By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published July 17, 2017
Suddenly, the Darren Bravo-CWI impasse has been resolved, the hard-line CWI selection policy looks set to be softened and it’s ‘Hakuna Matata’/’Oh Happy Days’ in West Indies cricket again. But for how long?
“Oh happy day (oh happy day) Oh happy day (oh happy day)”
It seems amicable days might be here again. Last Thursday, West Indies cricket loving fans’ hearts were jolted with a plethora of news suggesting that the various impasses between the board and its players are simply halting. Media release, after media release, and stories all pointed to a thawing of the antarctic and misanthropic relationship between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), now Cricket West Indies (CWI), and its players. If only a fool’s hope, it seems both the board and its players have discarded their mephitic differences and have joined in a warm embrace singing ‘Kumbaya, My Lord’ and ‘Hakuna Matata’. What took them so long, you may ask? How would I know?
After close to two decades of strikes, quagmires and morasses, which have left West Indies cricket at the crypt of world cricket and the heart of its fans affixed in doldrums, the fans are now being sold that they have ‘no worries for the rest of their days. It’s a problem-free philosophy.’ Who is buying this hug-me-tight moment? And how long realistically do you think it will last?
Trinidadian Darren Bravo, West Indies leading batsmen in terms of Test career batting averages at 40 in recent times, is set to return to the team after being provisionally suspended from November 2016 for his “big idiot” Twitter comment directed at the CWI president Dave Cameron. Antecedent, Cameron had blundered when referencing Bravo’s past contracts in an attempt to explain the philosophy of the board regarding the awarding of retainer contracts based on performances. CWI, through its then director of cricket, Richard Pybus, informed Bravo of the cancellation of his match contract and demanded an apology from Bravo for his remarks. In my view, at the time, CWI hastily sent Bravo – who is ranked 31st in the world in the ICC Test player rankings – home, without following due process. Nevertheless, in April, newly appointed CWI CEO Johnny Graves seemingly thought that a resolution to the ‘big idiot’ riposte was imminent until Bravo’s barristers initiated a claim against the CWI for loss of earnings.
“It has come as a surprise as I was under the impression we had agreed [on] a way back for him. I’m very disappointed and yes, a bit frustrated,” Grave told ESPNCricinfo.
Well, on Thursday, a joint statement from the CWI’s president and Darren Bravo seemingly squashed their egos for now and placed Windies cricket first with the exchange of public apologies.
In Dave Cameron’s portion of the joint statement, he said, “In early November 2016, I gave an interview to SportsMax TV during which I discussed player retainer contracts and the grades of contract that had been awarded to certain players. In the course of the interview, I stated that Darren Bravo had previously been on an ‘A’ contract, which I have since been advised is not correct. I apologise for the misstatement and wish to assure Mr Bravo that there was no insult or [offence] intended towards him. Darren is a senior cricketer who has been a valuable part of the WINDIES set up for a long time, and I would hope to see his game continue to progress and mature, at both regional and international level.”
Conversely, Bravo’s portion of the joint statement read, “On 11 November 2016, after viewing statements made about me by Mr Dave Cameron, president of Cricket West Indies, on a television sports programme, I tweeted a response which referred to the president which was, in retrospect, inappropriate. As I have always tried to uphold the best traditions of West Indies cricket and its players, I now, therefore, wish to withdraw the comment made on my Twitter account and apologise to the president of CWI and to all WINDIES fans.”
To be honest, something like this never needed eight months for both parties to type and a mutual agreement found. Nothing is wrong with admitting when you have erred but I am glad that both parties or their sides have reached this palsy-walsy juncture.
In addition to the Bravo idiot-proof news, according to another CWI media release, sanctions against another Trinidadian, 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran, has ended and he is now eligible to play in all three formats for West Indies. Pooran, who was a member of the President’s XI which played against Afghanistan last month, opted last year to forego the West Indies four-day tournament, in favour of playing in the Bangladesh T20 Premier League for the Khulna Titans, though he was selected by a domestic franchise team. As such, Pooran was sanctioned for the move.
In the media release, words and phrases littered throughout hinted that common sense has returned to West Indies cricket. The mention of “bilateral good faith discussions”, settling of the “matter amicably”, “commit[ment] to the development of West Indies Cricket at all levels”, commitment to “strengthening their relationship” and “regret” being expressed about how the matter was handled would have everyone singing the ‘Hakuna Matata’ song.
Moreover, declarations on Thursday further hinted that a proposed amnesty by the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) for some of West Indies more prominent players may be accepted by CWI’s board. The policy which made players ineligible for selection for West Indies ODI teams, due to their non-participation in the domestic ODI tournament, may be soon changed, resulting in West Indies best players, according to some, returning to the field.
In an interview in Bengaluru, India on Thursday, Chris Gayle, one such player affected by the CWI selection policy, stated that in terms of the relationship between the players and the board, “things have been steadily improving.
“Things are beginning to open up a little more now between players and the board. It’s looking good, and we’ve to try and build from this to get the best players out on the field.”
All good and grand, however, several sceptics have not bought this defrosting and are counting down to troublesome days again in West Indies cricket. Who am I to knock their pessimism? For the past two decades, what have I to show for my sleepless nights watching West Indies cricket? Like a mad man, I’ve been clinging to fool’s hope for 20 plus years. And guess what? Foolishly, I’m willing to do so for another 20 years. Ah boy!
Until next time…
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a multi-award-winning freelance sportswriter, who – at times – thinks he desperately needs to find a new job which does not involve watching West Indies cricket. It’s at that very moment, he awakes from the terrifying dream.
This blog article was published in the Western Mirror on July 17, 2017.