It’s just not cricket

As the England cricket team embarks on another politically suspect tour, and John O’Farrell has a wonderfully sceptical glance at that story in the Guardian, The Irish Times reports on a developing row in West Indies cricket, with an Irish tinge.James Fitzgerald, in the Irish Times, reports that players’ personal sponsorship deals with business competitors of the main West Indies cricket sponsor Digicel, owned by Irish businessman Denis O’Brien, has led to the dropping of, arguably, the West Indies best players from their national team.

The leading players in West Indies cricket have been dropped from the national squad over a row involving the telecommunications company of Irish businessman Mr Denis O’Brien.

Digicel, which is seeking to gain control of the lucrative Caribbean market, recently took over as the main sponsor of the team after Mr O’Brien brokered a US$20 million, five-year deal with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB).

But now 16 of the top players, including the captain, Brian Lara – arguably the world’s best batsman – have been axed because they have personal endorsements with rival companies, including Cable & Wireless.

Out of 25 players originally invited to a training camp in Barbados next Monday, just nine will be able to attend. The board pointed out that players were barred from endorsing “a competitor of a WICB major sponsor unless he has a pre-existing agreement with such a competitor that was approved in writing by the WICB”. Apart from Lara, the list of dropped players includes top-order batsmen Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan as well as all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.

Meanwhile, the players’ association accuses the board of attempting to “exploit the players for commercial purposes” and is furious that personal endorsements may be lost as a result of the Digicel deal.

The row has led to fears that the West Indies may be excluded from a triangular one-day international tournament in Australia in January. The Australian cricket board could decide to invite a different team to play there if the West Indies does not select a full-strength side. In September, Lara led his team to victory in the ICC Champions Trophy in England.

The players’ association has pointed out that, given the relatively meagre salaries they receive from the cash-strapped WICB, players need their personal endorsements in order to make a living.

Last June, when the sponsorship deal was finalised, Mr O’Brien said that Digicel would “add new energy into West Indies cricket”.

© The Irish Times