Just who does Ramnarine represent?

Martin Williamson

The general raison d’etre of any trade union or association is to act in the best interests of its membership. The recent behaviour of Dinanath Ramnarine, the president of the West Indies Players Association, appears to suggest that it does not adhere to that school of thought.

Ramnarine’s own playing career ended prematurely when he quit after it was made clear his international future was bleak, and he quit to relaunch WIPA, originally set up in the 1980s, a little more than a year ago. The intention was admirable, and brought West Indies into line with most other countries in having a body representing their players.

But fairly soon it became apparent that Ramnarine did not intend to work quietly behind the scenes and that he wanted a far more high-profile role than that. The current contract crisis thrust him into the limelight, and his increasingly erratic behaviour has raised questions as to who exactly he is representing.

Those who have crossed him speak of him being a fiery and egotistical figure. In the infamous leaked report on the recent Australian tour, Richard Nowell, Digicel’s representative, described WIPA a “a terrorist organisation”. That was clearly over the top, but it highlighted just how much the association was perceived to be interfering and troublemaking.

The behaviour of some individuals in Australia – and that relates to their contractual obligations rather than other non-cricketing incidents – made it clear to the board that it could not just ignore the Cable & Wireless situation and that it had to protect its new deal with Digicel. But rather than trying to broker a solution, WIPA just seemed to be out to fan the flames of unrest.

It is now fairly obvious that six of the seven personal contracts with C&W – the exception being Lara’s which is a long-standing arrangement – were signed once it became clear that Digicel would replace them as the WICB’s sponsor. It was fairly blatent ambush-marketing in a bitter, pan-Caribbean battle between the two telecommunications giants.

And the terms of those deals stipulated that they would be deemed void if the player was dropped from the side for two consecutive matches. C&W did not want the individual so much as a member of the West Indies squad, thus ensuring maximum potential for embarrassment.

But WIPA have consistently backed C&W and those six players – often, it would appear, to the detriment of all its other members. WIPA has been instrumental in presenting the dispute as a clear battle: themselves and C&W in one corner, the WICB and Digicel in the other. Caught in the middle have been the very people that Ramnarine should be representing – players – and they have been treated little better than cannon fodder in an increasingly personal battle.

It is widely reported that this week’s unrest and talks of strikes inside the West Indies camp have largely been engineered by Ramnarine. With cricket in the Caribbean in a far-from-healthy state, what is to be gained by a strike which would massively dent the game’s profile and cost the WICB millions? And all to supposedly back six players who signed deals to benefit nobody but themselves? One senior figure told me that “WIPA has been looking to lead rather than represent,” adding that Ramnarine had “done the players a great disservice”.

And former West Indies fast bowler and now TV commentator Michael Holding was equally outspoken, accusing Ramnarine of “fighting his own private battles and using the WIPA to do so.”

Just who Ramnarine represents is further clouded by reports that, last spring, he was acting on behalf of certain players in negotiations with potential sponsors, raising the question of whether he is a representative or an agent?

Digicel’s deal with the board appears to be a good one, and will actually result in the players receiving more from their central contracts. Common sense suggests that a trade union would welcome that. So why haven’t WIPA?

Today’s scattergun attack on the board, Digicel and the region’s politicians could be a rant too far from Ramnarine. It has made people sit up and ask what and who exactly is he speaking on behalf of. But an answer is unlikely to be forthcoming. While Ramnarine is willing to spout vitriol, he is less inclined to sit down and face more direct questioning.

But his head has now popped too far above the parapet. He is in the sniper’s sights and likely finally to be called to account. People have a right to know just why the C&W contracts are deemed important enough to jeopardise the future of West Indian cricket, why the players were encouraged to strike, and exactly who WIPA represents.

© Cricinfo

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