Consider the fans
In the 4th ODI played in Barbados yesterday England performed with ability that they had not previously shown any indication of possessing. The win was as convincing as their loss was complete in the 3rd ODI and it was surely fitting that it was their captain, Andrew Strauss, who played the important innings. More than just a chance to restore pride, this was no irrelevant victory since with this win England have now draw level in the series . This makes the 5th ODI in St. Lucia on Friday the decisive match.
Surely now the possible boycott of the 5th ODI cannot now happen as it would forfeit the match and give the series to England. Common sense should dictate that this match should go on unhindered but this would only be true if cricket is indeed the first priority. WIPA and the WICB have been down this road before and as everyone who had followed the game in the Caribbean knows, nothing can be ruled out as impossible.
If the West Indies had won the 4th ODI than they would have attained an unassailable 3-1 lead in the series, making the 5th ODI a meaningless match in terms of the determination of the trophy. The players would then have no issue in the boycott of the match since they would be able to prove their point after winning the series. This English win leaves the series open but may have opened the avenue for the possibility of WIPA making an even stronger statement.
If WIPA are really determined that the issues which they stand for are the priority then they should, in theory, remain prepared to boycott regardless of the state of the series. In fact they may even be in a stronger position to bargain now, as they can effectively control whether there will even be a contest for the series of if the trophy is handed to England without even an attempt to win it.
The points on which the WICB and WIPA differ have not changed. They are still in disputes over payment for previous tours, payment for player injuries and medical bills and retainer contracts. Either side insists that the other is to blame and the deadlock usually involves a court arbitration to resolve. The resolution of these issues have been time consuming in the past and nothing suggests that it will not be so again.
If the last ODI is indeed boycotted it will serve very little point other than to state WIPA are unwilling to back down, even for the sake of the series. It will also give the WICB ammunition to the argument that they are concerned more about the cricket and WIPA are concerned more about their own affairs. If WIPA state that they are going to boycott unless some resolution is made and none comes to fruition then the WICB risk looking as though they care more about maintaining their position than reaching an agreement.
If the match is boycotted, there will be no winner. The West Indian players will have lost the series. Both the WIPA and WICB will have lost credibility and their ability to represent and administrate respectively should be seriously called into question.
Most of all it is the fans who lose. West Indian fans have not had a lot to celebrate in the past years. The size of crowds as well as the energy of the fans show the importance of good results and how long the crowds have waited to see them. At this time, when fans should be given something to celebrate after years of faithful support it is unfortunate that off field matters should be given a priority. Whatever the result of the discussions between the WICB and WIPA , once cricket matches in the West Indies continue to be overshadowed by disputes , then it is only those who love the game that will suffer.