Commercial realities must be front and centre in quest to save West Indies cricket
THIS newspaper applauds the three-member group which reviewed the abysmal showing of the West Indies team at the ICC T20 World Cup late last year, for telling it like it is.
Perhaps the most important paragraph in the comprehensive report points to the collapse of West Indies cricket as a real possibility.
The group, chaired by Justice Patrick Thompson Jr and comprising former West Indies captain and living legend Mr Brian Lara as well as international coach, South African Mr Mickey Arthur, said thus:
“It is not in the best interests of West Indies cricket that our best players play in every global league and play for the WI team on an optional basis. It is imperative that the board and the players have a frank and honest discussion with each other in order to arrive at a solution to this impasse. In this group’s view, there is significant distrust between the players and administration, and this distrust is inimical to ensuring that the best 11 players turn out for the WI team in every match. No Objection Certificates cannot be weaponised against the players but it is essential that some middle ground is arrived at — otherwise, West Indies cricket may cease to exist as an entity. This group does not indulge in doomsday predictions but no entity, sporting or otherwise, has a viable future if its talent is not harnessed and effectively managed.”
The thought that “West Indies cricket may cease to exist” should be brought to the fore for all stakeholders.
And it is that frightening thought that could motivate flexible “give and take” towards concrete, unified action to save a glorious institution which has formally existed since the late 1920s, and informally for decades before then.
The review group made numerous sensible recommendations. For us, the most important was that Cricket West Indies (CWI) and players must talk as equals and that they must do so while recognising that everyone will not get what they want. In other words, there must be compromise because it’s the only way forward if disaster is to be avoided.
It is that failure to compromise which led to the premature loss of leading players such as Messrs Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo to Test cricket a decade and more ago; and even to the temporary loss of some — including those two — to white ball cricket.
Compromise must honestly explore “funding” issues, which were pointedly touched on in the review report though not explored in depth.
Note the comment from the panel that, “The current world cricket calendar is driven by commercial realities. The proliferation of professional leagues means that playing for the West Indies is not commercially viable for our best players. The average sporting career is short in relative terms when compared to the average human lifespan. The desire of our players to maximise their earnings is entirely understandable…”
Let’s not kid ourselves: Even after CWI and players agree on a path forward, hefty financial support from corporate Caribbean and regional governments will be needed.
Inevitably, for this to happen in a meaningful way, moves towards a professional, accountable governance structure for West Indies cricket will have to be concretised.
There is much to ponder going forward.