Kochi: A cloud of doubt hung over the series between India and the West Indies after the visiting team threatened to go on strike over an acrimonious pay dispute, which has prompted the aggrieved players to take "appropriate action" if needed.
The West Indies team skipped yesterday's practice session and the pre-match press conference, triggering speculation of boycotting the first ODI against India due to a pay dispute between the players and the West Indies Players Association president and chief executive Wavell Hinds.
Both the BCCI and the Kerala Cricket Association however insisted that today's match was on. "The BCCI is not bothered about their internal issues. But as far as we are concerned the match is on," Board secretary Sanjay Patel said.
KCA secretary T C Mathew said, "The match will take place at scheduled time. All the rumours of alleged boycott that are floating around are wrong." According to reports, the players claimed Hinds "hoodwinked" them and did not take their inputs while signing a new MoU with West Indies Cricket Board last month, under which they would suffer a significant cut in their pay.
In a strongly-worded letter to WIPA and WICB, the team represented by captain Dwayne Bravo, wrote: "We wish to make it very clear that should the players be forced to take matters into their our own hands, we will not hesitate to take the appropriate action as see fit. We will hold you and the WIPA Board who support this process liable."
In response, the WICB issued a press release tendering its apology "to the fans, the BCCI and all other stakeholders should the first ODI be disrupted as a result of player action. The WICB is making every effort to ensure that it fulfils all its commitments and that cricket is played."
As per the new MoU, the players "understand" their Test, ODI and T20 fees "have been decreased by 75%"; that they will receive "no compensation for the use of our rights. That has been decreased by 100%"; and their ICC fees have been "decreased by close to 100%".
The players said they were being kept in the dark about the "purported agreement". Bravo and his team-mates insisted that they would want the old structure back as the new one is "significantly different from what we received in the past."
Bravo said the new contract was given to them in India. In the letter, the players believed they were never represented well by WIPA under Hinds.
"We are disappointed with the lack of proper representation and the players are now forced to make this proposal without any details as to how this new purported agreement was even arrived at and by whom, since the only advice we have received from you as President and CEO of WIPA is to not sign the contract/agreement that was sent by the WICB.
"The players are of the view that as a matter of principle, we should not accept these conditions whereby we are being asked to play a series against India without any certainty of what are our obligations and what we will be playing for."
After the West Indies players did not turn up for yesterday's practice and pre-match press conference, team sources claimed a twist was being given to their decision, which was a result of "too many meetings".
Meanwhile the WICB said in a statement: "The West Indies Cricket Board has been advised that a number of players forming the West Indies One Day International squad currently in India, and scheduled to play five ODIs, commencing with the first ODI tomorrow, Wednesday October 8, have expressed concerns to WIPA on a number of issues relating to the CBA/MOU recently signed by WICB and WIPA.
"It has also come to the WICB's attention that the some of the players could withdraw their services for the first ODI. The WICB deeply regrets this apparent eventuality, especially in light of the tedious and substantial work which went into the good faith negotiations to arrive at the new, historic CBA/MOU.
"The WICB further thanks the BCCI, the host board, for their understanding and pleads with fans to exercise calm and patience. The Board trusts that a reasoned approach is taken and that the interest of cricket is served. The Board will make further announcements as may be necessary."