Cricket, where are we going?
The season of 2014 will be forever remembered, probably, as the last time the Senior Cup cricket competition had any relevance in Jamaica's cricket.
Never again, if things go according to plan, if plan it can be called, will Jamaica see a cricket competition of quality.
The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), in its wisdom, or whatever, has restructured the competition and has decided that, as from this season, after 118 years of existence, the Senior Cup competition will take second place in Jamaica's cricket.
The Senior Cup has seen many changes over the years, going from a competition involving clubs from the Corporate Area alone to one encompassing the entire island, including teams for the security forces, the University of the West Indies, and an All-Bauxite team, Tivoli, Kingston and St Andrew, and one from the G. C. Foster College of Physical Education.
And it was once separated into two divisions in a bid to get the best teams regularly playing against the best teams.
This year, however, following a move which started one or two years ago but had no traction at the time, the JCA, in its efforts to spread the game, has decided on a competition with the same 23 teams, clubs, parishes, et cetera, divided into five zones with each team in each zone playing four matches except in Zone A where the four teams will play five matches by playing two teams twice.
The zones: Zone A - Trelawny, St James, Hanover, Westmoreland; Zone B - St Ann, St Mary, Portland, Jamaica Defence Force; Zone C - St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine Parish; Zone D - St Catherine, G. C. Foster College, Kingston and St, Andrew, Police, Boys' Town, Kingston; Zone E - St Thomas, UWI, Lucas, Kensington, Melbourne.
One of the differences in this competition, and those before it, is that there will not be a champion, or rather it has not yet been decided if there will be a champion team. In other words, no winner will be crowned, or celebrated. At least, it has not been decided on.
Up to this point, two things are being considered, whether to offer the winners of each zone a token prize in the form of a little prize money, or, with many complaints coming from the participants, move the competition along with the winners of each zone, along with the three best second-placed finishers going into a quarter-finals, into semi-finals, and a final for a first prize of one million dollars.
The basic difference in this year's competition, however, is that after the zones are completed, after all of a total of five matches are played for some teams, or possibly after the quarter-finals, semi-finals, and final are played, there will be more cricket.
There will be, some time in September, months after the zones are completed, a franchise system involving teams from the five zones plus a combined UWI/G. C. Foster team.
Each zone team will be selected by a committee representing the teams in each zone, and each team will play each other once, to find a winner.
The idea behind this new format is to get as many players, or as many teams, as possible involved, and the reason behind that is to satisfy as many teams as possible.
The reason for this move, as against having one competition lasting a few months with the best players involved in an effort to develop the country's cricket, to lift the standard of the country's cricket, is political.
While many players and many teams will be involved, little cricket, good cricket, will be played, and as usual, the facilities, grounds and accommodation, especially, will be way below standard, and teams will turn up, as usual, short in numbers or not at all, especially when they find that they are not good enough to compete in the competition or that they cannot win the competition.
A good player, playing for such teams, will disappear, frustrated by his own colleagues who neither train nor practice.
It happens every year in recent times, and it will happen again. It will be business as usual, and no one, from the JCA or anywhere, will even stop to find out way.
The interesting questions, however, are these: How did the JCA arrive at putting the teams in the respective zones? How did they get four in three zones, five in one, and six in one? How did they manage to move the Jamaica Defence Force from Up Park Camp into the company of St Ann, St Mary, and Portland, to separate the two St Catherine teams? How come St Thomas found themselves with UWI and with Lucas, Kensington, and Melbourne?
Did they get divine help? Was it done geographically, or was it someone's brilliant idea, or simply an effort, to attempt to balance the teams in the competition?
Another question is this: Will the franchise system work, especially at two million dollars a team, and have all the teams, or most of them, found a godfather in this franchise system?
Jamaica, it must be remembered, finished the first year playing in the West Indies Cricket Board's franchise system without a franchise. Out of six teams, playing in a home-and-away format, they also ended in fourth spot, winning three of the first four matches and, disappointingly, winning not another one.
Jamaica's cricket is badly in need of a good, quality competition, one in which the facilities are reasonably good, one in which the best plays against the best to find out who is the best to play for Jamaica, and not one in which it is a free for all, one organised to suit everyone who has a vote, and one for whoever wants to play cricket, regardless of the quality, and even for fun.
On top of all that is wrong with the organisation of Jamaica's cricket, to start a competition is one thing. To start a competition without knowing how it's going to end, and to make changes once it has started, however, is something else altogether.
It's just not fair to the competing teams.