Tony Becca | The Super50 was almost super
The Super50 cricket season ended in Antigua a few Saturdays ago, and looking at the ESPN coverage, it was a season to cherish and one which seems to augur well for the future of West Indies cricket.
It was a season which all West Indians, especially those who love cricket, were sorry to see come to an end and could not wait for the start of the next one.
It was also a season in which the West Indies young cricketers, and especially so, their batsmen, demonstrated their pedigree and showed that with a little help, they were ready, or determined, to the make the fight back to the top.
And the fans were happy, most of them, because Barbados, who played the best cricket throughout the competition and in the final, were the winners, because the tournament of 43 matches was long, but not too long, up from 15 matches in 2014 and 23 in 2016, and also because the cricket and the players on show were quite good and exciting.
For years, we have been talking about the little cricket played, the need for more cricket, and the poor quality of play all round, and although this season was marked by the presence of the West Indies Under-19s, the ICC Americans, Kent, and the continued presence of the Combined Colleges and Campuses (CCC), this season saw an improvement in all three areas.
The more cricket that is played, the better the cricket will be, and the better it must be.
NOT UP TO STANDARD
Although one understands the importance of development and the reason for the inclusion of the Under-19 team and also that of the American and the CCC teams, the tournament is a regional championship, and, as such, it should not be a place for teams which are not up to standard.
Weak teams, as their performances, despite the presence of a couple of good ones, devalue the competition and they do not help development. There is a time and a place for the development process.
The inclusion of Kent is even more baffling, especially and apparently as it appears that they took the West Indies tournament as a preseason exercise and nothing else.
A tournament should be a tournament, a fight for points and for honours, and a testing ground to find out if one is good enough or not. It should not be used to technically prepare young players for a smaller, though globally bigger, tournament, and it should not be used to provide practice for anyone.
On top of that, a tournament, especially one in which people are expected to attend and to pay to attend it in order to keep the game going, and will want to attend, must be filled with competition, good competition from start to finish. That is what attracts the fans, and will get them to spend their money.
BIG SIX GOOD
The big six, however, were quite good, and especially so, the performance of the Leeward Islands - the home of players like Viv Richards, Richie Richardson, Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose, Ridley Jacobs, Winston and Kenny Benjamin.
The Leeward Islands not only made it to the semi-finals, but they also had on show opening batsman Kieron Powell, who, with most runs, 513, and three centuries, strolled back into the West Indies team, and promising wicketkeeper in Jahmar Hamilton and Sunil Ambris, one promising wicketkeeper and two equally promising batsmen.
Thankfully, the matches between the big six made up for those between involving the four 'outsiders', except for one or two matches, or games.
The batting, especially, was delightful to see as the batsmen came up trumps this time around, with Jamaica's semi-final effort being the pick of the lot.
Four hundred and thirty-four for four off 50 overs was unbelievable, even though the approach of Jamaica's batsmen disappointed on a different kind of pitch and against a different kind of bowling two days later in the final.
It was something special and something to remember, however, just as good or better than Barbados' brilliant display in the final when they were down, fought their way back, and then powered their way to 271 for nine with Shai Hope hitting his second century in a row and Jason Holder hammering 69 while blasting 127 runs in 13.3 overs for the sixth-wicket partnership.
Other impressive totals which were recorded included the Leeward Islands 336 for six against the Windward Islands, and Barbados' 314 for seven against the Leeward Islands, and of the 11 centuries scored, three came from Kieron Powell, two from Brathwaite, two from Hope, and one from veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul, with Jamaica's Rovman Powell scoring a blistering 95 of 45 deliveries in the semi-final, a performance which he followed up with five for 36 also in the semi-finals.
Right behind Kieron Powell's 513 runs at an average of 87.99 came Kraigg Brathwaite with 484 at 65.40, Hope with 482 at an average of 79.80 and quite a few batsmen who reeled off some glittering and important innings at crucial moments in matches.
The bowling suffered this time around, although that was expected, partly because of the nature of most of the pitches and the brilliance of the batsmen.
TOP OF THE CLASS
Top of the class, however, were off-spinner Ashley Nurse with a table-topping 26 wickets at an average of 12.50, pacer Ravi Rampaul, 19 at 15.42, left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn, 18 at 10.22, pacer Holder, 18 at 14.55, and right leg-spinner Damion Jacobs, 17 at 17.88.
Coming in with a good all-round performance was Rakheem Cornwall, and it is now left to see if he can get his weight down to make himself a worthy contender for a place going forward.
As it is, Cornwall's size and, therefore, his immobility in the field is against him.
The disappointment of the tournament was undoubtedly the failure to assess the pitch in the semi-final match by Dinesh Randin when he won the toss and sent Jamaica to bat first, and although it might not have influenced the final outcome of the match, Nikita Miller's decision to hold back Rovman Powell and send him to bat when the game was just about over.
The tournament was a good one, however, and hats off to president Dave Cameron and the board members for a job well done.