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As hundreds of fans milled around outside the ground, anxiously waiting to witness the two archrivals - both graced with several current and past Test players - battle for supremacy, the teams were not even in attendance to do their usual calisthenics and practice sessions prior to the start of play.
In fact, the Guyanese players only turned up for lunch while the Jamaicans stayed at their hotel in New Amsterdam, some 12 miles from the venue, reportedly waiting on advice from the West Indies Players Association (WIPA).
By mid-morning most of the spectators had left Albion while some, still hopeful for a late start, withstood the sweltering heat, all in vain.
The players were obviously heeding the advice of WIPA president, Dinanath Ramnarine, who declared in Barbados on Thursday night that the two semifinals would not be played, hence the withdrawal of their services yesterday.
Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago were also scheduled to meet at the Kensington Oval where the situation was very much the same on the opening day.
The dispute between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and WIPA over pay increases for its players, took a turn for the worse when the two sides failed to break a deadlock, following negotiations in Barbados, which reportedly went late into Thursday night.
Despite this, it was felt that some compromise would have been met yesterday when they were scheduled to resume their talks.
Apart from the dispute over the pay increases, Ramnarine is also claiming that the players had not been paid compensation for the period 1999-2003 and that Ryan Hinds, who replaced Marlon Samuels on the World Cup team but subsequently returned to the West Indies after Samuels had been ruled fit, had only been paid for one match in the Carib Beer 2003 Cricket Series although playing in five.
While WICB president Rev. Wes Hall disclosed yesterday that he felt betrayed by the way the players behaved. Ramnarine felt the players needed to be treated with some form of justice, as they are “a big part of the picture” and should be treated fairly. He claimed the WICB had closed the door to negotiations.
Insisting that the players want to play cricket, Ramnarine pointed out that his association has put its proposals to the WICB and is still awaiting a response. WIPA is also favourable to the appointment of an independent arbitrator in the matter. He also disclosed that all the players are very much in support of the association’s decision.
Meanwhile, Jamaica manager Lynden Wright, who was present at the ground, insisted that his players were awaiting instructions from WIPA as all of them were members. He however admitted that he wasn’t aware of all the issues involving WICB and WIPA.
The players, Wright said, were scheduled to have a net session yesterday afternoon and just waiting to get back into cricket.
Wright was hopeful that the impasse would have been resolved sometime yesterday and that Wavell Hinds, who was part of the WIPA negotiating team, would have also arrived in Guyana in time for the start of play today.
Jamaican captain Robert Samuels was reportedly adamant that Jamaica would not have taken the field without Hinds if they were required to play yesterday. And according to Wright, Hinds was in Barbados looking after the interests of the players and Jamaica should not have been placed at any disadvantage over his availability.
“We are hoping that everything can be amicably resolved so that cricket could be the winner,” Wright commented.
Guyana’s manager Pat Legall was also unclear as to all the issues involved but said his players were required to sign a document regarding the use of the sponsors’ clothing.
Once the game starts, fast bowler Reon King and middle-order batsman Narsingh Deonarine will join skipper Carl Hooper as the three replacements in the Guyana side.
King, who was out with a hamstring injury, has not played since sending down 3.4 overs against Barbados in a fourth round encounter at Albion.
Deonarine, who represented the West Indies B all season, climaxed a fine performance with a century against India A at the Kensington Oval in their seventh round clash while Hooper, who is likely to be retained as West Indies captain when the WICB directors meet this weekend, returned to Guyana on Wednesday night following his World Cup sojourn and visit to his home in Australia.