West Indies cricket has lurched from one crisis into another over the last 25 years, and the latest one is a huge financial problem that looks insurmountable.
Because West Indies pulled out midway through their tour of India last month, the Board of Control for Cricket in India is demanding around $42 million in compensation, money that the always financially strapped Caribbean region can ill afford.
West Indies has two weeks to respond to why they did not play the fifth and final one-day international in Dharamsala on Oct. 17. Three Tests, the last match of the one-day international series and a Twenty20 international were not played.
That withdrawal left a cricket-loving India with a huge fixture void, which was partly covered by drafting in Sri Lanka for some games but nowhere near the sort of revenue Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Marlon Samuels and the other household names would have generated.
The Indian authorities thought the dispute between the West Indies Players Association and the West Indies Cricket Board had been resolved two months ago after a memorandum of understanding and collective bargaining agreement WWest Indies board president Dave Cameron has agreed to compensate the BCCI in “acceptable terms,” but they have little or no cash in reserve, certainly not the sort of amount India is justifiably demanding.
The pullout is the result of a long-running feud between the players and the board over the renegotiation of match fees when the players’ union rejected the final offer from the board, the matter went to arbitration, and the courts found in the board’s favor.
Wavell Hinds, the current president and chief executive of the West Indies Players’ Association, is at the heart of this latest acrimony, and the players feel that he is not acting in their best interests.
Essentially, the deal reduces sponsorship revenues to the international players to be redistributed to increase income for the Caribbean’s domestic players.
Although around 90 modestly paid domestic players are grateful for this deal, the international players are resentful and feel they are losing out too much.
The West Indies board was in Trinidad over the weekend, meeting WIPA reps to resolve this matter. The sides are at such loggerheads that Ralph Gonsalves, prime minister of St. Vincent, was there to help smooth negotiations.
Gonsalves has a good record in these situations, having resolved Gayle’s bitter dispute with the West Indies board three years ago.
There seems no easy solution. Any significant amount of what India is requesting would bankrupt West Indies.
This situation is another omen for the future of West Indies cricket. Interest and fan support has faded significantly in the Caribbean because of abject mismanagement of the sport and the fact that the best players have become dependent on the hugely successful Indian Premier League for their million-dollar incomes.
There are plenty of other T20 tournaments in cricket hot-spots too to keep the likes of Gayle, Bravo and Kieron Pollard lucratively compensated, which is probably why they timed this strike when they did.
At least there is a glimpse of hope that West Indies will return to action soon.
Gayle said over the weekend he is confident that Windies will tour South Africa in December, which had already been scheduled months in advance.
West Indies has two weeks to respond to why they did not play the fifth and final one-day international in Dharamsala on Oct. 17 and then completed the tour with a Twenty20 and three Tests.