The Dispute Behind The Windies Revival

Jon GemmellCorrespondent IApril 7, 2009

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - MARCH 26:  West Indian Cricket Team captain Chris Gayle takes part in a nets session at The Kensington Oval on March 26, 2009 in Bridgetown, Barbados.  (Photo by Julian Herbert/Getty Images)

Despite succumbing to the brilliance of Andrew Flintoff's bowling, and subsequently losing the one-day series, the West Indies have enjoyed the better of England's tour.

Test series victories are rare moments, but the reaction of the returning crowds shows that cricket remains an important social activity in the Caribbean.

But all is not well within the side.

World cricket needs a rejuvenated West Indies, just as it needs Pakistan. While accolades have been pouring down on the likes of Ramnaresh Sarwan, Fidel Edwards, and Chris Gayle, the players' union took an opportune moment to raise unfinished business with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

This last dispute echoes the struggle that West Indies cricketers have had to endure for decades.

Early West Indian cricketers had to battle to gain recognition in all-white sides, and many exceptional players were overlooked for the captaincy because they were not of the "right stock."

There was little difficulty in raising a West Indian side to take part in Kerry Packer's World Series Cricket. They were branded as mercenaries by some, but their efforts would benefit both domestic and international players of the future.

Timing is imperative in any industrial dispute.

When the players delayed their first ever tour to South Africa in 1998 in umbrage at their pay and conditions, they lost public support and appeared greedy.

The victory in the 2004 Champions Trophy created a better atmosphere in which to re-engage grievances with employers.

But, when the West Indian Players Association (WIPA) failed to make headway, every player except Shivnarine Chanderpaul pulled out of a tour to Sri Lanka.

A reserve team was raised, a point was made by both sides, and a long-term settlement included appointing WIPA President Dinanath Ramnarine onto the West Indies board.

That Ramnarine resigned from the board before the current one-day internationals shows that issues had still not been resolved and the time had come to resume battle.

A number of objections have fused together into the current dispute.

Retainer contracts and players' fees for the recent tour of New Zealand, for the current England series, and for the first-class season are still unresolved.

Payments for the "A" team, contracts for the upcoming England tour, and the Players Provident Fund have not been settled.

Dwayne Bravo, who has returned to international action after an eight-month injury lay-off, claimed that he had not been paid any money during his time on the sidelines.

The players want a bigger say in how West Indies cricket is organised.

There is little discussion between board and union about schedules and the forthcoming tour of England clashes with the lucrative Indian Premier League.

Sponsors have been targeted as a means to force the WICB to the negotiating table. Players boycotted an official Digicel function and placed duct tape over their name on their shirt sleeves during the first one-day match. The first day of the domestic tournament was hit by strikes.

Future action could affect the domestic tournament and the team's tour to England.

"The WICB went on and signed that tour without letting WIPA know anything about the tour," Bravo said.

"We signed our contract to go and represent our IPL team. Now we are in a position where we have to choose whether to go and play IPL for the first six weeks or go to England. It is a tricky situation."

Captain Gayle is the biggest West Indian draw for the IPL.

He is disappointed with a national board that continuously says it wants the best out of its players, and he counters that the players "also need the best out of the board."

If the West Indies are to build on their recent success, they will need everyone working together. This means an employer relinquishing power and a wider share of the profits to all cricketers.

In this sense, we have a traditional industrial dispute