West Indies must start getting it right

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The latest temporary rapprochement should mean that a more or less full strength squad compete in the World Twenty20 next month. But it was a near thing, secured only after an exchange of emails between the squad's captain, Darren Sammy, and the West Indies board chief executive, Michael Muirhead, which demonstrated that the two sides are sufficiently far apart to make junior doctors and Jeremy Hunt seem bosom pals.

No one should be surprised if there is further acrimony before the tournament begins - as early as the pre-tournament camp in the UAE, starting next Monday. If they do manage to hold things together until the end, it is a sure-fire certainty that there will be more ill will pretty soon afterwards.

It is astonishing, therefore, that if they arrive in India they will be viable contenders to win the event. Champions in 2012, they were semi-finalists two years ago, when beaten by the eventual winners, Sri Lanka, and are at No 2 in the ICC rankings. That all is not lost, as sometimes it has appeared to be in recent years, was shown again by West Indies' victory in the Under-19 World Cup at the weekend (a competition in which England finished sixth). Here was hope for the future in a depressing present and recent past.

Somehow, fashionable and understandable though it has long since become to deride West Indies as a Test team (ranked eighth out of 10) and one-day side (ninth out of 12), they have kept themselves afloat in the shortest, trendiest form of the game. Evidence of where their loyalties and perhaps their gifts now reside was provided in Australia only a few weeks ago.

While a young, hapless Test team were being roundly hammered in the Test series, six other extremely competent West Indian cricketers were performing in the Big Bash, a glittering Twenty20 competition, but a domestic event for all that. The players were earning more money in the Big Bash than they would have done for playing for their region in the Test series.

Money and status have been at the root of the perennial disputes between board and players. In late 1998, on the eve of the historic Test tour of South Africa and not so long after West Indies' great era, several players were holed up for days in a hotel near Heathrow Airport.

They wanted a better deal before making the trip, tired of poor wages and what they perceived as a lack of respect. A deal was eventually cut but they lost the subsequent series 5-0. It has been pretty much downhill all the way since then.

The board and the players have never truly trusted each other since and there have been frequent spats. The poor relations seem to have reached a nadir in 2014 when the team pulled out of a one-day tour in India because of disagreements over a new pay structure. The discord now extends to the players and their own union, the West Indies Players' Association.

While the board and WIPA signed a contract for the World Twenty20 it could hardly be said to be binding. Fourteen of the 15 players selected in the original squad were no longer WIPA members.

Sammy, as was to be expected from a man of eternally sunny disposition, wrote in a dignified manner to point out that the players in this tournament were guaranteed $27,600 but only if they played in every match (no play, no pay was the board's position), whereas in 2012 the minimum payment was US$57,937.

“I want to state on behalf of the players that we want to play and will represent the West Indies to the best of our abilities. The embarrassment and fiasco of the Indian Tour which was called off by the board must not be allowed to happen.

“However, it is the arrogance and high-handedness of the board which cause these problems. You cannot continue to force players to be represented by a body that they are not members of and do not want to represent them. You cannot continue to be unfair and unreasonable.”

To which Muirhead responded that WIPA was the sole exclusive bargaining agent, regardless of who the players were at any given time. “WICB is not prepared to unilaterally vary the position at this time, or to negotiate different terms without the involvement or endorsement of WIPA.” Although it was clear that no love was lost, he gave the players until 14 February to respond or forfeit their squad place.

In the event, it looks as if 12 of the original 15 will go to India. Kieran Pollard has withdrawn because of injury and Sunil Narine, always a precarious selection considering he is currently banned from bowling in internationals, because he has not finished rehabilitation work on his action.

Darren Bravo has opted not to go for strange, old-fashioned perhaps most uplifting of reasons. He has told the board that he wants to concentrate on preparing for Test cricket, which he sees as his long-term goal. But that leaves his brother, Dwayne, Sammy, the prodigious Chris Gayle and others who know their way round the Twenty20 game. If West Indies do well, it will be despite themselves; if they do badly, they had it coming. – The Independent

Original source: West Indies must start getting it right

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