West Indies cricket plunged into an unprecedented crisis following the decision of the team not to go ahead with the current tour of India.
The team was to play the fifth ODI at Kolkata and a one-off T20 match at Cuttack followed by Tests at Hyderabad, Bangalore and Ahmedabad.
The decision was conveyed by the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) after repeated negotiations with the team and the representatives of the Wavell Hinds-headed West Indies Players Association (WIPA) failed to solve the stalemate related to payment.
In a press release, The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) secretary Sanjay Patel confirmed the developments.
“The WICB has informed the BCCI of its decision to cancel the rest of its tour of India because of a dispute with its players, and has advised the BCCI that its players will return home immediately,” said Patel.
The dispute surfaced at the start of the tour when West Indies played the first ODI at Kochi. Intervention by Board officials had ensured smooth progress of the mach.
West Indies captain Dwayne Bravo, unhappy with the manner in which Hinds had handled the dispute, had indicated the loss of faith in the WIPA.
Having waited for things to improve, the players on Friday went ahead with the threat by refusing to participate in any further cricketing activity.
At the toss, Bravo communicated the decision. “My team is standing behind me and it’s been a tough tour for us. We don’t want cricket to suffer and we don’t want our fans to suffer. It is time to make a decision though. Must give credit to my boys for all the fight they’ve put up,” said Bravo. This after reports that Hinds was planning to come to India and sort out the issue.
Patel added, “The BCCI is shocked and extremely disappointed at the decision taken by the WICB. The WICB’s inability to resolve internal issues with its players and allowing the same to affect an ongoing bilateral series does not reflect well on any of those involved. The withdrawal gives little thought to the future of the game, the players and the long standing relations between the BCCI and the WICB.”
Indicating its displeasure at being let down, Patel stressed, “The BCCI wishes to inform all its stakeholders, especially ardent fans of the Indian cricket team, that this is a unilateral decision taken by the WICB and its players, in spite of several appeals to the WICB to honour its commitment and complete the series.”
This chapter is an addition to the history of disputes that the West Indian players have had with their administrators. Ahead of the 1998 tour to South Africa too the players had threatened to pull out of the tour and it needed the negotiating skills of Ali Bacher to pull off a compromise.
This act, however, leaves the India-West Indies relations in a sour state. The BCCI, Patel promised, “will pursue all options available to protect its rights, whilst seeking appropriate action from the ICC to ensure that its interests and those of the game at large will not suffer any damage due to such acts of indiscretion.”
WICB plays it safe Meanwhile, even as the WICB absolved itself of any decision regarding calling off the tour of India, the BCCI hit back with a series of emails exchanged between the two.
The WICB shot off a mail claiming, “The West Indies Cricket Board advises, that, contrary to media reports, it has taken no decision to discontinue the ongoing tour of India. The WICB will make a further statement following the conclusion of the fourth ODI.”
The BCCI quoted Richard Pybus of the WICB, “WICB’s position is that if the players refuse to play then the players must return home and the rest of the ODI and Test tour is called off. This has been discussed with the WICB president and CEO and they are fully aware of developments here.”
On Friday, the West Indies manager Richie Richardson informed the BCCI, “Despite agreeing to play the fourth ODI in Dharamshala, regrettably, the current West Indies players have decided that they will not participate any further in this tour and wish to return home after this match.
“In light of this, I suggest that the entire squad travel to Delhi tomorrow and be booked into a hotel there, until international return flights have been booked. On behalf of the entire squad and WICB, I apologise for the inconvenience caused.”
The BCCI concluded, “This makes it clear that all along, the WICB was withdrawing its team if a resolution was not reached in the issue with their players.”
How the drama unfolded
There was no indication of the impending crisis when the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) hosted a dinner for the visiting West Indies and Indian teams on the eve of the ODI here on Thursday.
The West Indians appeared in good ‘spirits’ and the home officials looked forward to an exciting contest.
But panic gripped the HPCA at 7 in the morning of the match when the West Indies team management conveyed its decision not to “play” the ODI. The local officials feared the West Indians may have had issues with their hospitality.
For BCCI joint-secretary Anurag Thakur, also the president of the HPCA, it was an unprecedented situation of a team refusing to play. “I could not believe when I was told the match was not on. I was aware of the dispute the West Indian players were having with their board (WICB) but why were we being punished for no fault of ours,” said Thakur.
The West Indians refused to come to the ground and told the HPCA officials sternly to make arrangements for the team to fly back to Delhi. Thakur was placed in a very tough spot as he got into the act of salvaging the situation.
“My worry was the law and order situation because we had sold all tickets and many of the spectators had driven down from neighbouring towns and States.
“To inform the fans that the match was being cancelled because one team was refusing to play could have proved disastrous. People here are passionate about cricket and my immediate task was to convince the West Indians to change their mind,” stated Thakur.
Unrelenting The HPCA president rushed to the players’ hotel with a team of officials and pleaded with the West Indians to relent.
“We have made up our mind. No further discussion on this matter,” Thakur was told two hours before the match was to commence.
Stung by the West Indians’ response, Thakur retorted, “In that case, I am not your host, you are not my guests. Kindly make your own arrangements to fly back. If the match is cancelled, I am not sure if you can get a flight to go to Delhi.” He then left the hotel. And 10 minutes later came the West Indies team management’s decision to rescind its decision.
Thakur expected the Board to take a strict view of the West Indies’ “let down” of cricket ethics. “The BCCI should sue the WICB for losses and also review the relations between the two boards.
“We should not consider the West Indies for the FTP (Future Tour Programme). It is a very unfortunate day for cricket in general.”
Thakur also expected the IPL franchise to rethink about contracting West Indies players on their teams. By playing the match, the West Indies saved the HPCA from huge embarrassment and not just the financial loss it would have incurred. — Special Correspondent