Where is West Indian cricket headed?

Is the West Indian management watching? Marlon Samuels shakes hands with Chris Gayle in the stands after West Indies' comprehensive victory against India in the final ODI in Jamaica.-AP Is the West Indian management watching? Marlon Samuels shakes hands with Chris Gayle in the stands after West Indies' comprehensive victory against India in the final ODI in Jamaica.

The row between Chris Gayle and the WICB has the potential to derail the game in the West Indies by creating deep divisions, writes S. Dinakar.

There was a time when Clive Lloyd instilled in his cricketers a truckload of Caribbean pride. There was little money then, but the West Indians paraded their skills for the love of the game. And they hated to lose.

These sunshine men were entertainers and winners, sweeping aside opposition. No wonder the West Indies was a dominant force.

Now the lure of money threatens to rip open the soul of West Indian cricket. Cricket will be the loser.

When Chris Gayle refused to sign the central contract of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in October 2010, he, reportedly, wanted the Board to buy him out of his IPL contract with the same amount ($800,000) that an IPL franchise paid for him.

This was a scenario where a senior cricketer failed to distinguish the difference between the country and the club. The indications were that the club took prominence. This blurring of the line is a dangerous scenario that threatens the very existence of cricket in the form we know it.

The stormy meeting between the WICB and the Gayle camp that included the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA) chief, Dinanath Ramnarine, on June 14 in Kingston was a culmination of a period where trust was the biggest casualty.

Doubts over Gayle's fitness — in this modern era, Gayle and the WICB failed to communicate effectively — saw the attacking batsman being left out of the series against Pakistan that preceded the Indian tour.

Gayle duly signed up with the IPL team, Royal Challengers Bangalore. Now, the WICB says that it gave the ‘no objection certificate' to Gayle only due to the fear of being dragged to court on ‘restraint of trade clause'.

On his return from the IPL — Gayle roared with success in the cash-rich league — the big-hitting opener gave a controversial interview to a Jamaican radio station that led to further deterioration in the relations between him and the WICB.

Gayle said that the WICB had mismanaged his contract in 2010 and his subsequent injury. He also said that coach Ottis Gibson had damaged the confidence of senior batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan.

The WICB also believes that Ramnarine is the stumbling block as it seeks to successfully negotiate with its star batsman. “It is the Board's stated view that Mr. Ramnarine has not demonstrated any willingness to constructively have dialogue with the WICB in the best interest of West Indies cricket,” it said in a statement.

Ottis Gibson, in a bind over the Gayle issue.-AP

The WICB revealed, “It was proposed that the WICB Management would write to Gayle after the meeting to outline the way forward.”

However, Mr. Ramnarine has said that the WICB should not write to the cricketers individually.

Reacting to this, the Board said, “The meeting with Gayle ended in uncertainty though as Mr. Ramnarine insisted that the WICB has no business writing to players and under no circumstances should the WICB be writing to Gayle or any player for that matter as it is his view that the players are not the employees of the WICB.”

The Board also seeks to prevent such unsavoury incidents in the future. “The WICB Board of Directors would need to provide policy guidelines on how to handle players who for reasons other than fitness, or personal distress make themselves unavailable for selection but expect to be selected whenever they deem it necessary to make themselves available,” it said.

The WICB made it clear that Gayle was a very difficult cricketer to deal with. “The WICB team outlined to Gayle that the Board has had issues historically in communicating with him and establishing a productive working relationship. Exceptional efforts had been made, especially during his tenure as captain, to establish that relationship.”

The WICB further said, “Gayle was previously written to by the Board about these issues. The issues include his social media announcements that he was taking a break from the game, that the Sri Lanka tour had been cancelled. He has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage the Board.”

The Board added, “This pattern of behaviour culminated with his widely publicised interview on KLAS Radio in Jamaica. WICB is of the view that comments had a detrimental effect on the relationship with the West Indies Team Management, the WICB management and was unbecoming for a professional sportsman who would desire to play within that same team environment.”

Gayle, the WICB said, sought an explanation as to why he was not picked for the India series. “The WICB Team explained that: the comments made by him in the KLAS interview had created much ill-will with the Team Management and unless there was a settling of differences, it would be difficult to see how the parties could harmoniously function.”

There are rumours doing the rounds in the Caribbean that coach Gibson was likely to resign if Gayle was selected again without him issuing any kind of apology.

Meanwhile Gayle made an appearance at the Sabina Park during the final India-West Indies ODI. And in a gesture that would not have pleased the team-management, Marlon Samuels sprinted towards Gayle in the stands after the West Indies completed a comprehensive seven-wicket victory.

This is one controversy that has the potential to derail West Indies cricket by creating deep divisions.