Take guard again!

The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) yesterday opened the way for resumption in negotiations with the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) after regional cricketers dramatically boycotted the opening day of the Carib Beer International Challenge semifinals.

A full agreement is yet to be reached, but after the embarrassment of yesterday's unprecedented strike in matches between Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago at Kensington Oval and Guyana and Jamaica in Berbice, the parties agreed the matches would start today and negotiations recommence next Wednesday, with both sides being represented by industrial relations advisors.

Veteran trade unionist Evelyn Greaves was instrumental in outlining a way forward that was accepted by both parties.

Greaves, a former Barbados Workers' Union assistant general secretary, was part of a 45-minute meeting that included WICB president Reverend Wes Hall, acting chief executive officer Roger Brathwaite, WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine, vice-president Phil Simmons and treasurer Wavell Hinds.

"I think we all should be embarrassed. Everyone who has been involved in this should have found a way of not letting it reach this stage," Brathwaite said.

"Sometimes, with all the best efforts in the world, some things just happen and you have to pick up the pieces. We have to trust that we'll all come out of this stronger."

WIPA, whose grouses stem from player fees for the Carib Beer Series, compensation for injury and loss of earnings for West Indies players from 1999 onwards and payment for Barbadian all-rounder Ryan Hinds for five matches of the Carib Beer series, expressed satisfaction the WICB had agreed to resume negations.

"Our goal is to improve our relationship with the board. We are in the process of putting these things in place," Ramnarine said. "Obviously, you don't like to do things like this, but at some time we need to take a stand. This has been a step backward. With the steps we have put in place here now, it is going help us move forward."

Both Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago turned up at Kensington about an hour-and-a-half before the scheduled 10 a.m. start yesterday.

It was evident that the planned strike action promised on Thursday night by Ramnarine would materalise when neither team emerged from the pavilion for warm-up sessions.

Ramnarine and Hinds held discussions with both teams before Hall, Brathwaite and Greaves arrived at the ground just after 1 p.m.

Both Brathwaite and Ramnarine apologised to the sponsors for the turn of events and Carib Beer public relations manager Colin Murray expressed relief that the semifinals would start today. They remain as four-day matches and the final is still scheduled to start next Thursday.

"At one stage I was worried there would be no cricket," Murray said. "I'm relieved and happy that the board and WIPA are about to come to an agreement and good sense has prevailed.

"What has transpired has not been good for West Indies cricket. As sponsors, we are bitterly disappointed with what transpired."