Windies Cricket: For the love of money…

| July 15, 2013
Carey Christian CaribDirect

Columnist – Carey Christian

For several decades now money has been a great incentive in attracting participants in most sports. In all aspects of sport today huge fortunes are made by professional players.

Caribbean Newspapers and mainstream media, carry stories about the incredible transfers in football, as premier league teams buy and sell players.

Athletes in the US make millions in many different sports, and lucrative endorsements tend to follow successful and outstanding athletes.

Throughout its history the West Indies cricket team has been in controversy over player contracts. Sir Frank Worrell clashed with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) in the 1960s over the paltry sums players received for their services. In the 70s and 80s, the world beating side also had to deal with what many deemed as insulting salaries.

This was one reason why many of them participated in the World Series Cricket or Kerry Packer series as it was called. Quite recently, the Windies have been locked in disputes with management over salaries and benefits such as adequate healthcare.

Controversy has surrounded players who participate in higher paying leagues on the Indian subcontinent. While this is not to criticise those players or the Board, it is important to note the influence of cash on the game. In the late 1970s, the West Indies participated in the Kerry Packer series, which can be viewed as the Indian Premier League (IPL) of its time.

R. Allen Stanford

Disgraced R. Allen Stanford, front right, presents a trophy after the Stanford Superstars beat England in Antigua 2008. Photo courtesy http://online.wsj.com

This cricketing series paid better than salaries received at home. R. Allen Stanford created the Stanford 20/20 in order to market the 20-over version of the game as a high impact sport. We now have the IPL one of the highest paying sports leagues.

Today, many in the Caribbean are nostalgic for the glory days of West Indies cricket harking back to the 70s and 80s and argue “our boys lack pride; it shouldn’t be about the money”.

Now, don’t think for a second that pride in oneself, one’s nation, one’s culture and one’s history isn’t important. Indeed, we need to take pride in everything we do in life. However, I think that in this, our people are slightly misguided. Why do we believe that the notion of pride and money cannot co-exist?

Bernard Julien West Indies Cricket

Former West Indies cricketer Bernard Julien. Photo courtesy usportt.com

We must remember that the working life of a professional athlete (bar golfers) when compared to other professions, is short. In looking at these factors, it is clear that players need to be well rewarded, taking into account the length of their careers.

They are also exposed to both physical injuries and mental stress, therefore there needs to be a proper system in place to support the health and wellbeing of our players.

When the former West Indies cricketer, Bernard Julien, was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, he had to go across the Caribbean to raise funds for his treatment.

Ramesh Sarwan, in a BBC interview, criticised the WICB for not supporting him after his injury, and claimed this lack of support contributed to his subsequent depression. None of our players should ever find themselves in such a position. To be the best, our cricketers need proper preparation, both psychological and physical, which are important to their development; they also need proper support.

It is the only way they will always be at the top of their game.  So why shouldn’t they be well rewarded financially, especially when they are at the top? In motivating our players it is important to have a reward system which pays our players well, and labelling those players who demand this as mercenary, is foolish.

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is one of the most successful and lucrative sporting franchises to date, picking the best basketballers from across North America and the world. It is also the highest paying sports league. Pride and incentives work together to create the best performances. They are both necessary in creating a lasting product.

Windies Cricketer Ramesh Sarwan

Windies Cricketer Ramesh Sarwan. Photo courtesy www.dailymail.co.uk

It is a known fact in the international cricketing fraternity that the West Indies team is one of the lowest paid of the major teams. Allen Stanford argued:  “this is your national sport and yet you do not invest in it”. We all need to ask: Why isn’t the board marketing and investing in our national game? Why aren’t Caribbean businessmen investing in Caribbean cricket?

Someone should advise the West Indies cricket board and Caribbean governments that financially incentivising our players will be to the benefit of us all. The Caribbean has all it needs to produce a system where, from an early age, we train our people and develop our talent.

An employer-based health insurance scheme needs to be created (Caribbean governments paying into such a system), to take care of players during and after their service to West Indies cricket.

However, regional leaders seem to lack vision, the political will and imagination to implement these programs. The lessons of Kerry Packer, Stanford 20/20 and the IPL are that to get a supreme product you must invest in the training and benefits,  otherwise, talented athletes will move on to more profitable sports.

Many of these and other cricket issues will be discussed at a special seminar organised by CaribDirect Multi-Media Ltd, in September…Click link below for more details.

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