26th October 2015
Patrolling the Boundary – a view from the outfield
The important franchised Professional Cricket League regional 2015/6 four-day competition, obvious unofficial trial matches for Caribbean tours next year by probably India and South Africa, bowls off soon, so regional players and officials should be prepared and focused, raring to go.
Per West Indies Cricket Board’s announcement last year, this new format is geared at enhancing regional cricketing standards, which should also ultimately make WI teams stronger.
So, recently, I had an opportunity to speak to one regional official and to assess thought processes on our cricket. But first, some background and appreciation too.
Three weekends ago, former WI players Michael Holding, Lawrence Rowe, myself, Alvin Kallicharran and Faoud Bacchus, were invited to a weekend of merriment and cricket, for final fixtures of Newbury American Cricket Federation Champions League National Championships.
American Cricket Federation (ACF) is trying to go to higher levels where United States of America Cricket Association (USACA) had perhaps not taken cricket in USA previously.
Bacchus had to be there anyway, as the team he has coached for years, hosts and Orlando-based Florida All-Stars, reigning champions of Florida’s Cricket Conference and last year’s defending overall champions, was again in 2015’s final.
This time All-Stars lost to first-time finalists Massachusetts Patriots, champions of New England Conference, who, amazingly, only had eleven players available for three days of tough 40-overs games. ‘Man-of-the-Final’ Fazal Alum impressed; 50 as NEC made 173, then a frugal 6-0-20-5.
The cricket was of a very high standard, as was another similar 20-overs competition; USA Cricket Invitational International Tournament; which I attended as ‘Honored Legend’ in Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota last September, hosted by MICC-Cavaliers.
That too was an enjoyable and eye-opening event, where teams from Canada and USA competed in the annual USA-CIIT competition. Players’ enthusiasm and talent were electric and obvious there too.
Most players in both tournaments were of Asian extraction, some of Caribbean heritage, some with Masters’ degrees, but there are certainly high hopes for better things in USA’s cricket.
So, during that event in Orlando, I had an interesting and informative conversation with a very high-ranking official in Guyana’s cricket. He rightly, proudly, promoted the fact that Guyana are defending 2014/15 champions of the new franchised PCL cricket in the Caribbean.
However, he stumbled somewhat when I asked as to how many Guyanese players, having won the last regional competition, had been selected to the present WI squad now touring Sri Lanka?
We both knew that the only Guyanese now in SL are right-arm leg-spinner Davendra Bishoo and opener Rajendra Chandrika, with only Bishoo so far playing in both Tests in SL to date.
But that must be a poor reflection on the cricket level in Guyana and, by extension, WI too.
How can only two players from the region’s championship-winning team be selected for higher honors from games used as trials for that SL tour, and for England and Australian 2015 tours here earlier?
It means that most players are, more or less, on the same level. If any other players had been really outstanding, then they would certainly have been selected to tour SL too.
If Guyana was good enough to win last year’s competition, then at least five or six Guyanese should have been good enough to be selected to tour SL, but realistically, only one Guyanese non-selectee, left-arm leg-spinner Verasammy Permaul, had justifiable claims to such a place.
Recent regional cricket has been like USA’s major league baseball, which culminates in the ‘World Series’, another overall tournament that only plays against itself, as all major league baseball teams are based in North America, even if most players hail from Latin America or Asia.
Playing against one’s self does not count, as no calculable standards can be set. So Caribbean cricket could also be similarly ‘spinning tops in mud’; fooling itself if no real changes happen!
It would indeed be interesting to have a proper baseball ‘World Series’ featuring Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Japan, China, Mexico, Columbia, Canada and United States, to fully assess how good USA’s baseball players really are, since most MLB stars are not Americans.
So what of the rest of Guyana’s ‘champion’ players? Embarrassingly, none, with the exception of Permaul, could even have been considered to be selected in the present WI Test squad to SL.
From 1960s to 1990s, most WI touring and home players were selected from teams that had won regional competitions. Guyana, and especially Barbados, at one time or other, boasted of up to seven players in WI teams, Barbados winning past competitions more than most.
England’s present representation, for instance, with reference to county championship, tells an interesting story too. Yorkshire is England’s champion county for 2015, so from YCCC come Joe Root, Adam Lyth, Gary Balance, Adil Rashid, Tim Bresnan, Liam Plunkett, Johnny Bairstow and David Willey, all eight very recent England players, as it should be.
So, while Jason Holder and WI try desperately to save Test No. 2 v SL, consequence of yet another poor 1st innings batting performance, after poor catching and batting lost them Test No. 1, great responsibilities fall on regional batsmen to have much better production for 2015/6. Enjoy!
Colin Everton Hunte Croft was one of the fast-bowling giants of West Indies’ glorious period of world dominance. In his international career between 1977-82 he was part of a devastating 4-man pace attack alongside fellow greats Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Joel Garner (with a young Malcolm Marshall as first reserve). In 27 Tests he took 125 wickets at 23.30 with a best of 8-29 v Pakistan in only his 2nd Test Match. He was a member of West Indies’ World Cup winning XI of 1979, and took the match-clinching wicket, spreading the stumps of England’s Mike Hendrick, to finish with figures of 3-42. In his post playing days ‘Crofty’ has been a teacher, commercial pilot, coach and a shrewd and honest cricket analyst, writer, broadcaster, commentator and summariser – gaining respect internationally for his insightful and forthright opinions and, not least, his splendid wit. Roland Butcher’s Hook is delighted to have Colin as a contributor.