ST JOHN’S, Antigua, CMC – The region’s stars are now likely to return to international cricket after Cricket West Indies today announced a temporary player amnesty, the first step towards scrapping the contentious eligibility rule.
CWI’s chief executive, Johnny Grave, said that a working group of the Cricket Committee were expected to present recommendations on the rule to the Board of Directors shortly, which would be discussed at a meeting in September.
In the interim, Grave said, all “registered players” would be eligible for selection.
“The agreement forms part of a wider strategy to be more inclusive and to improve player relations aimed at re-engaging all players within our system so that they can perform at their best for the Windies Team,” Grave said.
The move by CWI comes with West Indies almost certainly set to miss out on automatic qualification for the 2019 World Cup in England.
They are currently ninth in the ICC one-day rankings with only hosts England and the remaining top seven nations in the world by September 30, assured of automatic qualification. Ten teams will then contest a qualifying tournament next year for the two remaining spots at the World Cup.
West Indies have one more chance to achieve direct qualification when they face England in a five-match series in September but Graves said CWI were already preparing for the prospect of playing in next year’s qualification tournament in order to reach the World Cup.
“We recognize that it is highly unlikely that we will now automatically qualify for the 2019 World Cup, so whilst the qualifying tournament has yet to be confirmed by ICC, we may only have eight (8) ODIs against England and New Zealand in the next six months to prepare,” the Englishman explained.
“It is crucial that we can have our best performing Windies players available for selection in these important games.”
Without their marquee players, West Indies have struggled in the shorter format, winning just four of their last 21 matches – including an embarrassing loss to then ICC associate side Afghanistan in St Lucia last month.
Superstar opener Chris Gayle has not played since the 2015 World Cup while all-rounder Dwayne Bravo has not suited up since the controversial abandoned tour of India three years ago.
Former Test, one-day and Twenty20 captain Darren Sammy and energetic all-rounder Andre Russell have also sat on the sidelines for the last two years – even though the latter has been serving a one-year suspension for an anti-doping “whereabouts” violation since last January.
Batsman Marlon Samuels was also barred from selection this year because he did not play the full Regional Super50.
The eligibility rule stipulates that players must make themselves available for the domestic tournament in which they wish to represent West Indies. However, those domestic tournaments usually clash with lucrative global T20 leagues.
Recently, incoming director of cricket, Jimmy Adams, described the rule as unsustainable and said it “might not be helping our cricket in the short and long term.”
Also on Monday, CWI said it would soon launch a registration process for all players – men’s and women’s in all age groups – in an effort to “identify the full slate and categories of players we have in the West Indies.”
“This will show commitment on the part of the players to be available for the format/s of the game they wish to play; a commitment to participate in the regional set-up and to honour the system to be in place by then,” president Dave Cameron said.