The origins of the issue
There has been friction between the establishment and the players for generations, but it became more evident post-Packer era as players became a more powerful group.
What are the origins of the issue?
Where as most countries found a balance, in the Caribbean nothing changed until West Indies Players Association (WIPA), originally a relatively informal players association, emerged as a more powerful and confrontational body under the leadership of Dinanath Ramnarine. An intelligent and educated former Test player, he felt he had been poorly treated by the establishment and was prepared to tackle an unprepared board head-on, often outmanoeuvring it with ease. The real trouble started when the WICB signed a new sponsorship deal with Digicel in July 2007. The players felt they did not get their fair share, and allied to a growing distrust of the board and egged on by the increasing profile of WIPA, they started on a series of divisive and moral-sapping disputes which rumble on to this day. The present stand-off is mainly over annual retainer contracts, which the West Indies players have been reluctant to sign since October 2008. WIPA has claimed that the players have played four tournaments in a row this year without the contracts while the WICB says the demands of the players are unjust.
What are the repercussions?
The immediate effects have been a loss of sponsors, manifested in the fact last season there were no sponsors for domestic tournaments after Carib Beer decided not to renew its contract and replacements were not available.
Who is to blame?
Both sides have been less than straightforward in their dealings with each other and traded charges with the other leading to several years of disinformation and mistrust. WIPA has alleged the WICB of reportedly failing to honour a number of assurances given, acting slowly, and allegedly trying to create divisions among the team. The players have been far too prone to withdraw their labour and go on strike, and also to make Digicel, as chief sponsor, the enemy and not the board. The players' position is not helped by their actions coming against the backdrop of a string of poor on-field performances.
What is the likely outcome?
In the short term, there is a strong probability of both parties patching up and the senior players returning to play during some point of the Bangladesh series. But that doesn't achieve anything like we have seen in the past. The WICB is riddled with self-interest and has been led by a succession of flawed presidents. It needs a very strong leadership to dramatically overhaul its deep-rooted structure and to be prepared to tackle a number of serious problems. If that doesn't happen, in the long term, it stands in danger of becoming an unattractive sponsorship proposition once Digicel's contract ends in 2013. Furthermore, the dispute can only weaken the profile of West Indies cricket both locally and internationally.