Players strike By Sean Devers in Berbice
Stabroek News
March 29, 2003

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On a day blessed with glorious sunshine and excellent conditions for cricket, the much anticipated Carib Beer International Shield regional first class four-day cricket semi-final between Guyana and Jamaica was not played as scheduled at the Albion ground in Berbice.

Strike action by the players yesterday resulted in no play on day one. However, the West Indies Cricket Board and the West Indies Player Association, the two sides in the dispute, met yesterday and hammered out a deal which now allows for play to begin this morning. The game will now end on Tuesday.

The rift between the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) arose over a pay dispute for players with WIPA president Dinanath Ramnarine stating that he was not satisfied with the WICB's position on the issue of a pay hike for regional first class players.

In solidarity with the WIPA, the players involved in the two Carib Beer semi finals decided not to play yesterday at Kensington Oval in Barbados where Trinidad and Tobago meet Barbados and at Albion.

While both teams turned up at Kensington and spent most of the morning meeting behind closed doors, no team was present at Albion until the Guyanese arrived for lunch at approximately noon.

Although the Jamaicans were also invited to the match venue for lunch by the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) only their management team showed up leaving the players to prepare for a practice session at the Rose Hall ground from 3pm yesterday afternoon.

There was talk on Thursday night in the Jamaica camp that if their West Indies opener Wavell Hinds failed to return from the Barbados meeting in time to play yesterday, they would not start the game without him. The left-hander, along with Ramnarine and Roland Holder, are representing the players at the meeting.

Things got worse after the talks broke down at the Thursday meeting and the four teams were asked by the WIPA not to play as a form of protest against the WICB.

By yesterday morning the Jamaicans were united in support of the WIPA action and refused to leave their New Amsterdam hotel to travel to the ground.

The Guyana players were ready to leave for the ground but apparently changed their plans after a visit from the Jamaican manager. Not even the presence of president of the GCB Chetram Singh, who spoke with the team at their hotel yesterday morning, could persuade them the travel to the ground.

The WICB claims that the WIPA does not represent first class players but only Test players and suggested that some of the unsigned forms produced by the WIPA to support their claims were 'illegible forms'.

Ramnarine said yesterday that the fact that the semi final were not started proves that the players are behind the WIPA.

He added while there were unconfirmed reports that some of the senior players in at least three of the teams involved in the semi-final wanted to play, their was no proof of this and the ' majority of the players' were not going to play'.

Sources close to the WICB also hinted yesterday that those players who refused to play in the semi-final would not be considered for selection for the Australian series. The GCB went as far as trying to get a second string Guyana team (comprising of Berbice players) present at the ground.

That plan fell through after only a few players turned on such short notice.

Several players who wished to remain anonymous said they respected West Indies cricket and regretted the delay. They, however, pointed out that for 12 years there has been no increase in the players fees for regional first class matches and a stand had to be taken to alert the WICB that all was not well with the manner in which players are treated by the Board.

Ramnarine pointed out that a junior player get only $US195 per game while the test players make less than $US350 per match.

"Players have to attend trials and many times leave their jobs to play for their country and this (fees) is what they get at the end of the day. There has been a twenty percent increase this season but that make little difference to what they get now," he said.

Ramnarine said that if a player prepares for nine months to play two-and-a-half months of regional cricket and play all the games he will only end up with about $US2000.

Umpires make more than the players do per match while for the semi-final and final the commentators get in one day more than what the junior players make for the entire game.

Colin Murray, representing the sponsors (Ansa McAl producers of Carib Beer) said he understood some of the players' grievances but felt that with the limited time before the first test begins, the timing of the strike was ill advised.

A few spectators stayed until after lunch (when the day's play was officially called off) at Albion yesterday.

Skipper of the Jamaica team Robert Samuels said his team is not prepared to play without Hinds since it was not his fault that he had to be in Barbados representing the players.

He told Stabroek Sports last evening that Hinds was expected in Guyana on a 7:10 flight from Barbados.

Lynden Wright, the Jamaica manager said that he has been in contact with the Jamaica Cricket Board and the GCB but the decisions were really up to the players.

Guyana manager Pat Legall said that Guyana players want to play but they also want the WICB to look at their interest. If the game is played and ends in a no-result than Guyana will advance to the final by virtue of attaining more points than Jamaica in the preliminary round.

The final is set for April 3 and the first Test between West Indies and Australia is scheduled to commence at Bourda in Guyana on April 10.

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