West Indies sinking lower

With a fortnight to go until the start of the Champions Trophy, West Indies cricket is once again in disarray, with their former coach on Monday criticising the board and a second-choice squad in South Africa for the 50-over event likely to get thrashed.

Thirteen senior players, including Chris Gayle, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, have been on strike since July in a row over contracts and a ragtag squad will be captained in South Africa by Floyd Reifer, a 37-year-old batsman who had not played international cricket for a decade until his recall this summer.

West Indies have reached the final in three of the five Champions Trophy tournaments, beating England at the Brit Oval in 2004 and coming second in 1998 and 2006, but they are not likely to progress from a group that contains India, Pakistan and Australia.

There are a few familiar names not on strike, such as Tino Best and Darren Sammy, but the side were beaten 2-0 and 3-0 by lowly Bangladesh in their recent Test and one-day series.

Tim May, the chief executive of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations, said that the Champions Trophy will be devalued by West Indies sending what he called ‘a third-rate side’.

‘I’d suggest they are in breach of their agreement with the ICC, which says they must pick their best-available team,’ May added.

It was revealed on Sunday that West Indies were almost thrown out of the World Twenty20 in June. Conde Riley, a former board director, said that the players had not signed their tournament contracts until hours before their semi-final against Sri Lanka, when they were threatened with disqualification.

John Dyson, who was sacked as West Indies coach last month after failing to sign his contract, has attacked the professionalism of the West Indies Cricket Board.

He said that he had first been asked to sign a contract that had the name and address of Bennett King, his predecessor, on it and then, when he sought clarification on a couple of issues, received no reply.

‘It would seem the WICB have problems with contracts with quite a few people, and not just me,’ he said. ‘It’s a tragedy that West Indies is playing international cricket without its strongest team on the park.’