Port of Spain: Trinidad and Tobago's sports minister Anil Roberts says the government went to great lengths to ensure the trio of Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Sunil Narine represented the country at the upcoming Twenty20 Champions League - but didn't succeed.
A disappointed Roberts was speaking after it was announced that Bravo, Pollard and Narine had opted to turn out for their Indian Premier League franchises in the October 9-28 tournament in South Africa.
"Last year, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard came to my office ... and they were very disappointed because they didn't have the choice. They wanted to play for Trinidad and Tobago and we didn't give them the choice," Roberts said.
"They would have had to have given up about a million dollars each and we didn't offer them anything. To buy out the 20 per cent of their contracts would have been TT$3.3 million but I wanted a little extra because I thought Trinidad and Tobago winning that competition, the sports tourism thrust, the one billion people watching, I wanted that."
He continued: "Unfortunately, when I told them (about the plan), they wanted to play but before we got down to the nitty gritty of the bonuses and so on they chose to play for their clubs."
T&T booked their spot in the CLT20 qualifying tournament after winning the Caribbean Twenty20 earlier this year, beating Jamaica in the final with a team that included Bravo, Pollard and Narine.
The three players will now represent their IPL sides, all of which secured automatic spots in the main draw of the CLT20.
Narine suits up for IPL champions Kolkata Knight Riders, Bravo for losing finalists Chennai Super Kings and Pollard for Sachin Tendulkar's Mumbai Indians.
Roberts, who led the discussions with the players, argued their decisions could not have been made on financial grounds as government had been prepared to dish out the necessary monies.
"The Government of Trinidad and Tobago offered the boys more than they would make for their franchises. They would make, for example, $250 000 US for one player, we were paying that; US $150,000 (for another) we were paying that," said Roberts.
"Furthermore, I went further to say 'I appreciate you all playing for the country, we want to win, let's sit down and negotiate some bonuses. So if you make fifty runs (etcetera), let's talk.'
"We did not get to that point, they made the choice to play (for their franchises) and that's their choice."
While not condemning the players' decisions, Roberts was quick to underscore the importance of athletes representing their country.
"Let me just put it this way: I commend our 31 Olympic athletes who went to the Olympics, who performed, who brought us glory … the greatest team in history," he pointed out.
"(There) were 13 finalists, one gold medal, three bronze medals and countless personal bests. I commend them and I commend them wholeheartedly because they did it for free."