Considering the uncertainties surrounding the staging of the 1st test between the West Indies and Bangladesh tomorrow it would be extremely naïve to try to write a preview. Conflicting and sometimes even contradicting reports suggest that anything from a complete player boycott to a second-string side being played. All the while the WICB maintain that “They are confident that there will be a Test match on Thursday”.
If this is frustrating to those who only intended to watch the game on television imagine how much more so it must be for the fans in St. Vincent. In a ground that has only had one previous Test match, 12 years ago against Sri Lanka, the local fans would have surely been eager to see the return of Test cricket to the island. Ticket sales were sure to have been high, considering the fact that the West Indies were expected to win the series. The fans now are left with the dilemma of whether to even go to the ground, bearing in mind that the match may not even be played.
The reports that a second-string team would be played has neither been confirmed by the WICB or WIPA and the information that has emerged has come from St. Vincent. If the WICB have managed to find players to make up a team for the 1st Test on such short notice they would consider that they have done their job in providing a team. But would such a team even be worthy of the name of ‘the West Indian Test team’? Obviously it is the requirement of every Test nation to put out its strongest team and resolving issues to make the strongest team available is an integral part of the board’s responsibilities.
If the match is played tomorrow, regardless of whether a full strength team is played or not, it is obvious that there are issues that must be dealt with fully. So far it seems that there have been only partial remedies to the issues that the WICB and WIPA differ upon, and it is obvious that these partial methods are continuously failing.
The statement from WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine is that "The players have played their last four tournaments without a contract. They are now being asked to play their fifth consecutive series without a contract, which is highly unacceptable.” Considering how likely injuries are for professional athletes it does not seem like too much to ask. In fact, it is surprising that there is not some legal concept which makes certain of continued payment once injury is sustained on international duty.
As always payment of fees remains an issue with WIPA making it known that settlement of payments on the concluded tour of West Indies tour to England (2009) and on the ICC 20/20 World Cup (2009) are issues. Taking into account that these professional sportsmen depend on such payments to make a living then there can be no valid reason for holding back on the payment of fees. Even if the WICB have financial difficulty then they should make a statement to that effect or at least take the time to explain to the players instead of leaving them in the dark.
The last time West Indian players boycotted a series was in the 2005 tour to Sri Lanka but the shadow of a boycott has been present over several series, the last of which being England’s tour of the Caribbean. The matches in Sri Lanka were played with a makeshift team and the West Indies lost both matches comprehensively. No one in the Caribbean wants to see anything approaching such drastic measures again.
If the match is boycotted, there will be no winner. The West Indian players will have sacrificed the series, regardless of the importance of their cause. While if another team is made up the series will lack the integrity it should have. 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 in the last series against England (in the Caribbean) 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.