Cricket loving fans in the Caribbean have been reacting to the news that a solution to the Gayle WIBC impasse is imminent. Reports in the regional media indicate that a high level mediation led by Prime Minister Ralph Gonzales [Chairman of the Caricom sub-committee on cricket] and President of the WIBC met with Gayle in St. Vincent last week. The fact that Gayle will need time to mull over a proposed deal continues to illustrate to those of us not intoxicated by the emotion this issue has generated that the underlying problem for the WICB and the West Indies team remains.
The real problem for the WICB is to recognize that the foundation of the problem is money and greed. Defenders of Gayle’s position suggest that loyalty cannot be taken to the supermarket. It does not matter that Sir Viv Richards and other prominent cricketers of yesteryear spurn attractive money offers to play in South Africa as one example of principle trumping money considerations. To think they were paid far less than present day players by the WIBC! There was a time when individuals were prepared to stand on a principle, any money consideration although important was not the ‘over-weight’ consideration factored to arrive at a final decision.
The leadership (used loosely) in West Indies cricket needs to reconcile what are the overriding perquisites to building a cohesive team now and the future. One does not have to be Peter Drucker to appreciate that a team requires members to committed to team objectives, as important, is the need for team members to manifest behaviours which lend to the team achieving optimal cohesion. All other considerations must be weighed secondary if the West Indies team is to achieve success.
Ironically it is the WIBC who has to give permission to players to sell their services to bidders like the IPL and BPL. How can team members like a Gayle and emerging star Sunil Narine be loyal to the ideals of West Indies cricket if there is the lure to become multi millionaires in less than 3 to 5 years? In his first year in international cricket Narine has been ‘auctioned’ for US$700,000 in the IPL. It is instructive that the numbers 1,2 and 3 teams in the world do not have the problem of their best cricketers taking flight, why? How does the WIBC and other bottom of the ladder teams affected by the new order in world cricket, ring fence the potential of their cricket programs to achieve success, a success which is a requirement especially for the good health of the national psyche of English speaking West Indian countries.
The recent concession by the WICB, in the spirit of compromise, demonstrates that the WIBC has surrendered its leadership role in West Indies cricket at the altar of political expediency and public opinion. The underlying issue remains. The West Indies cricket team cannot sustain success if its best players are allowed to peddle their services to the highest bidder. If they want to be individual contractors then they MUST surrender their right to be part of a team. The folly which currently exist where the WIBC routinely issues NOCs (No-Objection Certificates) because it is intimidated by the legal implications makes a classic example of the need to dismantle this monolithic structure which has surrendered its leadership role in the sport.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) which is responsible for governing world cricket must accept that the time is now to intervene. How can a body responsible for the oversight of world cricket ignore the effect businessmen with deep pockets continue to compromise the strength of the sport? Surely the Kerry Packer experience can be used to fashion a win win for all stakeholders?