The Bravo Impasse

Last Thursday, cricket fans around the world welcomed Ireland and Afghanistan as the eleventh and twelfth members of Test cricket’s exclusive fraternity. Meanwhile, back home in the West Indies, the fourth nation elevated to such status, the rumblings of discontentment continued with Trinidadian Darren Bravo, arguably the Caribbean’s best batsman, breaking his eight month silence on his ongoing suspension from selection for the West Indies team.

The Bravo impasse commenced last November after Darren rejected the offer of a downgraded central contract of a C category from the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), and its Jamaican president Dave Cameron, in a subsequent television interview, said that Bravo had not merited an enhanced retainer because of his “declining averages” and “poor performances” whilst, further compounding his lack of knowledge of the situation, by inferring that Bravo had previously held a Grade A contract.

The Trinidadian Test player responded with a Twitter rant, “You have been failing 4 d last 4yrs. Y don’t u resign and FYI I’ve neva been given an A contract. Big idiot@dave51.” This tweet was emitted just prior to the Tri-Nations one day international series in Zimbabwe. WICB’s response was to immediately indicate to him, via two emails, one each from Roland Holder, WICB cricket operations manager and Richard Pybus, (at the time) WICB director of cricket, respectively, that his contract had been terminated, and, of his flight details home. Bravo claims after his sending home that he was given an ultimatum to remove the tweet by 4 pm and apologise on twitter, neither of which has happened to date.

It should be noted that the left-hander had turned down an offer to go the T20 World Cup in February, 2016, citing in a letter to the board that he would be playing in the regional four-day Professional Cricket League, because “I’m of the firm belief that I have a very big part to play in the resurgence of West Indies cricket in the longer formats of the game.” Darren is the rare exception of the modern day player who prefers the challenge of the longest format of the game.

In April of this year, Bravo initiated legal proceedings against the board, claiming loss of income of US$120,000 based upon what he could have made from ODIs against Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka, BPL and PSL contracts, and regional Caribbean competitions. The claim came as a surprise to the board who, at the time, thought they were on the verge of a reconciliation with their prized batsman, as they were in negotiations with his legal representatives.

The board’s chief executive, Johnny Grave, who inherited the situation when he was appointed this year, explained in an interview with ESPNcricinfo that he was under the impression that an agreement had been reached for Bravo’s return, with Cameron offering an apology for saying that Bravo had previously held an A contract, and the wording of an apology from Bravo to Cameron, and for the removal of the tweet from Bravo’s account. Grave had hoped that the impasse would have been resolved during England’s ODI series in the Caribbean, and West Indians would have been elated to have the Trinidadian back in the side for the test series with Pakistan.

Last Thursday, Bravo broke his silence for the first time and accused Cricket West Indies (CWI) – WICB’s new name- of not affording him due process in dropping from the Tri-Nation Series in Zimbabwe and barring his selection. His comments were revealed in the media, and were taken from an exclusive interview from the upcoming edition of Massy United Insurance’s Line & Length weekly television programme, which is aired every Saturday night in the Caribbean.

“There was no due process, there was wasn’t anything. No one has asked me anything. Up to this day, no one called me and asked me so it has been very disappointing, “Darren lamented. Earlier, he had alluded that no one can prove if he actually went on his Twitter account and made the tweet.

Barbadian lawyer Donna Symonds, a member of his legal team added, “Up to now, Cricket West Indies has not explained their authority for this continued ban…he’s told that he can’t play because Cricket West Indies says you can’t play. They have never engaged Darren directly or his lawyers directly…” The lawyer confirmed that there had been prior negotiations which had broken down after “something happened –I would have to say a breach of good faith-“. The lawyer was, of course, referring to the interview given to ESPNCricinfo by Grave.

Bravo, since his dismissal from the team, has been barred from taking part in domestic cricket and only last week, his selection for Trinidad and Tobago in a practice match against the West Indies, reportedly drew protests from CWI.

Just last week CWI president Dave Cameron reiterated that Bravo would remain barred from selection unless the offending tweet was deleted. So, the standoff continues. As the chances of West Indies qualifying automatically for the 2019 World Cup slips with each passing tournament – after the current India series, there is only the five match series left in England before the September 30 deadline- the West Indian fan is left to wonder where all this is going.

As the chasm of mistrust continues to widen between the players and the board, there are several points to consider. How are the younger players –the under-17s and under-19s – viewing this masquerade of ego display (on both sides)? Chances are, we can begin see our younger and more talented cricketers drifting away to the foreign leagues, where they will be better compensated, more likely more respected, and heaven forbid, if they stay long enough, even qualify to represent their adopted land.

How we are tolerating our best batsman languishing on the sidelines? When the Sobers-Rhodesia crisis began to evolve in 1970, and it looked it like there was going to a major crisis in West Indian cricket, with the Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Guyana saying that that they wouldn’t allow the game’s greatest player into their territories, Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Eric Williams swooned in and resolved the problem. Surely, there must be some way to solve this inept leadership of the board, who seem to spend more time waging war with the players than trying to pull the game out of his current nosedive to the bottom of the cricket world. Cameron has recently begun another four year term, can the game in the region survive that long?

Darren Bravo is expected to be part of the Trinbago Knight Riders squad in this year’s Caribbean Premier League which begins in August.  Will Cricket West Indies allow him to play?

The Darren Bravo impasse continues.

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