Gonsalves proposes CARICOM panel to help solve Windies crisis

ralph-gonsalves-740BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Thursday October 30, 2014, CMC – St Vincent’s Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves is advocating the assembling of a three-member CARICOM panel to help resolve the ongoing contract dispute between West Indies players, their union WIPA and the West Indies Cricket Board.

In a letter to WICB president Dave Cameron last week, Gonsalves said the current crisis was too serious a matter to be solved by the Board alone, and suggested the wider of engagement of CARICOM.

Gonsalves proposed the panel be comprised of current CARICOM chairman, Antigua’s Prime Minister Gaston Browne; Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell and former Jamaica prime minister PJ Patterson.

“I consider that a mature engagement with regional governments through CARICOM may assist in finding satisfactory ways to the impasse,” Gonsalves wrote in the letter, which he read on the popular Mason and Guests cricket show on 92.9 FM Radio here Tuesday.

He added: “I do not think that this huge complicated issue can be handled in an ad hoc manner or by the WICB alone. This is an extraordinary enterprise which takes us beyond the boundary.”

The experienced leader, who played a key role in resolving the impasse between the WICB and Chris Gayle two years ago, said while his proposal was not a new one “the urgency of now demands its embrace.”

According to Gonsalves’s proposal, the CARICOM panel would focus not only on solving the current impasse, but on several other key issues in West Indies cricket. These include the sustainable funding of West Indies cricket, the reform of the management of the WICB and the tensions between the WICB and the Indian Cricket Board.

“The CARICOM group is well placed to assist not only with the cricketing authority in India but possibly with the Indian government,” Gonsalves wrote.

The long-serving Vincentian leader said the impasse called for “exceptional leadership, a well-articulated strategic path and … wise feasible tactical approaches.”

“The ultimate goal is wrapped up in a process for the survival, consolidation and renaissance of West Indies cricket,” Gonsalves wrote in the letter.

The crisis erupted two weeks ago when the West Indies one-day team abruptly walked off the tour of India in protest over the terms and conditions of the newly signed Collective Bargaining Agreement that WIPA struck with the WICB.

One-day captain Dwayne Bravo, the spokesman for the players, contended the new CBA would result in a drastic reduction in their earnings. The players also called for the resignation of WIPA president and chief executive, Wavell Hinds, and for a return to the terms of the old CBA.

When their requests were ignored by both WIPA and the WICB, the players took the decision to quit the tour following the fourth match in Dharamsala. They had been scheduled to play another one-dayer in Kolkata, a one-off Twenty20 in Cuttack and a three-match Test series carded to start October 30th.

Gonsalves, also an ardent cricket enthusiast, said the situation was of major concern to him.

“The fact that I took time out to write a letter is an indication of my own concern about the seriousness of this matter. West Indies cricket as we all know goes beyond the boundary, and in this particular case for the tour to be directorially terminated, is a serious matter,” he told the radio show.

“India is the powerhouse of cricket but other than that, other than the lucrative contributions they make to the coffers of West Indies cricket, the fact of the matter is you don’t break a tour half-way through. I am not assigning blame to one side or the other – I’ve read all the public exchanges – but what I would like to see is for this matter to be settled amicably.

“That’s why I made a proposal for a particular structure to facilitate the West Indies Cricket Board and the other stakeholders, in arriving at some resolution, and to address some other matters attendant to the cancellation of the tour, the abrupt breaking of the tour mid-way.”

He continued: “We have to take this matter very seriously. It is not a life and death matter in the sense there’s the threat of Ebola hanging about … but clearly the meaning of cricket to our people. It is an embarrassment, it’s a humiliation frankly for our people in the region in the eyes of the world that we can’t handle our affairs.”

The WICB announced last week it would set up a task force to investigate the matter.

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