Lara, top West Indies players out of January tournament
By ZAID MOHAMMED Sports Editor, www.newsday.co.tt
WEST INDIES cricket was catapulted into chaos and confusion yesterday when 16 leading players were dropped from a 25-man squad preparing for an important limited overs competition in Australia early in the New Year. The latest development came after the players led by skipper Brian Lara and his vice-captain Ramnaresh Sarwan ignored a Tuesday night deadline to sign invitation letters/contracts which ruled them ineligible for the VB series involving hosts Australia and Pakistan. As a result, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) has reportedly instructed their selectors headed by Trinidadian Michael “Joey” Carew to select replacements for a three-week camp scheduled to begin on Monday. The 25 players were urged by the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) not to sign the contracts in a dispute with the WICB over personal endorsement deals with Cable and Wireless who were earlier this year replaced as the Caribbean team’s main sponsor by Digicel.
Apart from Lara, the double world record-holder for batting, the others named as refusing to sign the acceptance letters were Ian Bradshaw, Dwayne Bravo, Courtney Browne, Pedro Collins, Corey Collymore, Mervyn Dillon, Sherwin Ganga, Daren Danga, Chris Gayle, Ryan Hinds, Wavell Hinds, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Samuels, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Devon Smith. The nine cricketers who did conform with the WICB’s invitation were identified as Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ricardo Powell, Reon King, Runako Morton, Darren Sammy, Narsingh Deonarine, Dwight Washington, Xavier Marshall and Deighton Butler. Efforts to contact the major players in the issue yesterday proved fruitless as WIPA’s Chief Executive Officer Dinanath Ramnarine was huddled with the non-compliant 16 and their legal counsel and advisers at the Hilton Trinidad.
Earlier the WICB had stated that “the players who did not accept the invitation ruled themselves out of consideration for this tour but this did not prevent them from being considered in the future should they merit inclusion.” The main bone of contention, which flared up when the 25 invitees were sent letters almost three weeks ago, was the status of players who held personal endorsement contracts with Cable and Wireless before the multimillion dollar deal was inked with Digicel. The WICB has insisted that the players cannot fulfil any of their commitments to a rival sponsor unless he has a pre-existing agreement with such a competitor that was approved in writing by the WI Board. When the differences first emerged Ramnarine met with the WICB’s chief executive officer Roger Brathwaite and chief operations officer Zoral Barthley for 14 hours in Port-of-Spain without hammering out a solution.
A war of words ensued with WIPA maintaining that the contracts had nothing to do with cricket, but was an attempt to exploit the players. He said the West Indies players have no retainer contracts and derive much of their income from advertising. The former Test off-spinner said that to sign the contract would effectively hand over to the WICB all rights to the use of their image, which WIPA termed “unacceptable.” However, Brathwaite denied knowledge of the players’ personal contracts on a radio show in Barbados yesterday. “We were never informed by the players, no player has ever approached the board and informed us that they were in discussions with, or about to enter into a contract with a potential company with respect to personal endorsements,” he said on the programme “Down to Brass Tacks.” Dr Keith Mitchell, prime minister of Grenada and chairman of Caricom’s sub-committee on cricket noted last night that both parties were standing their ground on “optimal benefits” and the deadlock could not be broken.
He, however, appealed for a settlement to enable the best West Indies team to travel to Australia for the series. Early next year West Indies also host South Africa and Pakistan. The stand-off comes close to five years after the WI players remained in a London, England hotel after refusing to go on to South Africa for a Test and One-Day international series because of a dispute over match fees. The current impasse is reminiscent of when Australian media tycoon Kerry Packer in 1977 enticed the Caribbean’s leading players to his World Series Cricket tournament offering lucrative contracts much higher than what had been given by the then West Indies Cricket Board of Control. The situation elevated Guyanese batsman Alvin Kallicharan to the captaincy who took over from his countryman Clive Lloyd for the remaning matches of a home series and a tour to India.
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