Holder hopeful of reciprocal England tour in 2020
By Akeem Greene
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, West Indies decided to tour England, spending close to two months in a country which had one of the highest infection rates globally.
The experienced Darren Bravo and young talents Shimron Hetmyer and Keemo Paul opted out, owing to safety concerns, but the tour still went ahead.
Apart from the rash judgement of English player Jofra Archer to deviate from the established protocols, and West Indies Head Coach Phil Simmons’ exit from the ‘bubble’ to attend the funeral of his father-in-law, the series was generally incident-free on the medical front.
The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) had invested massively in ensuring the series was held in keeping with the globally accepted health guidelines.
Though the ECB was able to curb major losses due to a lack of cricket and commitment for lucrative Television deals, Cricket West Indies (CWI) in May had to temporarily slash salaries and funding across the entire regional cricket system by 50%.
The salary cuts started in July and was a result of the “debilitating” impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left the board facing a major loss of income in the absence of regular cricketing activities.
The ECB had advanced CWI US$3M ahead of the tour after CWI had initially asked the ICC. CWI recently paid off that loan after they received US$7M from the International Cricket Council (ICC), part of their normal revenue share.
As a way of helping CWI increase their finances during this tough period, Holder hopes England can find a way to tour the Caribbean later in the year.
“We don’t know what’s going to happen after this series in terms of the international calendar, but if there’s an opportunity for England to come over to the Caribbean before the end of the year, I’m sure that would help significantly for Cricket West Indies’ financial records,” the skipper stated at the post-match presser.
England have commitments at home with Ireland and Pakistan tours and there is also the Indian Premier League in September-November. It means if there is any tour before the year is out, it possibly might just be a limited-overs series.
Equal share in ICC funds
Holder’s concerns about CWI finances not only stems from the fallout from COVID-19, but also on how the ICC distributes funds.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), ECB and Cricket Australia (CA) are the only three boards in world cricket that have settled broadcast deals, the main source of income in the game.
CWI Chief Executive Officer, Johnny Grave, had stated: “About 40% [of their income] comes from ICC and about 40% comes from TV companies throughout the world. The vast majority of that money is from the Indian and UK markets and then 20% comes from sponsorship, ticket revenues, CPL licenses fee, etcetera.”
Holder said, “We only really make money from England, and I think India.”
“We break even with Pakistan and Australia, and all the rest of the series we play are losses. But in these trying times only England, Australia and India can probably host cricket. Outside of that, the smaller territories are struggling financially to get cricket on.”
He added, “If something doesn’t happen soon we’ll see less international cricket being played by smaller countries because we simply can’t afford it.”
“We’ve gone from having four, five-match series, down to two and three. And it’s very difficult to host any more than that for us, particularly the Caribbean.”
“So yeah, it is a serious dilemma that we’re faced with. I think the relevant personnel really need to sit down and have a look at it.”
The Barbadian, who is a former West Indies Under-19 player, said the lack of finances has also affected developing and sustaining structured high-performance progammes in the Caribbean.
“It just shows you that we need more of these environments in West Indies cricket,” Holder said in response to a question on how the prolonged encamped aided the payers.
“I’m not sure right now if Cricket West Indies could afford to have an academy, or something similar to Loughborough here in England, but that is definitely something that would help CWI.
“We need more of these programmes in the Caribbean, but again, it all boils down to finance. We are having a massive difficulty in trying to fund our cricket, from every single age group level to Under-18 programmes and development programmes and we pretty much only gain from hosting England.”
Asked if there was anything in the short-term that West Indies could do to improve their fortunes, and help player out of form to rediscover such, he blunted stated there is little that could be done.
“I don’t think there’s anything more that can be done,” he said. “We don’t have the bargaining power to dictate where and when we can play series. There’s a Future Tours Programme in place, so we’ve got to make sure that we are strategic and plan our cricket in the best possible way.
“I particularly am a perfect example of our system, where I haven’t had the opportunity to play much First-Class cricket. This year was the first First-Class game I’ve played for a couple of years. And I’m the captain of the West Indies cricket team.
“It is what it is. We’ve just got to find creative ways to keep pumping money into our development programmes… at the moment, a lot of our franchises rely solely on financial distributions from Cricket West Indies. None of them can stand on their own.”