Eligibility rule beneficial
--says WICB head Pat Rousseau

by Orin Davidson
Stabroek News
February 2, 2001

Despite West Indies' steep decline in performances, president of the West Indies Cricket Board Pat Rousseau is adamant that the eligibility rule which debars players from selection who do not play regionally, is more beneficial than harmful for West Indies cricket.

Speaking to Stabroek News during the launch of the WICB's Shell Academy of St George's University in Grenada on Monday night, Rousseau insisted that the rule is only for the good of sport in the region.

"Every country has its eligibility rule and we are making a big fudoo about it. If you don't play state cricket in Australia, you cannot play for Australia, if you don't play county cricket you can't play for England. You have to play in your local tournaments so that the selectors can see you," Rousseau re-iterated.

The Jamaican lawyer stated that any softening of the rule would have serious consequences.

"What are we to do pick up selectors and send them all around the world, it is impractical, it has a practical side to it and it has another side. If you begin to allow your players to go off and play overseas at that time (regional season) you will not have any team".

He explained that the solution for the problem of players who have to earn their livelihood outside of the West Indies, is to start professional leagues.

"You have to off set it by building up what we talked about tonight--- your own professional and semi-professional league with retainer players or you will not get anywhere. Your cricket will get worse not better," the WICB boss argued.

West Indies players who cannot play in the regional Busta Cup and Red Stripe Bowl because of commitments in South Africa and Australia where the seasons there clash with regional competitions, have not been considered for selection.

Players affected in the past include ex- Test opener Desmond Haynes current star all-rounder Vasbert Drakes who both have taken court action against the board, and Guyana captain Carl Hooper.

To give such players special consideration will not work out, Rousseau explained.

"You cannot make a rule by exception, if you have a rule, you have to enforce it or it will not work, you can't have a rule that you fit into when it suits you, because that is not how rules are made or applied".

On the issue of retainer contracts for players, which was started a few years ago by the WICB but discontinued, the president said the board is keen on re-implementing such a scheme when the financial requirements could be fulfilled.

He explained that the West Indies board earns very little money compared to the income of the ruling bodies in England, Australia and South Africa, thus the regional board cannot afford to pay their players comparable salaries.

"There is absolutely no way that you can pay your players what England gets when Vodafone gives them seven million pounds (sterling) a year to sponsor the team, there is no comparison," Rousseau informed.

"What England earn in the first two test matches of a series is our total income for the year, we are in the third world, England is a first world country with vast resources," he explained.

Cable and Wireless, the biggest sponsor of West Indies cricket, gives $US600,000 to $US700,000 a year for the team, Rousseau said, adding that "You can compare that to what Vodafone gives to England",

Invited to comment on the reluctance of the WICB to select not more that 16 players for touring squads, Rousseau explained that the money is the problem. "There is an unwritten convention between the member countries that a touring squad is 16 people, as a consequence every member you send over that you have to pay for and as a matter of fact a tour of England can cost you US$70,000 per extra player."

Rousseau also explained that rules have changed for tours as stipulated by the International Cricket Conference (ICC) whereby host countries cover the internal expenses when teams have reciprocal tours. This arrangement, he said, earns the touring team small fees only for games played which comprise Tests and one-day internationals.

" I can assure you that you will lose money on almost every tour and you are going to start adding on US$70,000 to change what is an accepted convention for the last hundred years, 16 people make up a squad, that is the basic agreement, the WICB head declared.

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