Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express
Backed into the tightest of corners by its disgruntled players and then scolded publicly by the BCCI, the WICB had few attacking shots left to play to get it out of its latest crisis. So it has decided, for the moment, to be conservative and play from the crease.
At an emergency meeting in Barbados on Tuesday, because the team it sent to India walked off the job and the BCCI flexed its muscles by declaring a suspension of bilateral tours and threatening legal action, the WICB directors decided the hard and fast approach would not work in this case.
WICB president Dave Cameron chose to limit his comments to the media following the meeting. The subsequent press release issued contained words like "regrets," "deeply embarrassed," and "sorrow." They are appropriate. They mirror the feelings of people in the Caribbean who still hold West Indies cricket dear. And for once, public sentiment and board policy seem not to be at odds. Or perhaps the WICB has got a more skillful writer for its releases.
On the face of it, the board appears to recognise that hasty action, anger and defiance at this stage would be counterproductive, even fatal, in its attempt to avoid the challenges it will face in running the game in the region if all the BCCI's statements of intent become reality.
The WICB needs tours primarily by India, along with England, to earn revenue that is not in large supply. So the BCCI's announcement of a suspension of bilateral tours between the countries and its stated decision to "initiate legal action" against the WICB for losses incurred because of a curtailed tour, was like the completion of the one-two punch, guaranteed to send the WICB crashing.
There is a vagueness to the BCCI working committee's statements though. No specific period of time was placed on the suspension of tours, not indefinitely, or one year or two years. Similarly, the BCCI did not specify the exact nature of its legal action. What the statement clearly did, however, was indicate the BCCI's displeasure at how it was left hanging by the West Indies. The lack of detail suggests there might be some room left for the WICB to wriggle free.
So in its response, the WICB made reconciliation with the BCCI its priority, stating: "In light of the longstanding good relationship between WICB and BCCI, which goes back decades and has produced numerous mutual benefits, the WICB looks forward to meeting with the BCCI to discuss these decisions which can have serious implications for West Indies cricket.
"WICB believes that a way can be found to repair the damage that has been caused and to ensure that similar events do not recur, with the focus being on the betterment of West Indies and world cricket."
It also made little reference to the players in the one-day team, whose actions had triggered the crisis, stating only that a task force would be appointed with "critical stakeholders" to meet with the West Indies Players Association and the players before reporting to the directors.
As angry as they might be with Dwayne Bravo and his side, the WICB directors must also realise that further alienating its best players is in no one's best interest, financial or otherwise. Previous standoffs that have ended in player strikes - three in all - were marked by hardened stances by both WIPA and the WICB, which in the long term brought little benefit to either side.
The gravity of this crisis has made a more pragmatic approach a necessity. The situation is unique. It is the players in conflict with both their own association and the board. Caught in the middle, the WICB has come out the most damaged of the parties. It has paid for its inaction in heading off the present situation at its genesis.
From the first letter from Bravo to WIPA president Wavell Hinds that was made public and called for Hinds' resignation, it should have been clear to the WICB leadership that their intervention was immediately necessary. It was not a time to stand behind protocol or pride. To state later by letter that the board would be willing to intervene, but only by the invitation of WIPA, was just adding fuel to a fire that became an inferno. Bravo and his team-mates had some hard choices to make. But for the sake of the greater good, they made the wrong move. Assured that their IPL futures were safe, they seemed either not to fully appreciate or to care enough about the damage their aborting the tour could cause to the institution that has given them the opportunity to ply their trade the world over. Or about the people who they always say they play for. Here was a case of tunnel vision misapplied.
The WIPA leadership also must explain how their members in India could have been so in the dark about the terms of the new bargaining agreement as they have documented. Given the players' decision to abandon tour, the signed current document between WIPA and the WICB, heralded by Cameron as a "watershed," is ironically the stumbling block to the peace it was intended to establish.
At the official signing last month, Hinds said the new agreement was "not a perfect document," and a "work in progress." He may not have realised just how true those words would prove to be. Or maybe he did.
So much is at stake: the financial health of the WICB, the future of the new franchise system set to begin next month, and the very existence of the West Indies team in international cricket. This crisis also has also given a glimpse into the new world under the ICC's big three. The BCCI, crying foul over the West Indies' failure to fulfil their obligations to India, has thought nothing of breaking its own commitments to tour the Caribbean in future. Who is there to stop it?
And as he considers his next move in trying to save his board, president Cameron, who pledged support for the new power structure at the ICC, is also now finding out that alliance with the Indian tiger and its allies is no guarantee of well-being. These are times for well-chosen words and even more careful action. On all sides.