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West Indies regional cricket is Quite ordinary

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Last weekend, I was a part of a commentary team for the online/television coverage of West Indies Cricket Board’s four-day semifinal for the Sir Everton Weekes/George Headley Trophy. 
Despite technical challenges, we managed to complete the assignments well. That I abandoned plans to fly two magnificent “Singing Engine” (“Mad Bull” in Trinidad & Tobago) kites that I had made, to be at cricket over Easter weekend, tells how serious this game was to me, as this is the very next level down from Test cricket.  The real stress was with the cricket played. I found myself often thinking that this could not be the best that we can produce in regional cricket. It was. Nothing about it, except its name, was first class! That game was an embarrassment to the levels of cricket expected from first Class cricketers in this region.


Arrival of the stars
Trinidad & Tobago contained three senior, present West Indies players—Darren Bravo, Lendyl Simmons and wicket-keeper/captain Denesh Ramdin—and two recent former Windies players—faster bowlers Shannon Gabriel and Rayad Emrit. All looked underwhelmed with this experience. Windward Islands contained recent Windies reserve wicket-keeper/batsman Johnson Charles, former Test opener Devon Smith and former Windies fast bowler Nelon Pascal. Neither team managed to get even 250 in any of four innings on a perfectly well prepared, placid pitch at Queen’s Park Oval, T&T getting 140-8 declared and 105; Windwards 248 and 231. The game ended on Day 3, with T&T losing by, in terms of total runs scored—724—a mammoth 234 runs. 
One could only wonder how long the game would have lasted had Windwards’ main bowler, off-spinner Shane Shillingford, been able to play. On Day 1 he scratched, after feeling unwell. So, there must be kudos for Windward Islands getting to the final this weekend, against Jamaica, who beat Barbados in their semifinal. 



On a mission
At least, Windward Islands still have hopes of being four-day Caribbean regional champions for the very first time, if referred records are correct. They play at home this weekend in St Lucia.
Kudos too to left-handed medium-dobbler Kenroy Peters, who accounted for seven T&T 2nd inning wickets for only 36 runs; a career best; as T&T disintegrated to 105 all out. 
At Day 1’s lunch-time, I had lunch with president of Queen’s Park Cricket Club, former WI wicket-keeper Deryck Murray, former WI opener Brian Davis, Dr Nigel Camacho, founding member of “Trini Posse” and an integral part of WIRPA—West Indies Retired Players Association—and Colin Murray, who had played cricket and soccer for T&T. All four, even then, were absolutely amazed at the poverty of the cricket.


Only two batsmen, from victorious Windward Islands—Devon Smith and Rommel Currency—made fifties; 63 in 2nd innings; 68 in 1st innings. Otherwise, the batting was absolutely shambolic.
T&T’s best batting effort in the game came from opener Evan Lewis, who made 47 n.o. in their 1st innings. Parts of the game were even farcical, with T&T’s captain, Ramdin, deciding to declare his team’s 1st innings complete at 140-8, 105 behind Windwards’ 248, to try to stop Windwards getting an extra bowling point. Amazingly, this was done midway on Day 2. I know that it was Easter, but did Ramdin expect an unbelievable miracle to unfold on Days 3 and 4?  It is no wonder that president of Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board, Azim Bassarath, has ordered an inquiry to that debacle last weekend. 


I also know that former West Indies and T&T player, Suruj Ragoonath, now TTCB’s CEO, must be livid and speechless too, with the way-below-par performance of his representatives. T&T must have started the game as favourites, but even if they were to lose, they lost looking absolutely loose, disoriented and disenchanted with the entire proceedings, as if the whole game was one large joke. One has to wonder exactly where the players’ heads were during this shortened game! All this, mind you, as the last real preamble cricket regionally to the next international tour to the Caribbean, by New Zealand, starting on June 8. 



Starting from scratch
Some of our international cricketers will have to start all over again, as we are already in serious trouble. Dwayne Bravo is injured. No-one knows when he will play again, but at least, he is out for one month. Chris Gayle is still nursing an injured leg, so it could be touch and go as to if he will play in what would be his 100th Test, if he plays in the 1st Test v NZ at Sabina Park, Kingston, Jamaica. Marlon Samuels is again injured too, with no definitive time for his return. Sunil Narine might be mesmerising in T-20’s but in especially Tests, he is still questionable, while our fast bowling is in true dire straights. One recent hope, Kemar Roach, miraculously survived a bad automobile accident recently, while Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor are on the older side of 30. Anyway, I did manage to fly the kites later last week and was thoroughly pleased with them too. They flew like airplanes; smooth, well balanced and singing as loudly, as throatily, as Luciano Pavarotti! Enjoy!


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