Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cricket teams strike

The tension between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) erupted yesterday into a full-scale boycott of the WICB Regional Four-Day Tournament with none of the scheduled three matches in round 11 getting underway
The West Indies (WI) team also protested by placing masking tape over the Digicel logos on their uniforms during play against England in the first match of the One-Day International series in Guyana yesterday.
The regional players strike occurred one day after WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine resigned his executive post on the WICB citing their inability to address issues concerning the welfare of the cricketers.
Manager of the Trinidad and Tobago (TT) team, Colin Borde revealed he was stunned when informed about the players strike yesterday morning. The national team is in St Vincent to play the Windward Islands at the Arnos Vale Ground.
“At 8.15 am, I, like every manager in the Caribbean, was informed about the decision of the players to strike. I was told by Daren Ganga that the team would not be playing because of the ongoing strike between WIPA and the WICB. He then informed me that the players will be in their room awaiting further word from WIPA,” said Borde.
Following the news of the strike, Borde explained he made calls to president of the TTCB, Deryck Murray informing him of the action taken by the players and the relevant officials.
“I went to the match venue and informed the umpires and match officials that the players will not be coming to play because they are striking. I also spoke to manager of the Windward Islands team Lockheart Sebastien and the necessary arrangements were made,” said Borde.
The TT manager stated he was optimistic the remainder of the first class season would not be lost but accepted that in the current climate of cricket there will be a lot of conflict.
Despite striking, the national team completed a training session at 3 pm keeping themselves ready for the resumption of cricket.
“We came here to play cricket and get 12 points against the Windward Islands. The players need to know when they have to focus and when they could relax,” noted Borde.
The regional strike is expected to conclude today with all matches including Jamaica versus Combined Campuses and Colleges, Barbados versus Leeward Islands and Windward Islands against TT bowling off with the matches revised to three days.
At the press conference on Thursday, in which he announced his resignation, Ramnarine hinted at the possibility of the West Indies team boycotting one of the test series in 2009 but gave no indication of the impending strike in the regional first-class competition.
“We have to decide at this point in time where we go from here and whether in fact these matters are serious enough for us to take that sort of action (boycott). I have to say that it is very unfortunate because really the truth and the fact is we should be talking about how we could be continuing the progress of West Indies cricket,” said Ramnarine.
The WI team playing against England in Guyana yesterday, wore masking tape over the Digicel logos on their left arm, in a show of solidarity for their peers. The masking tapes were removed at the drinks break. WI captain Chris Gayle also blocked out shirt manufacturer Vampire’s logo which was also removed at the interval.
Julian Hunte, president of the WICB, revealed a meeting has been arranged between his organisation and WIPA to thrash out the issues which have aggrieved the players body enough for them to warrant industrial action. This meeting will be held on Tuesday and Wednesday in Barbados.
WIPA, in a press release yesterday, instructed its regional members and international players to proceed with their respective fixtures and obligations pending the outcome of the meeting in Barbados.
Hunte refused to divulge the main items on the agenda but explained that the regional governing body has requested the attendance of the WI players.
“It will be premature for us to speak about the issues that have been submitted for our consideration, but I believe we will also want the players to be in attendance at the meeting on Tuesday because things have reached the stage where we need to involve them so that they can hear both sides,” he said.
Ramnarine gave an outline of the main issues of contention on Thursday including retainer contracts and first class fees. The WIPA boss pointed out the regional players are not satisfied with their salaries which have been stagnant since the last industrial action in 2003.
“As far as the first class fees are concerned, while the board members have recognised and publicly acknowledged that these are extremely low, nothing has changed since we were forced to take industrial action in 2003, some 15 years after the previous increase,” he stated.
Injury payments, the updated anti-doping policy, non-payment of players for the recently concluded tour of New Zealand, outstanding monies for 2008 retainer contracts, the finalisation of contract fees for the current series versus England, the upcoming tour of England, the West Indies ‘A’ team fees for the match against England and the Provident Fund– a pension scheme for retired players–are some of the important matters WIPA is expected to put on the table.
“These matters ought to be dealt with you just cannot go and sign a contract with someone when there are outstanding issues from the previous contract. You either agree to a mechanism to deal with it in a timely fashion and you proceed in good faith. We served the notice in June 2008 but the actual agreement was in November/December 2007 and again these are minutes coming from the WICB agreeing to certain things on how we proceed with third party agreements,” said Ramnarine.
Forbes Persaud, CEO of the TT Cricket Board (TTCB), was hesitant about supporting the national players in their protest, stating he is yet to officially know the nature of the conflict. He revealed he was aware of the issues raised by Ramnarine that led to his resignation from the WICB but was not willing to comment further.
He revealed the TTCB is not likely to take action against the players since the strike was not a unilateral one but involved all teams competing in the regional four-day tournament.
“The manager called me in the morning and said the players were not taking the field based on instructions from WIPA. We understand that the strike was for today only,” he said.

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