WIPA 8th Annual Cricket Awards: RECOGNITION, REWARDS AND RESPECT
On behalf of the Executive and Members of the West Indies Players Association, I welcome all of you who are here tonight as our guests at the Ninth Annual WIPA Cricket Awards. Your presence demonstrates most tangibly your interest, not just in cricket, but in West Indies Cricket and even more so, in those who play the game.
To the Indian Cricketers whose exploits we have seen most recently on television, many of you are already household names in the West Indies and we congratulate you on your recent World Cup win. Your test and ODI performance, IPL and the Champions League have spread your fame far and wide. We know that you will live up to the formidable reputation that India has built as a cricketing super-power. We look forward to exciting and competitive cricket from both sides.
I want to welcome our West Indies Cricket Team. I’m sure that you will build on the successes of the series against Pakistan where we won two out of five ODIs, and drew the Test Series. I know that you always remember that you represent the people of the West Indies, a vast number of whom live outside of the Caribbean. These are people who, despite being substantially in the majority, have no say in West Indies Cricket but are emotionally linked to the fortunes of West Indies Cricket. When we rise, they rise. When we fall, they plummet. These are the most optimistic people in the world. They always believe that West Indies will rise again and you should carry their confidence and belief with you always.
West Indies Cricket is bigger than the West Indies Cricket Board or the West Indies Players Association. With you and future generations we know that it will rise again…provided that the tools are provided for this in terms of regional cricketing infrastructure, professional competition and a supportive managerial and administrative environment that is player-focused, player-friendly and player-oriented.
Let me also salute all the regional players and teams represented here tonight who have met the criteria for excellence and from whom the winners will be chosen. You have all distinguished yourselves in cricket arenas throughout the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
You deserve to be here because you have performed at the highest level and achieved. In my book, you are all winners. We are here to reward our region’s best of the best, but we start here tonight by recognising all of you as winners, as leaders, as the stars and lynchpin of West Indies Cricket.
This is why tonight I want to talk about Recognition, Rewards and Respect. This is my theme for our Ninth Annual WIPA Cricket Awards. There are many people and corporations here tonight who were with us when we started the Awards Programme in 2003. I want to thank you for your support and your continued commitment to West Indies Cricket. Many years ago you recognised that supporting the players was one of the best things that you could do for West Indies Cricket. We recognise your support and thank you for your loyalty and commitment.
My friends, these nominees here are all people who have gone out time and again and continue to go out to do battle for their territories and regional team. Cricket is not just a game administered by a small handful of people who, by an accident of history control it, but a living, breathing manifestation of who we are as a people and who we want to be. The rise and fall of our cricket is mirrored in the real world by the rise and fall of the West Indian people. In terms of our commitment to West Indies Cricket, there is a Digicel commercial that boasts that we are all in. In terms of the decision-making in West Indies cricket, the opposite is true. Most of us are all out.
The crucial decisions of West Indies Cricket are not made by the supporters who outnumber members of Territorial Boards by millions nor by the Players who often invest much of their lives and around whom the game revolves, or their representatives of the national governments of the region who invest countless millions every year in sports, particularly cricket which is a high maintenance sport. These governments have little say in any aspect of West Indies cricket yet they have invested in the sport over the years – recently spending huge amounts on facilities for the World Cup, many of which are idle.
Can anybody remember who were the team managers for the Clive Lloyd teams? Who was the President of the WICB at the time? Who were the Directors? Did it matter then? And does it matter now?
This is why I want to talk about recognition. We need to recognise not just the players but some of the other real stakeholders of West Indies cricket, the fans and governments that support the game day after day. They put considerable time, money, materials and manpower into the game and their contributions must be recognised and encouraged to be of greater import to build and develop a professional game in the region.
I want everyone of you here to recognise that there is a fundamental difference between West Indies Cricket and the West Indies Cricket Board. While the WICB has its role and many may argue as to the merits or otherwise of many of its actions and policies in the past and right now, there is a larger undertaking that needs to be met in the Caribbean to ensure that West Indies cricket is sustainable and of high quality that needs the support of fans, but especially Caribbean Corporations and Governments and it is hoped that they will fulfil that necessity.
West Indian cricketers need to be able to compete on level terms with their counterparts around the cricketing world. To do this they must have access to similar levels of coaching, facilities and professional growth to allow them to make that step up seamlessly to the international game. At present that is not happening consistently. Caribbean cricketers should also not have to think twice about choosing cricket as a professional endeavour. The climate must be created that a cricketer may earn an honest living in the sport even if that cricketer never reaches test or One-Day International level. That is where those stakeholders I mentioned previously come into play and WIPA stands ready to work with them and anyone else to start and to fulfil this goal.
There are many people who think that WIPA is too militant. There are those who continue to feel that my approach, the approach of WIPA and that of some players, may be too adversarial.
I do not think so, but I do recognise that change is often hard-fought and entrenched interests often see change as radical and confrontational. Sometimes it has hard for those who see or do things in a particular way to embrace the need for different methods of operation in a changing cricket world and culture. The world of sport, cricket included, has not only changed at a frenetic pace in the last 15 years, but is continuing to do so rapidly and the West Indies must adapt, innovate and frankly catch up before it is too late.
There is a new reality in world cricket that has been very positive in many respects with regard to player remuneration, recognition and respect. A small but important example of that respect was recently illustrated in the dealings of Andrew Strauss and Alistair Cook who both publicly commented on the brutal schedule the England team had to endure and that they would be taking it up with the England management and Board. Cook went so far as to say that English players might consider strike action should this not be addressed. Neither he nor Strauss has been penalised or ostracised and retain Captaincy positions of the One-Day and Test sides respectively. Positive and mature relationships between management and players recognising the symbiotic relationship between them is an essential element of a successful partnership. Once these key ingredients exist, it can only help in the general effort to maintain existing development and improve cricket operations and success. If met halfway, WIPA will do all it can to create the environment for positive player development and performance.
WIPA has also taken pains to strengthen its organizational, managerial and community arms and will continue to do so and play its part in reviving the fortunes of West Indies cricket. Officers and staff of WIPA accept that they operate in the public spotlight and that they are expected to conduct their affairs on a basis consistent with the great trust that has been placed in them. We accept that this requires that our behaviour conforms with the highest standards of honesty, impartiality, equity, integrity and transparency when discharging our duties and responsibilities. We think that is the standard that must emanate from all those connected with such a pillar of Caribbean life and expect to be held to that standard as all others should be and we intend to hold those other stakeholders to that measurement as well.
Let us talk briefly about rewards. There is a lot of talk about players and money. There are people who believe that players should be paid on performance and that some players are willing to forego playing for the West Indies to ply their trade abroad for more money.
There is an existing method of paying by performance because players’ performances determine whether they are picked on a consistent basis and in the Test, One-Day and now T/20 matches pay is predicated on a scale depending on the number of matches played. So if you don’t perform you are not selected and you are not paid. If you have a beef with who plays, don’t rant about the players, call the West Indies Cricket Board’s selectors. But let me say here that I don’t have their numbers so don’t ask me for them!
Make no mistake that there is nothing more satisfying and exhilarating for a West Indian player than representing the West Indies internationally. It is recognition that you have reached a high level as an athlete. Playing for the West Indies is the dream of every cricketer and, make no mistake, that is where many names are made that lead to other tournament avenues. So it is not even realistic to suggest that any player would willingly forego playing for the West Indies and play elsewhere because that is counterproductive.
So please don’t ever doubt the commitment of the players to West Indies Cricket but there are commercial realities that have to be accepted. These circumstances have been recognised and dealt with in a particular way by the ICC and FICA, the Federation of International Cricketers and adopted by most cricketing countries Cricket Boards. What West Indian players expect is that those agreed and accepted principles be applied to them so that in this regard they are no different from any other international cricketers. After all, you can have all the administrators in the world, but there is no cricket without the players. Most of all, everyone benefits when your best players are provided with incentives and initiatives to perform at the highest level. Nothing succeeds like success.
Recognition, Rewards and Respect are all inter-linked. Once practised in a fulsome and consistent manner, much may be accomplished.
My friends, I have spoken about Recognition and linked it to what we are doing here tonight. WIPA has been recognising and rewarding the performances of players and teams for the past eight years because we believe that it is very important because the game’s survival depends on the players’ continued participation and WIPA knows of all of the years of training, hard work and dedication put in and sacrifices made and is strong in its conviction that the players must know that they are appreciated and applauded. And as long as WIPA is able to do so, it will celebrate and honour West Indian excellence in cricket.
I have spoken about Rewards. What we have recognised, as an organisation, is that the lack of adequate financial rewards might be a disincentive, but money by itself has never been an incentive for our players. Otherwise so many would not toil on a weekend or in regional cricket year after year. But the economic realities make it ever more pressing that another tier of professional cricket be added to our game to allow the best athletes to stay in the game and play more professionally and I am asking for a concerted push from all stakeholders to make this possible by 2016. WIPA is willing to lead the effort and will be starting its campaign and push for this later in the year.
WIPA asks for your suggestions and support and is determined to fulfil its mandate to its members in a progressive and positive manner cognisant of the new commercial and global realities in the sport of cricket and mindful of the need for evolution of all sectors necessary for the Caribbean game to not only survive but thrive.
So on behalf of the West Indies Players Association I am so pleased that you are all here and now I invite you to celebrate the efforts and success of our cricketers and enjoy the evening.