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Feature

We ain't know what WI want

I never thought it would have come to this.

Fazeer Mohammed
04-Jul-2005


Dinanath Ramnarine has maintained his stand in the contract dispute © Getty Images
I never thought it would have come to this.
For all of the threats and accusations, I remained convinced that a last-minute deal between the West Indies Cricket Board and the Players' Association was going to ensure that the strongest possible West Indies team headed off to Sri Lanka.
Now, watching as both sides continue to justify their positions and try to win the hearts and minds of a bewildered public, the full extent of the fiasco becomes depressingly apparent. In a warped sort of way though, isn't this what the people wanted?
Time after time, the WICB has been condemned as an amateurish bunch of selfish, short-sighted buffoons, preoccupied with their own positions while disrespecting every great player who dared to cross their paths. It was high time, many people pontificated, for the board to operate like a business, to be lean, mean and efficient, trim the fat and cut out all the freeness for friends and associates.
Well, if they are telling the truth, isn't that exactly what they did in refusing to budge from an offer of US$50,000 in sponsorship payments to the players for a possible 15 days of international cricket in Sri Lanka? According to chief executive Roger Brathwaite, the administration has been seeking to reach an agreement on a fixed percentage of the total Digicel sponsorship that would go to the players rather than having to bargain ahead of every series and every tour.
Brathwaite maintains that the Board can afford no more, particularly with a tour of Australia still to come in November. It seems to be a reasonable, bottom-line-based position, given that by September, the WICB is forecasting an overall debt position in excess of US$14 million. In such an environment, the modern business operation would be undertaking a massive restructuring plan involving retrenchment at all levels, liquidation of surplus assets and the cessation of loss-making ventures.
In the context of the West Indies Board, that would mean abandoning all regional competitions at all levels, which continually lose money despite sponsorship support, coaching and youth and development programmes. These are all fine and dandy if the primary interest was cricket. But now it's business, and that means money talks while everything else takes a flying leap off the nearest coconut tree.
If that scenario sounds absolutely ridiculous, it is, in a coconut shell, what operating like a business is all about. Which means that when it comes to sport in this region, and especially cricket, administrators should strive to be business-like in their operations, but can never truly be a business with all the basic profit and loss ruthlessness associated with such an organisation.
And what of WIPA? Hasn't the same public clamoured for their heroes to stand up to the Board and tell them where to get off, to demand what is rightfully theirs as the true flag-bearers of West Indies Cricket?
That is precisely what Dinanath Ramnarine is trying to do. Maybe he is indulging too much in the telling off department and not stressing the rightfully theirs bit enough, but every man has his own way of doing things and, lest we forget, he was elected to replace then captain Carl Hooper as WIPA president in 2002 by the players themselves. They wanted more aggressive and proactive representation of their issues and now they have it with, to use their own phrase, all the attendant consequences.
According to "Dinas", the WICB has yet to furnish WIPA with a signed copy of the Digicel sponsorship contract. If this is true, then why is the Board withholding that contract from the recognised bargaining agents for the players? Isn't that reason enough to hold fast to a particular position and urge his members to stick together in support of the WIPA stance? Ramnarine certainly thinks so.
So both sides, the business-oriented WICB and the very vocal WIPA, will feel justified in maintaining their positions and are prepared, if not contented, to let the situation unfold. Yet the sad part of it all is that the situation isn't so much unfolding gradually as unravelling with alarming speed. While the two "W's" slug it out, there are now 28 West Indies players in Sri Lanka wondering what will happen next.
The capitulation of the A team last Friday in the second unofficial Test was hardly surprising in the circumstances, nor were the instant denials by the Board of attempting to coerce players to sign match/tour contracts. Amid the trading of statements and the obvious uncertainty of it all, how is it possible for these regional representatives to completely block out the controversy swirling around them and be fully prepared to take on either the Sri Lankan Test or A team?
It's not as if they are a group of seasoned professionals with enough experience not to be influenced by off-the-field issues. Even with Brian Lara and company in the fold, they would be underdogs in Sri Lanka. So what could possibly be expected now, given the inexperience, the understandably low morale, and the stark realisation that most of them are just scab labour, with no real long-term prospects whenever the established players return?
But, as I'm sure will be articulated over the next few days, this is all part of the process in developing a meaningful business-labour relationship, which so many of us were clamouring for.
As Maestro sang once, Trinidadians (and West Indians) really ain't know what they want.