Coping with cricket’s commercialisation

Saturday, June 09, 2012

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IT is with a sense of relief that this publication received news that the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and former West Indies captain Mr Chris Gayle had conclusively resolved their differences at a meeting over recent days which also involved two leaders of Caribbean governments.

As a result, Mr Gayle has been selected as part of the upcoming limited overs series against hosts England. An agreement between the parties brokered weeks ago by St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves had appeared at risk following talk of "residual issues".

Happily, whatever those issues were, have apparently been smoothed over. We are at one with Mr Wavell Hinds, president of the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA), in hoping that "the re-socialisation that will be needed to ensure there is harmony between the management, team members and (Mr Gayle) will be… smooth …"

We take note also of yesterday’s joint release from the WICB and WIPA regarding the planned meeting, aimed over time, at a "mutually agreeable, revised Collective Bargaining Agreement and Memorandum of Understanding between the parties".

We are told that "assisting the process" will be a "neutral and impartial joint mediation team" from the International Cricket Council (ICC) and the Federation of International Cricketers Association (FICA).

We are hopeful that recent positive news signals a more professional approach to the administration of West Indies cricket by both management and union.

We have long contended that the disputes that have so badly afflicted West Indies cricket over the last several years are grounded in the absence, at every level, of a professional culture. West Indies cricket has found itself entangled in a web of emotionalism and amateurism during a period of the game’s rapid commercialisation globally.

It is largely recognised outside of the Caribbean that international cricketers are professionals who must be treated as such. That’s the reason, for example, that New Zealand Cricket has endeavoured to create a "window" for its top cricketers to be available for the extraordinarily lucrative IPL twenty/20 "money" league in India. That’s an example the WICB needs to find a way to follow so that it will be better able to field its strongest teams at all times.

A huge problem is that the IPL clashes with much of the Caribbean home season for international cricket and also with the start of the English international season.

Richer cricket-playing countries have dealt with the threat of the IPL by simply paying their top contracted cricketers very competitive salaries — an avenue that is obviously not available to the cash-strapped WICB.

The wealthy Indian Cricket Board, which effectively dictates world cricket because of its hundreds of million-strong television audiences, has no problem, since it controls the IPL.

In the Caribbean, many who should know better have sought to keep their heads in the sand while accusing our top professionals, such as Mr Gayle, of a "lack of commitment" because they have chosen to maximise their earnings while they still can.

The signs though, are that even the rich and powerful countries are now being affected by the scheduling of the IPL. For when traced to its roots, the recent shock retirement from international limited overs cricket of England mega-batting star Mr Kevin Pietersen is directly connected.

Hopefully, very soon, the Indian Cricket Board and world cricket’s official governing body, the ICC, will feel motivated to hammer out an arrangement ensuring the stability of international cricket as well as the presence of a window which will allow professionals to prosper in leagues such as the IPL.




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