Chaos in Babylon: West Indies in Cricket World Cup

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Updated: February 22, 2015 1:01:15 AM

West Indies losing cricket matches has almost become the norm these days. Fire has long been doused in Babylon. It’s now chaos on and off the field

Cricket World Cup, ICC Cricket World Cup, West Indies, IrelandWest Indies losing cricket matches, irrespective of opponents, has almost become the norm these days.

It would be a gross simplification of facts to call this an upset. Ireland just didn’t get over the line, they beat West Indies with a swagger. Chasing 305 for victory, the ICC Associates won by four wickets with 25 balls to spare.

“I don’t see it as an upset. We came into the game prepared to win…” Ireland captain William Porterfield told reporters after their World Cup opener in Nelson. They now want to build on the start and aim progress, while West Indies go deeper in the mire.

West Indies losing cricket matches, irrespective of opponents, has almost become the norm these days. A thumping win over Pakistan changes nothing. Problems in West Indies cricket run too deep to be subsided by odd victories. Fire has long been doused in Babylon. It’s now chaos on and off the field. And, at this rate, it threatens the future existence of West Indies cricket.

First, here’s a look at how West Indies have performed from the last World Cup to this one. In 77 ODIs, they won 32, lost 42 and tied three.

Win/loss percentage: 0.76. In 35 Test matches, they won 11, lost 16 and drew eight. Win/loss percentage: 0.68. They’ve been struggling to gel as a team and find match-winners on the field. Off it, they’re caught in a financial and administrative quagmire.

October last year was the melting point when West Indies had pulled out of their tour of India, dishonouring a mutual agreement. They were supposed to play five ODIs, one T20 international and three Test matches. They left, abandoning the final ODI and the T20 and Test match fixtures. Then West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo sending a letter of dissent to West Indies Players’ Association president Wavell Hinds was the starting point. “We are disappointed with the lack of proper representation and the players are now forced to make this proposal without any details as to how this new purported agreement was even arrived at and by whom, since the only advice we’ve received from you as President and CEO of WIPA is to not sign the contract/agreement that was sent by the WICB. The players are of the view that as a matter of principle, we should not accept these conditions whereby we are being asked to play a series against India without any certainty of what are our obligations and what we will be playing for,” he wrote.

“As we’ve indicated to you earlier, the players here in India are under tremendous stress and the team morale is at an all-time low. We believe that this present WIPA Executive under your leadership has failed to properly represent the best interest of ALL the players. Many are questioning whether there is now some ‘special relationship’ between the WICB and WIPA which may be good for some but has not taken into account the whole picture resulting in the what may be seen as embarrassing and demonising some players who represent the WI, yet signalling to public that this new purported agreement (MoU) is in the best interest of West Indies Cricket. This is evidenced by the inaccurate WIPA press statement which was sent after we raised our strong objections to you both verbally and in writing,” he added.

In September last year, Hinds had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) president Dave Cameron that the contracted players would give up a share of their earnings to help reconstruct domestic cricket in the Caribbean. And he reportedly did it without keeping Bravo & Co in the loop. The players might have had valid reasons to be aggrieved, but breaking a legal commitment and leaving mid-tour bordered on insane. Even BCCI secretary Sanjay Patel’s personal intervention was ignored.

The indiscretion has had its consequences. Already $5.6 million in the red, WICB has been slapped with a $42-million damages claim by its Indian counterpart. West Indies cricket is now at India’s mercy.

The response so far has been weird. A course correction should have been the order of the day. Cameron has tried to justify his position instead, reminding BCCI of its legal jurisdiction and making Bravo and Kieron Pollard fall guys in the process. West Indies are at the World Cup without their two most experienced players and a callow fast bowler, answering to the name of Jason Holder, is leading the side. Little wonder then that the likes of Chris Gayle are not happy. “How can those two guys (Bravo and Pollard) not be in the team? To me, it got to be like victimisation when you look at it towards those two guys. Come on, guys. It’s just ridiculous…” Gayle had said after helping West Indies to a T20 series victory in South Africa last month.

West Indies’ performance against Ireland suggested a lack of harmony in the dressing room. “If we continue to play like that we won’t be here for long for sure,” former captain Darren Sammy blasted his teammates after the defeat.

Only a fool will gloat over this terminal decline. Cricket can’t afford to lose West Indies. The revamped ICC, under the guidance of India, Australia and England, must do something. But how will the world body approach the task with no clear solution in sight? Money can’t save the day. ICC had given WICB $100 million to host the 2007 World Cup. Why did they regress?

“Instead of dealing with the West Indies board, which has been inefficient at best, ICC should have dealt directly with the Prime Ministers of Caribbean countries who’ve been concerned at seeing their once-great sport go down the drain so quickly…” Scyld Berry wrote in his Telegraph column. This could be a way out. But above all, WICB set-up needs positive intent. It’s unlikely to happen with Cameron in charge.

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