8th May 2013
Prospects of Play – match previews
Regional 4-Day Tournament Final: Barbados v Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
There are some people in life who cannot resist name dropping. Others are more reticent to advertise by whom they are vaguely acknowledged as a half-remembered nodding acquaintance. As an unredeemed star-struck cricket fan, I confess I fall into the initial category.
Earlier this week I bumped into the BCA Chairman, the great Joel Garner. The last time I’d seen him he’d just come second in the two-horse race for the WICB vice-presidency. This time, shaking hands (and noticing that barely concealed look of faint recognition flicker across his face), I commented that we now met in happier times – a day after the semi-final outcomes which meant Bridgetown would be hosting the four-day regional final this coming Thursday. He didn’t appear that thrilled at the prospect.
“Urgh. Plenty to do. But we’ve been preparing… just in case”.
I was amazed. Not that he seemed less than chuffed to have the extra work and responsibility land in his in-tray. No, amazed that anyone had even considered the remote possibility of a Jamaican defeat. In a region where any excuse to justify inertia is totally acceptable, Barbados ‘preparing’ was something approaching both prescience and unheard of pro-activity.
Barbadians should be happy. This is a great opportunity. They have not won the premiere four-day tournament since 2007, the year before Jamaica’s five-year monopoly began, and against expectation they now have a home tie against the giant killers.
True, Trinidad & Tobago could cause a further upset. But they won’t. Too many of their big match players like Narine, Rampaul, Badree, Cooper and Dwayne Bravo are all away on IPL duty, and the players who took them to the final aren’t good enough to do it again. Sabina Park was a one-off. Kensington Oval will be no ‘two-off’.
Even Trinidad & Tobago’s own selectors aren’t sufficiently confident to not change a winning side, and back a repeat performance from their tyros. Seventeen year-old Jeremy Solozano, who was brought in for the semi-final, has been omitted to accommodate the return of former test-opener Adrian Barath, who had himself been dropped for the semi-final.
Solozano was obviously good enough to play in a game they fully expected to lose (message: “good learning experience for the lad”), but not good enough to play in a final they have an outside chance of winning (message: “Barath brings more experience to a big match situation”). Muddled thinking? Pragmatism? I doubt it’ll make much of a difference except to the two players involved.
Barbados have gone in the other direction. Tino Best, injured for the semi-final, has declared himself fit but is surplus to requirements. Cummins and Searles, neither of whom bowled an over in the semi, (but have been available for Barbados throughout the season), have been preferred to Best (who hasn’t).
Apparently, Fidel Edwards was also ‘available’. Released by his IPL side, Rajasthan Royals, for whom he hadn’t played a game, they supported his bid to seek first-class cricket with Barbados. Returning to his island with his team-mates a game or two away from a title, he neither contacted the selectors nor turned up for nets.
How on Earth is it better for anyone that some professional cricketers sit for a month in dug-outs watching exhibition slogging, barely facing or bowling a ball? It may be better for their bank balance, but it is not better for their form or their development. It is not better for supporters, and it is certainly not better for cricket. To have top players inactive when their own domestic season is in full flow is a farce.
The players on show over the next four days are not the very best in the Caribbean, but in Kirk Edwards, Kemar Roach, Sulieman Benn, Shannon Gabriel, Lendl Simmons and Dinesh Ramdin there are some very good ones, and they deserve our support nonetheless.
I expect to see some good entertaining Caribbean cricket, and as an adopted Barbadian, a victory for the clear favourites. I don’t entertain thoughts of a possible Trinidad & Tobago triumph. I’ll be there every day urging my team onto win, and a return to the ‘glory days’.
They have long said in the county of the white rose in England that “when Yorkshire are strong, England is strong”. I was told recently by the West Indian commentator and broadcaster, Andrew Mason of an old Bajan adage: “When Barbados are strong, West Indies are strong”.
I long to see again a strong West Indies sometime very soon.