Recall October 2012, perhaps the only time since the start of the 1980’s where the West Indies team and the governing West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), now Cricket West Indies, were all on the same page in trying to achieve a particular goal. It was extremely short lived but let us not understate the fact that winning the World T20 Championship that year was the single most significant thing that happened to regional cricket since the mid-1990’s.
That was probably the last time the game’s most talented and entertaining stars all, happily, shared a stage together. Before and after that? Pure turmoil. That is the very reason why the recent public squabble between Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, does not surprise me.
What is it with the West Indies players and infighting? Some may say this is a cultural trait, since it’s been happening for decades, while politics may very well be in the mix. Ultimately, the players have lost sight of the most important thing: performance on the field.
We can recall the infamous rebel tour to South Africa in ‘81, when some of the region’s most talented cricketers defied world cricket and most importantly the orders of the WICB to travel to South Africa to play for large sums of money in the middle of the Apartheid era. We also cannot forget the tour of South Africa in ‘99, this time an official one, was marred by an ugly pay dispute. That tour ended with the Windies losing every single international game.
Then there were more pay disputes which led to the WICB naming “B” squads for international series, namely the 2005 tour of Sri Lanka and the 2009 home series against Bangladesh. In both cases, the regional team was humbled.
Most recently, there was the contract dispute between the West Indies players, WICB and the West Indies Players Association, which led to ODI captain Dwayne Bravo leading the abandonment of a tour of India. To be frank, that very last instance has still left a sour taste in many players, administrators and fans’ mouths to this day.
It is no coincidence that the frequent occurrence of these public disputes has happened since the mid-90’s. Do you think our star studded teams of the 70’s and 80’s didn’t have disagreements with the board too? Surely there would have been players who would’ve ruffled feathers because, at times, personalities clash. Surely, they would’ve wanted as much pay as their counterparts from India and Australia, but their performance on the field spoke for itself. Being the best, or even the greatest at their sport would have been enough.
The truth is, several of the top players in today’s game spend too much time contributing or paying attention to the media. If they spent that time perfecting their craft, they would not have time to start public “mix up” nor feel the need to respond to those who they feel are below them. The greatest teams find ways to work together to achieve a common goal. It’s called being a professional.