“My son was not a drug dealer.”
These were the words of Safiya Williams yesterday as she spoke out about the death of her nine-year-old son, Cyon Paul.
Congratulations to captain Stafanie Taylor and Jamaica women cricketers on successfully defending their WICB Regional Super 50 title with an emphatic 218 runs victory over Guyana in the final.
An honest postmortem of the standard of play and administration of this year’s tournament should highlight several aspects of the women’s game that requires serious immediate attention.
This reflection is important if the West Indies team is to have a competitive cadre of players to compete consistently with the top countries—Australia, England, New Zealand and India.
This group of players will be similar to the 30 players the Pybus Report recommends for the senior West Indies men’s team.
It was quite evident from this year’s tournament that there is a huge gulf in the standard of play between the teams.
Jamaica, T&T, Guyana and Barbados were definitely the stronger compared to St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, Grenada and host Dominica. Some of the weaker teams failed to score more than 100 runs and or bat the allotted 50 overs against the top teams.
For instance, Dominica had scores of 52, 39, 83, and 84, while Grenada had scores of 36, 73, and 98. When the weaker teams played against each other they struggled to utilise their allotted 50 overs and put up competitive scores that would reflect a high standard of play.
Therefore, the huge victories achieved by the stronger teams did not provide a good assessment of their ability. So for instance T&T’s (382/7) emphatic win against Dominica (83) did not provide them with a competitive assessment of themselves for their tougher match against Jamaica who they eventually lost to in a rain reduced game of 31 overs. The same could have been said for Guyana who scored heavy wins against St Lucia and St Vincent but were walloped by Jamaica in a hugely one-sided final.
Administratively, the premier regional tournament for women should be more than a maximum of five matches especially when four out of the eight teams can be easily considered as weak contenders. These teams do not offer the required level of competition to prepare for West Indies selection and to play competitive internationally.
In order to improve the standard of cricket among women in the region, there is an urgent need to restructure the game. As the Pybus Report calls for the free movement of players from the region to improve the standard of play, the same can be applied for the women’s game.
Therefore, instead of having four strong teams and four weak teams playing annually, there can be eight evenly balanced teams. This will make for more competitive cricket which will auger well for the players and the West Indies team. Additionally, the WICB should also consider having one team represent the Windward Islands instead of separate teams such as St Lucia, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica.
A team of the best players from these islands will provide greater competition than what has been transpiring over recent years with the participation of the individual islands.
Imagine the West Indies under 19 Boys’ tournament involved more cricket than the Senior Women tournament! This is absolutely unacceptable. In order to develop their skills, women have to play more cricket.
As the Pybus Report propose for men, the women should also play two rounds of cricket. The proposal to develop youth cricket for boys in the region should also be extended for girls with the same kind of interest and energy. As less girls are likely to play cricket than boys given traditional culture, all that may be required is an equivalent under 19 tournament to the boys. The annual under 19 invitational tournament that is hosted by T&T should get the full support of the WICB by ensuring that all regional territories participate.
As there is a High Performance Centre for men, the same or similar should be established for female cricketers. This will ensure that the region’s top young players are exposed to highest level of training and coaching to develop their skills. Such a move will be keeping in line with new convener of selectors Clive Lloyd pledge to emphasize the development of youth cricket.
The women’s game has to be treated with the same dignity as the men’s game. The embarrassing pictures posted on the Windiescricket.com site of women cricketers pulling covers at a game at this year’s regional tournament must never ever be repeated. It was downright unprofessional from the WICB, the Dominica Cricket Association and the management of the team/s who allowed their players to pull the covers! One will never expect and should never expect players competing at the highest regional level to be pulling covers and this includes women players.
The restructuring of the regional game in order to improve the overall standard of play is laudable but it must be across the board regardless if it is cricket played by men or women. In the end cricket will hopefully be the overall winner.