March 31, 2012

The militant man of the people

Board-player relations were at their most acrimonious during Dinanath Ramnarine's time as the WIPA chief, but he was more than just the trouble-maker he was made out to be

Two images come to mind when one thinks of Dinanath Ramnarine.

One, from the Kensington Oval in 2001, when "Dinas" was still very much a player and engaged in a desperate battle to save a Test match against South Africa with Mervyn Dillon. With West Indies collapsing inexplicably on the final afternoon, the pair contrived to survive in farcical fashion, wasting time in the most obvious way, feigning serious injury even, so that treatment could come from the pavilion and more time could be frittered away at the crease. The match referee was unimpressed and Ramnarine was fined, but West Indies got their draw.

Then there is Ramnarine the helper in times of need. The recipients of his aid range from players he represented as head of the players' body, an ageing ex-player too old to have been an association member, or just some ordinary Joe in need of some kind of help.

The last decade in West Indies board-player relations has been heavily influenced by the passion and pragmatism of the outgoing president and CEO of the West Indies Players Association (WIPA). Arguably no single player or administrator has influenced the direction of the game in the Caribbean as much as Ramnarine has done in that time. He leaves the WIPA ship a stronger vessel, if one that steers through rough waters.

The players' association is a transformed organisation from the one Ramnarine inherited in 2001. Before then, it was usually headed by the West Indies captain and run largely by active players. It now has its own office and paid staff, and a network of professional expertise to call on for legal and labour matters.

Even though it is now one of many subjects before the courts, the WIPA, under Ramnarine, has been able to sign collective bargaining agreements and memorandums of understanding - perhaps not quite envisaged in 1973, when the association was first formed, with Rohan Kanhai as president and Deryck Murray as general secretary. The WIPA over the last ten years has forced administrators in the region to take the players' issues more seriously. They have had no choice.

The professional face of the WIPA has developed under Ramnarine's stewardship as president and CEO. The many legal victories it has won over the WICB tell of an organisation sure of its position and committed to defending the rights of its members.

Ramnarine, who retired from international cricket since 2002, has devoted his energies to getting players their dues; and that energy and passion were rewarded with successive terms in office. The players in general seem to trust in his methods, and in him.

The WIPA under Ramnarine has proved an effective pressure group whose skirmishes with the board have at least served to expose many of its inefficiencies. But it has also been clear for some time that the WIPA had gone as far as it was going to go under Dinas

Beginning in 2003, when the semi-finals of the first-class Carib Beer International Challenge were delayed by a day, West Indies cricket has been subjected to a series of strikes by players at the regional and international level. The sources of the disputes have ranged from match fees for first-class players to contractual disputes and image rights issues. In Test series in Sri Lanka in 2005, and in the Caribbean against Bangladesh in 2009, West Indies were forced to field under-strength teams. The 2009 side led by Floyd Reifer suffered the ignominy of being swept in the two-Test series and three-match ODI rubber.

The 1998 standoff in London between senior players and the board ahead of the disastrous first tour of South Africa was perhaps the first indicator to the region's administrators that they were dealing with a new, less compliant breed of player. But the militancy of the Ramnarine era is something the board still has not come to terms with.

The venerable and charismatic Wes Hall, president when the 2003 strike broke out, never quite got over that action. And none of his successors - Teddy Griffith, Ken Gordon and the incumbent Julian Hunte - has been able to tame the WIPA tiger.

Ramnarine and his colleagues, never afraid to go the legal route, have been like a persistent mosquito, continually jabbing at the board and drawing blood. The WICB's response has been a mixture of conciliation, intransigence, and more often of late, arrogance, in the sense of attempting to bypass the WIPA, even when bound by agreements to consult. Last year when the Chris Gayle impasse was bubbling, the WICB even declared it was no longer prepared to deal directly with Ramnarine.

For all the strides the players' organisation has made in representing and educating players and raising funds for charity, the fact is that West Indies cricket is in a more critical state than it was ten years ago. The WICB's archaic system of governance and lack of transparency - repeatedly pointed out by Ramnarine - has much to do with that. But the WIPA's aggressive posturing has not helped either, not as far as the overall game in the region is concerned. Sometimes, even when you are right, it is wise, good strategy even, to give way. The WIPA under Ramnarine was not prepared to give much ground. Ramnarine's acceptance of Hunte's invitation to join the board in 2007 proved but a temporary ceasefire.

So the perception of some in a region unaccustomed to the acrimony that has come into cricket in the last decade is that Ramnarine is a trouble-maker who has taken the game down. That is harsh.

The WIPA under Ramnarine has proved an effective pressure group whose skirmishes with the board have at least served to expose many of its inefficiencies. But it has also been clear for some time that the WIPA had gone as far as it was going to go under Dinas.

Ramnarine or not, there will still be a WIPA, and likely one that will continue to be proactive in defending the rights of its members. A change of face, however, may no longer allow the WICB to claim an obstructionist personality as a barrier to peace.

Ramnarine did right to leave the attack at this stage. Good play.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2012, 19:55 GMT

    Nobody seems to care about the game itself. Protecting each entity's turf is of paramount importance to both, in my view.With Mr. Hinds' ascendancy to the leadership of WIPA, my hope is that while he is seeing after the interests of those whom he represents, he will be less confrontational than his predecessor. Hopefully he will be more conciliatory when dealing with the Board and I'm hoping too that labor peace will ensue for the good of our treasured game. The hope too is that grown men will be able to put aside their narrow interests, and envision the larger picture so to speak, while working sacrificially and steadfastly for the improvement of WI cricket. All hands on deck time one could say. We have a good, young, improving team which as one would expect, is on a learning curve. Compared to the teams of the last decade, it is playing harder, smarter, less brainless and the all important never-say-die cricket even in its infancy. Even Aussie captain Shane Watson comcomplimented

  • Earl on April 1, 2012, 14:21 GMT

    Cops and airline pilots and others have a union.There is a reason for obtaining a union.I worked for a company for 34 yrs and there was no reason for a union.The employer listened and discussed matters with the employees.This does not happen with WICB. What was done with the Patterson report? The WICB knows that there are people who want to blame the players and not them.If the best team was picked most of the time and less friction placed on players we might be in a better situation.Confrontation never helps,and that is what is happening now. Pollard and Bravo are now willing to play for W.I.They have gone out and made lots of money and are willing to sacrifice for W.I now.If it was the other way around they might be on the streets begging,as WICB does not care about the well being of their players.Take a look at the players who get injured while playing and what happens.Gayle was the last captain to win a meaningful series and would of won more if not for D/L bad calculation.

  • Stanley on April 1, 2012, 13:18 GMT

    WIPA: Take a page from the book of American sports and athlete agents. In no sport in America does the players association negotiate the contracts of the individual athlete. That is left exclusively to either athlete/sports agents or the athletes themselves. The athlete agents go through a program of training and education to prepare them to represent the athletes in a professional manner which is within the regulatory confines of the players association. The NFLPA, the NBPA, the NHLPA, and the MLBPA, the players associations for the four "major" sports in America, do not negotiate the contracts for their athletes. The players associations for the players in the English Premier League, the Italian, Spanish, or German soccer leagues do not negotiate the players' contracts. The WIPA should devise a set of requirements and guidelines to qualify, regulate and police athlete agents who negotiate cricketers' contracts but it should not itself negotiate them. Stanley A George III, NY

  • Simon on April 1, 2012, 10:54 GMT

    As one previous writer puts it, "Ramnarine only succeeded in getting some bits & pieces players earn more than they are worth." There is some much truth in that statement, as reflected by the performance of the team during his time as President of the WIPA. His Organization is not responsible for the everyday running of WI cricket, but certainly, while boasting of his success in securing the best deal for the players, he must thave been responsible for ensuring that the players give us value for money. Unfortunately that has not been the case. The more he represented the interest of the players off field, the worse their performances on field became. It even reached a stage where some supporters have called for the players to be paid in accordance with their performances. Fair enough I think!

  • Dummy4 on April 1, 2012, 7:52 GMT

    Ramnarine has created an organisation that has allowed the players to be recognised professionally as a a unit and component of the Windies makeup. Unfortunately, they have as much respect now as they did before he came, and that is in no way his fault, but more because of societal mores in this part of the world - 'nuff said!

  • Zorina on March 31, 2012, 13:07 GMT

    Truth is Ramnarine has done nothing for the game, either as a player or as a traditional "beat your chest, stamp your foot trade unionist". He has, however, made sure tha tbits and pieces cricketers get more than they are worth. As a negotiator he failed to get Chris Gayle back onto the team and that to me is the real measure of his ability

  • Ryan on March 31, 2012, 11:37 GMT

    I'm not going to comment on the article because I did not read it. However, I will comment on Ramnarine's cricket career. He took 45 Test wickets at an average of 30 yet only played 12 Tests - the last of which in 2002 aged 26. Given that in the last decade West Indies pitches have gone from fast, bouncy decks to slow turning tracks a spinner like this is exactly what they would have needed in the last 10 years. Had Ramnarine not been dropped [and continued taking wickets at the same average] then he would have been in the squad up until the emergence of Bishoo...who could have been learning the art of Leg spin bowling in Test matches from a 75-90 Test veteran.

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