‘Expect to see Windies’

2014-10-29 00:00

SOUTH African cricket followers and cricket enthusiasts globally are on tenterhooks as the forthcoming West Indies cricket tour looms.

The men from the Caribbean are due to undertake an extensive tour to our fair land from mid-December to the end of January encompassing three five-day Tests, three T20 internationals and five one-day internationals (ODIs). That’s a mighty full programme over the festive season where unions hosting the matches are geared toward healthy spectator turnouts obviously meaning more revenue.

Instead, there is a pall of misgiving in the air as the country’s cricket fraternity holds their breath on whether the tour actually happens. Obviously it is not a good place to be as there appears to be no Plan B should the tour be aborted, leaving cricketing bodies and players in the lurch.

This all stems from the West Indies pulling out of their current tour to India after the fourth ODI. No definite clarity has been given as to who made the final decision — with fingers and accusations firmly directed at West Indies Players Association (Wipa) president and chief executive and former player Wavell Hinds.

It all comes down to money once more. Pay disputes, with the issue strongly emphasised by the West Indian players wearing black armbands in protest during the second ODI against India. It sounds all too familiar and it is not the first time the West Indian players have downed tools or threatened to not show against Test-playing nations.

They sent a below-par side to Australia in 2009 and in 2005, on home soil, there was a rebellion with seven top players missing the first Test against South Africa in Bourda due to sponsorship shenanigans.

Cricket South Africa (CSA) must be on their knees praying all remains undisturbed as the days pass by in the lead up to the tour going ahead. Around the same time last year, there were issues with India which resulted in the traditional New Year Test at Newlands being lost and only two Tests played. For the top-ranked Test-playing nation it is not an encouraging space to be in — and of course, CSA cannot afford to see more concrete finances slip away.

However, all is not completely lost and CSA remains the eternal optimist. CSA CEO Haroon Lorgat has assured the cricketing public and beyond that as it stands, everything is still in place. “I have been in contact with the West Indies Cricket Board [WICB] and they have assured me they are making progress in their efforts to resolve the current issues with the players,” he said.

In an ironic twist, five West Indian players — Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Sammy, Andre Russell and Kieran Pollard — are involved in the Ram Slam T20 competition starting on Sunday at the Wanderers. “We respect these players coming to play in South Africa and we respect the WICB’s assurances in dealing with the current issues,” said Lorgat. “What is also important is CSA being told … they will grant No Objection Certificates (NOC) to these players involved in the Ram Slam tournament.”

If the West Indies tour runs to schedule, Kingsmead hosts the third T20 on January 14 followed by the first ODI on 16 January. The Boxing Day Test has been given to St George’s Park.

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