“How I remember the time in 1976 when
I was taken to the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad as a boy by my father
to witness West Indies vs India— there was standing room only.
West Indies vs India in 1988, same
thing—you could not even stand.
“I went to the Queen’s Park Oval in
Trinidad to witness West Indies vs New Zealand in 2014. There were about
75 people. All of the stands were closed except one. There was one
nutsman who slept most of the day. There were two caterers. How sad.”
Dave Gajadhar—cricket fan
During the October–November tour to
India, when the West Indies team was at loggerheads with its union over
their new memorandum of agreement and said they could not play with this
new “massive” wage reduction, something happened to West Indies cricket
that went beyond the money.
A wise writer friend once told me that
when things fall apart, two things could happen. The first is that it
can unravel to a bitter or sad end, or it’s an opportunity for a
breakthrough. The other thing about things falling apart is that it
reveals a kernel of the truth. What is the truth about West Indian
cricket today? Is it down to money? Are “franchise cricket” T20-version
players making millions, destroying international cricket?
Is it power? What is cricket without its
fans? And will the fans of cricket go on watching it if they feel the
games are not about a shared passion between the player and the fan, but
Do the West Indies players give a damn
about David Rudder’s Rally Round the West Indies or CLR James’ Beyond
the Boundary? Is the saying that it’s a “gentleman’s” game an
Can we keep the good of colonialism
while becoming our own people? Is the game about to get very
transactional? I’m not saying the players should not be valued, or that
they should be disrespected. I’m simply wondering if, somewhere along
the transactional relationships between boards and unions, that the
passion may be lost. The talks between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)
and the West Indies players may have abated the tension caused by the
team’s decision to abort their Indian tour.
There is hope that the 15-day deadline
to respond to the Indian claim of some US$42 million will allow for some
kind of way out of an impending financial crisis. But this could all be
a Band-Aid if the crisis isn’t used as an opportunity to address some
real issues surrounding the West Indian team.
This is the perspective of a cricket fan
Dave Gajadhar—and I’m thinking now that without the fans there is no
cricket. This is a voice that must be heard.
Here is what Dave has to say. “In their
84th year, West Indies cricket faces possibly its toughest challenge to
survive to 85. The problem: the players, current or modern, and the
relationship between the board and their assets—their players.
“So, what went wrong? “Historically
there have always been issues and disagreements between players and the
board pre- and post-colonial West Indies.
“Sir Frank Worrell in early ’60s
established the need to pay cricketers; Clive Lloyd, ’79, also the need
to compensate in line with International players. The modern
disagreements, however, had to do with memoranda of understanding or
collective agreements between the players’ association and the West
Indies Cricket Board. These disagreements are much like a union
bargaining for their workers’ rights and compensation.
“What evolved was hard stances between
both parties which has progressively worsened over the last 14 years.
WIPA (West Indies Players Association) was formed in 1973. Its
objectives included, to quote Deryck Murray’s West Indies Cricket Annual
‘to look after the welfare of its members, the advancement of cricket
and to provide an environment in which all that is good in West Indies
cricket can flourish.’
“Cricket is more than a pay structure
and image-rights. It is an identity. For some Caribbean countries who
play together, it is a sense of pride that unifies the region. One
wonders if this pride exists or even if there is a desire to keep it:
Jamaicans are refused entry into Trinidad, and Barbados.
Trinidadians are refused entry into
Jamaica; Jamaicans refused entry into Barbados. There is no unity, so
how on earth can we play as one? Even at Caricom level there seems to be
no real desire to save cricket.
“Perhaps now, Caribbean countries want
their own identities.
This could answer why Caricom has failed
or is failing. The players have somehow been brought to think that their
country is their club and want to be paid well. There are no performance
criteria. If this had happened to India or Pakistan one wonders what the
players may have been exposed to by a cricket-mad public.
“But here it is not major news. The
players are back with no comments. Life goes on.
“Have we as a society lost touch with
ourselves?” Yes, Dave, given the state of cricket today, it seems that