The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the region’s players’ union will hold crisis talks today to try to break an impasse that threatens to lead to a boycott of the fifth one-day international against England.
WICB president Dinanath Ramnarine is believed to be leading a delegation to meet Julian Hunte, the president of the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA), and his representatives in St Lucia to try to save tomorrow’s match.
The deadlock has already seen regional first-class players go on strike, leading to the cancelation 10 days ago of some 11th-round matches in the WICB’s four-day competition.
There are five West Indies players who have signed on to the lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL), a tournament which clashes with the team’s tour of England next month. This conflict is one topic certain to be on today’s agenda.
WIPA has a long list of concerns with the way the WICB governs cricket in the region, including the contention that the board usually makes decisions without consulting the union as had been previously agreed between the two bodies.
While Ramnarine has declined to make any public statements, West Indies captain Chris Gayle and all-rounder Dwayne Bravo have spoken of their frustrations.
“When there are issues to be dealt with, then they should be dealt with,” Gayle said on Sunday. “I am still disappointed with the way things have gone. I think they [WICB] are still trying to bypass WIPA. We the players actually instruct WIPA to go about what we want at this point in time. It is not the case that WIPA actually goes out on its own and does these sorts of things. We the players ask for these things, these changes.”
Bravo said the WICB failed to consult WIPA when agreeing to the tour of England starting next month. Ironically, the West Indies replaced Sri Lanka on the tour because its board opted out of the series to allow its players to take part in the IPL.
“The WICB went on and signed that tour without letting WIPA know anything about the tour,” Bravo said. “We signed our contract to go and represent our IPL team, now we are in a position where we have to choose whether to go and play IPL for the first six weeks or go to England. It is a tricky situation.”
WIPA also wants first-class players’ salaries to be increased, proper retainer contracts to be put in place and to discuss the late payments of fees, injury payments and the upcoming scheduling of regional and international tournaments.
The WICB sought to tackle some of the main issues last Friday, announcing that it has proposed an increase in player wages in the first-class tournament, with match fees rising from US$300 to US$1,000.
“The WICB proposal includes, among other things, the allocation of some 22 percent of the board’s annual revenue to players salaries; the provision of retainer contracts for all first-class players and an increase in the match fee for first-class players,” the WICB said in a statement. “In addition, first-class players will now be able to join and benefit from membership of the Players’ Provident Fund [which supplies pensions for retired players], with contributions from the WICB.”
Gayle believes tomorrow’s match in St Lucia will go ahead, despite suggesting last week that his players were prepared to boycott it.
“I’m sure things will happen, the cricket will happen,” he said of the decider with the series locked at 2-2. “At the same time, we have to just keep our focus and concentrate on what we have to do. What we can’t handle, just leave it alone.”