Port of Spain: West Indies cricket was lurching towards another potentially damaging confrontation between the region’s top players and the game’s administrators on Wednesday.
With the deadline set at February 14 for the players to sign contracts offered by the West Indies Cricket Board for next month’s World Twenty20 in India, skipper Darren Sammy’s insistence on a doubling of the fees offered -- and the WICB’s refusal to entertain any further dialogue on the matter -- point toward another embarrassing outcome with far-reaching consequences for the Caribbean game.
At the very heart of this latest confrontation is the 2014 Memorandum of Understanding between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) that triggered the unprecedented walkout in the midst of the tour of India in October of that year.
Dwayne Bravo, then captain of the One-Day International squad of which Sammy was a member, has also communicated the players’ complete dissatisfaction with the terms and conditions negotiated on their behalf by WIPA president and former international player Wavell Hinds.
With the majority of the selected 15-man squad no longer members of WIPA, reflecting the deteriorating relationship between prominent players and the representative organisation, Sammy has questioned the validity of the agreement that the WICB maintains is the basis upon which any contractual arrangements are formulated.
“WIPA became conflicted during its negotiations with you and compromised itself,” he stated in his communication earlier this week with WICB chief executive Michael Muirhead.
“It could not and did not actively represent the best interests of all West Indies cricketers.”
However Muirhead, while refuting the claim that the contracts offered represent a fee reduction of as much as 80 percent from that obtained prior to the latest agreement, is adamant that the negotiations with WIPA were proper and should be honoured.
“Players were given an opportunity to discuss the new structure and no concerns were raised at that time,” he noted in responding to Sammy and referring to a negotiating process in May of 2015 that also involved representatives from the International Cricket Council and the global players’ representative organisation FICA.
- 'Second-string squad'
“It is disappointing that you would choose to question the terms now, on the eve of the WT20 in India,” Muirhead reinforced.
Sammy claims that players have been offered just $6,900 per match in India with around $27,600 to be made if a player features throughout the tournament.
In their 2012 title winning campaign, however, the captain said payments ranged from almost $60,000 to more than $135,000.
Sammy would not comment further when approached by an AFP reporter in Dubai on Wednesday where he is playing in the ongoing franchise-based Pakistan Super League.
Ironically, this latest confrontation between the players and the administrators of West Indies cricket comes amid encouraging signs elsewhere in the regional game.
At the under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh, the Caribbean team plays the hosts in the second semi-final on Thursday for the right to face India in Sunday’s final, the same day of the deadline for the selected World T20 squad to sign the contracts.
In January, the WICB announced the conclusion of negotiations with the Indian authorities for a four-Test series in the West Indies in July, representing a significant thawing of relations following the animosity generated by the abandonment of the Indian tour 15 months earlier.
Should both parties refuse to budge from their stated positions, the appearance of a severely-weakened West Indies squad for such a prominent tournament in India could be interpreted as yet another slap in the face to the most powerful organisation in the game.
Winners of the title in 2012 under Sammy’s leadership, a full-strength West Indies side would be one of the favourites to lift the title again with the likes of Chris Gayle, Bravo, Andre Russell, Kieron Pollard, Samuel Badree and the captain again in the line-up.
That heightened sense of Caribbean anticipation now looks likely to be extinguished barring a swift rapprochement.