Tue | Dec 12, 2017

Orville Higgins | Super League antidote for cricket

Published:Saturday | September 16, 2017 | 12:09 AM

I am not often big on praising administrators when they come up with ideas to move their sport forward. After all, that is what they are there to do, right? This time I want to make an exception.

I take my hat off to the current Jamaica Cricket Association executive for the creation of the Super League. For years now, cricket in Jamaica has needed an overhaul. Parish cricket has lost its zest, and only the few faithful would turn out on a weekend to watch. Except when two top teams played, the cricket was often unattractive and lacking in quality. Teams would lose outright on day one, getting bowled out for less than a hundred in both innings.

Something had to be done. Jamaica's cricket needed a shot in the arm, and I believe the JCA has stumbled upon the right formula.

The six franchises will have 20 players each, which means that the top 120 cricketers will be in action against each other over the course of 10 weeks. This ultimately will make the cricket of a greater quality. When the best play against the best, standards will rise. You don't get better by beating up on inferior opposition.

The venues for these Super League games are spread all over, which is another good sign. Not only will higher-quality games be more accessible to people from all over the island, but players now will have to get used to travelling longer distances and in slightly different conditions than they would have been accustomed to.

One of the things I like most about this is that the JCA has made the announcement that this competition will largely determine who plays for Jamaica, which means trial matches, as we know them, would be a thing of the past. Trial matches in Jamaica were quite often a farce. Selectors would already know who they want to play, and performance in the trial matches would sometimes not matter.

I can give you a litany of examples of people dominating trial matches and be left on the sidelines. There was a famous case where a batsman unbeaten on a century was called off by the powers that be because they had seen enough, and yet he didn't make the cut when the squad was named.

I know too many examples where it is obvious that the selectors had their preferences. I will mention one more time that not so long ago, Manchester won the two-day competition three years in a row. They were also very competitive in the 50-over format, as well as T20. Yet not a single Manchester man played for Jamaica in any of the three formats of the game. That wasn't coincidence.

Because players now know that performance in the Super League will be crucial, it is now imperative that they give of their best. This, too, will create a better contest between bat and ball. People who want to watch local cricket again can turn up at these venues to see our best on show.

I also like the fact that each franchise will be given a tidy sum of $2 million to run the competition. I haven't always been a fan of the current JCA executive, but on this one, they deserve all the credit they get.

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