Jamaica Gleaner

The echoes of dis­tant drums

- Tony Becca

THE 2015 ver­sion of the ex­cit­ing CPLT20 has come and gone. The Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel have won the ti­tle in a blaz­ing fin­ish, and the peo­ple of the Caribbean wait anx­iously for next year’s re­newal.

In my opin­ion, a few of the peo­ple are wait­ing for the fast, ex­cit­ing play of T20 cricket, with balls fly­ing in ev­ery di­rec­tion and over the bound­ary.

Most of the peo­ple, how­ever, are wait­ing for the re­turn of the en­ter­tain­ment, the car­ni­val of mu­sic-mak­ers, half-naked, sweaty drum beat­ers, at­trac­tive and beau­ti­fully clad danc­ing girls, painted fire-eaters, and the con­stant ca­coph­ony of noise which fol­lows them around the is­lands, and Guyana.

There is also the “I love this place” man, Danny Mor­ri­son, the for­mer crick­eter who, seem­ingly, loses con­trol of him­self ev­ery time the bat con­nects with the ball, or the ball hits the stumps, or each time the ball goes up in the air. Whether to sail into the stands or to be caught, by the sim­plest of catches, many of them trans­formed into things of real beauty by the ex­cited com­men­ta­tors.

The Hero CPLT20 was ex­cit­ing, no doubt about it.

The Hero CPLT20, how­ever, was cer­tainly un­like the West Indies Un­der-19 com­pet­i­tive tour­na­ment.

As a de­vel­op­ment/com­pet­i­tive af­fair, the Un­der-19 tour­na­ment was a dis­ap­point­ing 50-over con­test. In­stead of a longer game for de­vel­op­ment pur­poses, it was qui­etly ar­ranged to be played in Ja­maica. It was se­cretly played at only ru­ral venues. It at­tracted very lit­tle in­ter­est from even those who knew it was on, and it ended just as it had started, in al­most com­plete se­crecy.

Con­grats to Guyana for win­ning the ti­tle, how­ever, for although very few peo­ple knew about it, as the pop­u­lar say­ing goes, ‘half a loaf is bet­ter than no loaf at all’. Apart from the se­crecy of it all, it may be bet­ter to play a 50-over re­gional tour­na­ment in­stead of a three­day af­fair t han t o play no tour­na­ment at all.

It is strange, how­ever, how things have changed so quickly over the past 55 years.

In 1960, the Ja­maica AllSchools team went to Trinidad and Bar­ba­dos. They played three-day matches. They played at Queen’s Park Oval and Kens­ing­ton Oval, and in 1961, the Bar­ba­dos team came to Ja­maica and they played all their matches at Park.

Soon, the Ja­maica AllSchools team changed to be­come t he Ja­maica Youth team, and it par­tic­i­pated in the West Indies Youth Tour­na­ment with the matches played as three-day con­tests and at all the

top venues.

To­day, af­ter play­ing 50-over cricket and three-day tour­na­ments, af­ter ex­pand­ing to in­clude the Un­der-15 and the Un­der-17 age groups, af­ter pro­duc­ing most of the re­gion’s best play­ers, and af­ter the West Indies had risen to the pin­na­cle of world cricket, the West Indies are not even back to square one.

The West Indies, who are num­ber four in T20 cricket from a po­si­tion of num­ber one in 2012, num­ber nine in 50-over cricket from num­ber one in the late 1970s, and num­ber eight in Test cricket from a po­si­tion of num­ber one up to 1995, have messed with ev­ery­thing in their cricket in a bid to get back to green pas­tures.

They have fid­dled with the scor­ing sys­tem in ev­ery tour­na­ment to the ex­tent where they once seemed to have been ask­ing a bats­man to run him­self out in or­der to se­cure a point to win the then Shell Shield, and where teams in their youth tour­na­ment now get an ad­di­tional one-tenth of a point for ev­ery wicket a fast bowler takes in a match.

CON­FUS­ING SIT­U­A­TION

In a con­fus­ing sit­u­a­tion, the fast bowler gets more for his ef­fort, for tak­ing a wicket, than a slow bowler gets for do­ing the same thing, the im­por­tant thing, and that is get­ting a wicket.

In all of this, the West Indies run the risk of not qual­i­fy­ing for the 2017 Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy.

Eight teams will have to qual­ify for the Cham­pi­ons Tro­phy. They have to qual­ify by Septem­ber this year, and the last place is be­tween the West Indies (num­ber nine) and Pak­istan (num­ber eight), with Bangladesh al­ready in at num­ber seven.

At a time when West Indies cricket should be mov­ing full steam ahead to get back, or to try and get back to the for­mer glory days in all three for­mats, at a time when to play more cricket ap­pears the thing to do, it still does things like lim­it­ing the time for teams to bat at its age group lev­els, and it still has been fid­dling with such un­nec­es­sary things as the scor­ing sys­tem.

At a time when three-day cricket is im­por­tant for their de­vel­op­ment to­wards play­ing Test cricket, it has stopped the three-day game and is now play­ing 50-over games alone at the Un­der-19 level.

Maybe the rea­son for do­ing so is the lack of money, but surely, it must be bet­ter to trim ev­ery­thing else, in­clud­ing the ten­dency to em­ploy peo­ple for ev­ery lit­tle thing, i nclud­ing cut­ting t he num­ber of the staff and the num­ber of “of­fi­cials” who travel with t he West Indies team, in­clud­ing the per diem paid to board of­fi­cials when­ever they at­tend meet­ings or things like that, and in­clud­ing run­ning a tighter ship as far as the spend­ing of the board’s money is con­cerned.

Play­ing two-day cricket at the Un­der-15 and the Un­der-17 lev­els is good for de­vel­op­ment, and play­ing three-day cricket at the Un­der-19 level must be good for de­vel­op­ment. They all, for ex­am­ple, teach the young play­ers how to con­struct an in­nings, and how to bat.

Fifty-five years is a long time, and the times, def­i­nitely, have changed, es­pe­cially if the idea is only to con­cen­trate on the de­vel­op­ment of T20 cricket or 50-over cricket.

If, how­ever, the idea is to de­velop all three forms of the game, with the em­pha­sis on the longer ver­sion of the game, then fid­dling with the fun­da­men­tals of the game, and how it is won or lost, and hav­ing a re­gional com­pe­ti­tion which caters only to the 20-over and to the 50-over for­mats is a back­ward step.

Cricket, through­out the years, has been a game of bat and ball, of the con­flict for as­cen­dancy be­tween bat and ball, and the team which makes more runs, against pace or spin, or some­times takes more wick­ets by pace or spin, wins a match. It is as sim­ple as that, and it has been that way for a long, long time.

To try and change it, to award a frac­tion of a point for a fast bowler’s wicket, to re­ward a fast bowler more than a slow bowler for do­ing the same job is beg­ging for trou­ble. At least, that is what the echoes of the past seem to be say­ing.

The West Indies should lis­ten to them, and not, in this case, only to for­eign voices.

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 ?? RI­CARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER ?? Ja­maica Tallawahs play­ers (from left) Chris Gayle, An­dré Rus­sell and Chad­wick Wal­ton celebrate the fall of a wicket dur­ing a match against the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel at Sabina Park on July 9.
RI­CARDO MAKYN/STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER Ja­maica Tallawahs play­ers (from left) Chris Gayle, An­dré Rus­sell and Chad­wick Wal­ton celebrate the fall of a wicket dur­ing a match against the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel at Sabina Park on July 9.

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