Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Orville Higgins | Don't scapegoat Nikita Miller

Published:Friday | February 24, 2017 | 2:00 AM

Discussions are still continuing about the performance of the Jamaica Scorpions in the Regional 50-Over final. We were beaten by the Barbados Pride, and there are still those who claim that captain Nikita Miller got it wrong regarding his deployment of exciting all-rounder Rovman Powell in both the batting and bowling departments.

Powell didn't get the ball to bowl until we had already completed 43 overs. He had taken five wickets in the semi-final against the Trinidad Red Force, and many are claiming that that five-wicket haul should have guaranteed him an earlier bowl.

I completely disagree. We have to look at that five-wicket haul in context. The Red Force team was chasing a record total of 434. With that huge total on the board, the team batting second had to go for broke from ball one. The Red Force team had only a little over a hundred on the board with five wickets down when Powell started to bowl. By then, the latter half of the Red Force, with overs running out and more than 300 to get, at over ten an over, had already resorted to swinging for the hills at everything. In that scenario, a bowler didn't have to be bowling particularly well to get wickets. I myself might have grabbed 5 for next to nothing if given the ball in those circumstances!

Powell's five for 36 included five of the last six wickets to fall. No disrespect to Powell, but this was an artificial five-wicket haul.

His five-for in the semis, then, could not have made him an automatic choice as a bowler in the final, and the skipper was right to still see him as a fifth or sixth bowling option.

In the final against the Barbados team, the Pride were 171 for 5 after 43 overs. Powell hadn't yet bowled, but none could blame the captain there. Things were going well. The Bajans are notoriously better at pace than spin, and the skipper was well within his right to give all four spinners a go. At 171 for 5 with only seven overs to go, including some from their best bowler, Nikita Miller, the Jamaicans were well placed.

 

PARTNERSHIP BLITZ

 

What happened next was a blitz from Shai Hope and Jason Holder, as they racked up 84 in a five-over spell. They may play their entire career without another partnership like that. It was just quality hitting. Sometimes, as spectators, we just have to accept that the other side was simply too good on the day. That partnership rattled us, but it wasn't the captain's fault. Powell himself was powerless to stop it. He, too, went for runs at the death, though he did pick up two cheap wickets.

Nobody should blame the captain here. We came back in the last two overs. We should have been lucky to just be chasing 271, with all the mayhem earlier.

When batting, the Jamaicans lost their top three to attacking shots. People have made a big deal about this, but I won't. None of the shots from Walton, Taylor or Blackwood was unreasonable in the context of the game. They were all trying to take advantage of early fielding restrictions by going over the top. It worked brilliantly in the semis. Indeed, it worked well all the way throughout the tournament until they got to the final.

You can't knock an approach when it doesn't work, but applaud it when it does. I can't blame the Jamaicans for adopting a positive approach. I didn't think they were careless.

Yes, hitting over the top carries an element of risk, but so be it. Being positive sometimes land you in trouble. This was one day when the gods just were not on our side.

Rovman Powell, I thought, batted one or two positions too low. He came in at No. 8 and, with partners running out, he had to go helter-skelter until he skied one to the deep.

Nikita Miller told me that the plan was not to bat Rovman too much to the spinners Suliemann Benn and Ashley Nurse. He also made the point that Rovman was the kind of player who is at his best when he doesn't bat for long periods. I can understand all that, but I still believe he should have batted at least ahead of Damian Jacobs.

Having said all that, it was a good effort. We were playing six debutants in our squad, while the Bajans had nine of their players in the West Indies squad just called to face England. In the end, the better team won. Captaincy was not the problem.

- Orville Higgins is a sports reporter and talk-show host at KLAS ESPN Sports FM. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com.