If the WICB is going treat the few good players that they have this way all that will be left is only Darren Sammy's and Devon Smith's to pick from because these are players who won't make even first class teams of several leading test playing nations.

  • Ravi Kumar on June 20, 2011, 12:18 GMT

    From an outsider's perspective this appears to be less about any real issues and more about the egos of the individuals - mainly Hilaire and Ramnarine - involved in this entire sorry mess. Even allowing for the general lack of cordiality one would expect between players' associations and boards, the WIPA under Ramnarine has been excessively belligerent which, allied with a succession of generally incompetent cricket administrators, has resulted in their regular face-offs reducing Windies cricket to a side show.Windies cricket needs to get rid of office-bearers on both sides and replace them with the likes of Lloyd, Richards etc who command respect. But it is almost certain that won't happen.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2011, 6:42 GMT

    Though I am an India fan, I want WI cricket back to full health and firing. My dad always tells me that everyone in India loved the WI cricket team of the 70's and 80's, just as much as they love their own Indian team. Good luck WI cricket!

  • Javed on June 20, 2011, 0:24 GMT

    So picture this, you work for an organization with incompetent directors. These directors have a history of treating faithfuland long serving employees with contempt. You have been performing at a level higher than most of your fellow employees, and when you get a chance at management, the directors decide you have no say in who is hired, how to run the business, or even the color of stationary. People with very little if any qualifications for the job are always hired. You have medical coverage from the company, but you still pay for your expenses personally. These are not all the ills you suffer, there being MANY other times you percieve (rightly or not) that you were treated unfairly. I wouldn't "shut up and comply" in this situation, would you? I might have responded more diplomatically, but I would most definatley say something. Speaking out when something is wrong is a fundamental requirement for progress, but it will only be achieved when recieved constructively.

  • Dummy4 on June 20, 2011, 0:14 GMT

    Sam Cooke… You are obviously not a West Indian or you are removed VERY FAR from West Indies Cricket… Gayle is history and with time he will be referred to as someone who played the game and NOTHING MORE!!! West Indies is on the brink of introducing to the world, a number of players who are breaths of fresh air - like Simmonds, Barath, Bravo, etc. Gayle cannot make the WI team ahead of these gentlemen based solely on merit. Let us face facts, we are about to turn a new and exciting time/ corner in WI cricket and you are welcome to be part of that meteoric rise. The choice is yours!!!!

  • sachin on June 19, 2011, 23:01 GMT

    This chris gayle saga reminds me of lara' s choice to retire. Lara succumb to the pressure of the board while gayle, sarwan and chanderpaul is fighting back. The only difference is the players have WIPA. I would like Mr. Cozier to write and in-depth article on WHY Mr. Ken Gordon retired and how it was a result of Lara's retirement and also what really happened in the team hotel at the WC in the West Indies. There are many back stories that result to this current stand off the only solution is for someone to give up.

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2011, 19:09 GMT

    WICB cannot handle the truth and because Gayle and Chanderpaul spoke the truth they are getting a very hard time from WICB. It is quite clear that the folks on the WICB are a bunch of bullies. This is typical for a bully to behave this way. It is quite clear also that the CARIBBEAN PEOPLE like what is happening and they like representation. If they didn't like what is happening, they would have demanded changes in the WICB. Can't believe one of the most feared batsman in the world, is ready to play and the almost weakest side in the world does not want to pick select him. That is how stupid this is. If the allegations Gayle made against the WICB are true, why isn't any thing done. What the WI players should do is, if the WICB want them to sign a retainer contract, ok fine pay the players 4- 10 million US $ per year for the next 10 years. So in that way, it will work out good for both sides. Job security for the players and the WICB can keep a tab on their players. Problem solved.

  • Rohan on June 19, 2011, 17:18 GMT

    In the accompanying photo ...gayle looks like a good supporter..... I hope he is allowed to remain just that until he can form his own board to represent WI on the world scene.... if he cant do that he should shut up and comply if he wants to play

  • Dummy4 on June 19, 2011, 16:57 GMT

    Gayle's batting performance against India in the past can be summed up as follows: He has played 12 matches, batted 21 innings, been not out once, scored 641 runs with a highest score of 88 and an average of 32.05.

    Facts: 1. He has played against the Indian opposition 12 times; 2. He is yet to score a century; 3. His batting average is a tad over 30; 4. I do not see Gayle's absence for the upcoming test vs. India being such a bad thing for the West Indies.

    Furthermore in standing up to Chris Gayle's antics, the WICB will be sending an unequivocal message to any future West Indies cricketer who believes that they are greater than West Indies cricket.

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