Suggestions for the West Indies Cricket Board

Saturday, May 31, 2014

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NEWS that Mr Sunil Narine has opted to represent the Kolkata Knight Riders in Sunday's final of the twenty20 Indian Premier League rather than seek to represent West Indies in the upcoming Test series against visiting New Zealand underlines the crisis facing Caribbean cricket.

It's not that Mr Narine doesn't want to play Test cricket or represent the West Indies. The problem is that he is a professional contracted to the Knight Riders for a pay packet that, until just a few years ago, was unheard of in cricket.

Aware of the difficulties facing several West Indians in the IPL, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) set a deadline of Sunday (June 1) — just a week before the start of the first Test -- for them to get into the pre-series camp now ongoing in Barbados.

Having helped his team to the final of the IPL, Mr Narine, in the words of the peerless Barbadian cricket scribe Mr Tony Cozier, "found himself between a rock and a hard place". Predictably, he has chosen to honour his IPL contract.

Hypocrisy is commonplace in the way West Indians approach such matters. However, before cricket followers rush to condemn Mr Narine they should ask themselves what they would have done, were they in his shoes.

For the West Indies selectors, the consolation is that in Messrs Sulieman Benn and Shane Shillingford they have at their disposal two world class spinners available in the absence of Mr Narine.

That said, the issue emphasises the urgency for global cricket administrators to so organise cricket schedules that Test cricket is protected. And further that the interests of defenceless, financially-strapped full members of the ICC, such as the West Indies, are protected.

The issue is not new. In recent years, several of the West Indies' most talented players have had little or no chance to play traditional four-day cricket for their respective territories in the Caribbean because of the demands of cash-rich twenty20 leagues.

The result is that even when players such as Messrs Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell may have been physically available for Test matches or Test tours, the selectors have felt compelled to look in other directions because of reasonable doubt as to how they will perform.

The hope is that the recent decision by the WICB to restructure and professionalise regional cricket will allow all of the region's top players to become available for the regional four-day first class competition. For one thing, the first class season will be doubly extended, allowing a home and away structure. Crucially, as this newspaper understands it, that will involve a start-up of the competition in November when there will presumably be few, if any, competing demands from twenty20 leagues.

That should allow several of the so-called twenty20 specialists to have a relatively extended run in four-day cricket and provide Test-match selectors with a greater pool from which to choose.

Also, it seems to us, the WICB must use whatever influence it has on the rulers of the ICC -- India, Australia and England -- urging that windows for Test cricket be protected. Should that become reality, the agonising, no-win choice Mr Narine was left with this week would be avoided in the future.




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