India, Australia must take the initiative to set West Indies house in order

Rest of the world cannot help make WI a better cricket team, but they can help them manage their administration better.

Written by Harsha Bhogle | Published:October 24, 2014 10:43 am
West Indies' decline has a bit to do with the ineptitude of their management. West Indies’ decline has a bit to do with the ineptitude of their management.

Scorn-worthy as some of their actions might be, it helps no one at all to heap further scorn on West Indies cricket administration. Nor would it help saddling them with a huge financial liability for that would only end up earning their players lesser and driving them away from West Indies cricket and towards a pay-as-you-go form of cricket. I believe it is time to hold hands and show West Indies cricket the way ahead and it is imperative that India and Australia lead this initiative.

West Indies cricket has always been very poorly managed. Their decline as a cricketing power on the field has at least a bit to do with the ineptitude of their management off it. Products go through bad times but weak managements hasten that process. We always got the feeling that West Indies cricket was sitting on a tinderbox, that a strike or a revolt was round the corner. It would be interesting to ask their players how often, in the last fifteen years, they were genuinely happy playing for the West Indies. Mistrust might be the dominant theme of their cricket in recent years. It cannot produce strong teams.

That is why I believe this is a localised flare-up, unlikely to spread to any other part of the cricket world. The implications though are wider, immediately affecting India but in the short term likely to impact South African cricket and the World Cup. Post their reduced income last year from a shortened India tour, a weak West Indies team or, in the worst case, a no-show would hit South Africa further and I won’t be surprised if someone in the cricket administration there isn’t already working on a Plan B. And while few would give the West Indies a healthy chance of winning the World Cup, they provide decent opposition in limited overs cricket. For what is essentially a small sport, losing a team isn’t an option.

While the rest of the world cannot help make the West Indies a better cricket team, they can help them manage their administration better. I believe the West Indies have a decent product and if the game does move towards shorter forms, the product they offer would become more valuable.

Similar problems

In the world of business it is not unknown to have someone from outside come in and help streamline processes and managing sport is a business like any other. Hence, my suggestion that India and Australia help out with the administration; specifically with things like handling players, valuing their abilities, sharing wealth and negotiating contracts. Australia, in recent times, have had their players and administration arrayed against each other too, both sides have been feisty and determined, a strike has been whispered about loudly enough for people to hear but inevitably a solution has been found that benefits everyone.

India have had probably the smoothest player-administrator relationship in the world. There was a brief revolt in 1989 when the Supreme Court intervened but post the arrival of wealth it was only in 2004 that a flash point was reached. Everyone was still learning about television rights and image rights and things like that but since then, there has rarely been dissent on that front. I can hear the cynics revving up but the one thing Indian cricket has done outstandingly is to share its wealth. Players are looked after, their medical bills are taken care of and while you can argue that it is easy to share wealth when there is so much of it, it still has to be managed to everyone’s satisfaction. The BCCI’s skill has been in its ability to leverage its value, to assign a price to cricket’s place in India and having done so, to go and get it.

On both these counts, on player-board negotiation and in the leveraging of value, the West Indies administration gives the impression it is dated. Or maybe incapable, I don’t know. I see no harm in them reaching out for help or other countries offering it. Many companies with a decent product flounder because they can’t handle finances. It is the easiest things in the world for Cricket Australia or the BCCI to send out someone to draft contracts, frame financial relationships, put in a template for player management and come back. To saddle them with a bill of 6o million dollars, or even 35 million, will cripple them and help nobody.

West Indies would happily come back and play the 12 days Indian cricket has lost out on, or even 15. They have handled this whole affair terribly but they need help in managing things and certainly not a bill they cannot afford.

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