The West Indies cricket team’s opening One Day International (ODI) against India in Kochi from 2.30 pm local time (4.53 am TT time) today is in danger of being abandoned as the players, their union—the West Indies Players Association (WIPA)—and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) remain locked in a confusing three-way financial dispute
At the heart of the dispute is the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreed by the WICB and WIPA, on behalf of the players, on 18 September 2014.
The players made it clear, in a letter to WIPA president Wavell Hinds and published exclusively on Wired868, that they will not play under a “ridiculously insane” contract and accused Hinds, a former Test and ODI cricketer, of poor representation and being too friendly with the regional board. Yesterday, the West Indies skipped practice and did not attend a pre-match press briefing.
The West Indies A’ team, conveniently, is just a one hour flight away from India in neighbouring Sri Lanka. But its manager, Lockhart Sebastian, did not get far when he invited players to step into the breach and represent the full West Indies ODI team today.
Wired868 understands 25-year-old Jamaican medium pacer Sheldon Cottrell and 24-year-old Barbadian fast bowler Miguel Cummins were informed that they were obliged to turn up in India since both are soldiers and, according to their vocation, cannot turn down national duty. Cummins’ West Indies career thus far comprises one ODI while Cottrell played in a solitary Test.
From the rest of the West Indies A’ team, only one player agreed to join Cottrell and Cummins to Kochi. The WICB was trying to get visas for the trio yesterday evening.
But, unless the WICB intends to draft soldiers from throughout the Caribbean, it is unlikely that today’s ODI will proceed without a climbdown from the regional governing body.
The West Indies players have offered a compromise. They are willing to play today under the old CBA/MOU until a new one can be renegotiated.
“We are of the view that this proposal would be an acceptable way forward since everything remains the same,” said the players, in their letter to WIPA, “and more importantly neither the WICB nor the players are in a disadvantageous position while we continue to discuss further…
“Let us continue under the old structure until we are able to properly negotiate a fair and reasonable agreement in the best interest of West Indies cricket.”
Thus far, WICB’s media officers have not responded to requests for comment on the impasse while Hinds could not be reached.
In a press release yesterday afternoon, the WICB did not directly address the players’ demands but only stated that today’s ODI faces the threat of disruption. Bizarrely, the Board, which is headed by Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron (president) and Michael Muirhead (CEO), suggested that it is not in direct communication with the players either.
“The West Indies Cricket Board has been advised that a number of players forming the West Indies One Day International squad currently in India, and scheduled to play five ODIs, commencing with the first ODI (today),” stated the WICB, “have expressed concerns to WIPA on a number of issues relating to the CBA/MOU recently signed by WICB and WIPA.
“It has also come to the WICB’s attention that the some of the players could withdraw their services for the first ODI. The WICB deeply regrets this apparent eventuality, especially in light of the tedious and substantial work which went into the good faith negotiations to arrive at the new, historic CBA/MOU…”
But the West Indies cricketers are adamant that any good faith shared between Cameron and Hinds was not extended to the players.
A source revealed that Hinds approached several senior West Indies players during the Nagico Super50 tournament in Trinidad this January and advised them to take pay cuts in the interest of helping the WICB carry on its professionalization of the game. The WICB, the players were told, would plough this money back into the game to provide, among other things, annual retainer contracts for 90 cricketers across the region along with the 15 first team players.
The players agreed in principle. However, figures were not discussed.
Last month, Hinds and Cameron shook hands on a new CBA/MOU that, according the WIPA president, covered everybody in full and offered stability to West Indies cricket.
“The one word to stress is partnership,” said Cameron, after the signing. “Right through the theme is partnership. Everything we have done we have done in partnership. The agreement is we do better as an organisation and the players do better.
“This is the most important things we have done for West Indies cricket in the last couple of year.”
However, the players allegedly were not privy to the details until they came to India and were incensed at what they claimed was a forced 75 cut of nearly 75 percent of their tour earnings.
Hinds, according to the source, initially told the players that he was unable to answer their questions about the CBA/MOU without calling a board meeting first.
The dissatisfied players responded by seeking independent advice and subsequently threatening a strike without WIPA’s blessing.
In their letter to Hinds, the cricketers accused the WIPA president of signing off on a MOU without consulting his entire board; and negotiating an annual US$500,000 sum for the union from the WICB while simultaneously giving up the players’ image rights and sponsorship deals without their knowledge.
The new CBA/MOU also cut match fees for players outside the first XI by 50 percent; whereas, under the old deal, the entire touring party received identical match fees even though performance-related incentives differed according to seniority.
Although the new agreement gives the players a small increase in their match fees, they stand to lose as much as 75 percent of their total pay package due to the loss in sponsorship money and image rights, which were won under former WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine.
Wired868 understands that the Barbados Tridents team was first to feel the pinch of the WICB’s new fund raising drive. In the past, the regional board kept one third of the allotted Champions League T20 appearance fee while a third went to the local association and the rest was shared between players and staff. But, in 2014, the WICB allegedly kept the entire sum.
The West Indies players claimed that they felt cheated by the supposedly clandestine manner of WIPA’s negotiations. And, according to the players’ letter, Hinds responded by advising them not to sign the same contracts that he negotiated on their behalf.
The players retorted that the WIPA president is confused and exhibiting clouded judgment.
“Perhaps Mr. Hinds, the confusion of the plethora of positions that you occupy being Chairman of Selectors for Jamaica Senior team, a Board member of the Jamaica Cricket Association and the dual role of President and CEO of WIPA,” wrote the players, “have in some way contributed to the confusion. Or perhaps being a member of the same club as Mr. Cameron in some way may have clouded your judgment…
“We believe we are being hoodwinked and are being treated like little school boys, yet we are being asked to perform and play as professionals. We appeal for good sense to prevail and that you, who have a responsibility until such time that you hold the position as President and CEO, to act in all the players’ best interest.”
Hinds is expected to land in India today to find a solution to the crisis, although it is uncertain whether he has the full confidence of either side.
Ironically, the players claimed Hinds’ plane ticket to India was purchased by the WICB.
(The relevant parties)
West Indies cricket team: Dwayne Bravo (capt), Dwayne Smith, Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Leon Johnson, Darren Sammy, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell, Denesh Ramdin, Sulieman Benn, Jason Holder, Ravi Rampaul, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor.
West Indies Cricket Board: Whycliffe “Dave” Cameron (president, Michael Muirhead (CEO).
West Indies Players Association: Wavell Hinds (president).
Editor’s Note: The West Indies team agreed to drop its threatened strike action, just two hours before the opening ODI. However, the players have demanded the resignation of WIPA president Wavell Hinds.
Click HERE to read the report.