Sat | Nov 18, 2017

Tony Becca | A season best forgotten

Published:Sunday | July 30, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Members of the Jamaica Defence Force team celebrate after Andre McCarty was bowled for a duck by Joseph Palmer on the first day of the two-day Senior Cup final against Melbourne at Sabina Park on Saturday, July 22.

The Senior Cup cricket season is over, and congratulations to the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), to captain Damian Gray, fast bowlers Sheldon Cotterell and Reynard Leveridge, and all-rounder Joseph Palmer, in particular, who ripped through Melbourne's vaunted batting side, flattened them for a paltry 103 runs in the first innings on a good Sabina Park pitch, and then, with batsmen Rasheed Outar and Sean Bennett leading the way, eased to a well-deserved and, in the end, exciting victory.

And they did so skilfully, using the speed of Cotterell and Leveridge from the north to build pressure, and the off-spin of Palmer from the south, also to keep the pressure going.

The JDF's wonderful achievement of winning the cup, however, may have been tarnished, not by defeating one of the better teams around, but, despite what the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) may say, and although it may well term the season a success because of the semi-finals and final, because the season was nothing but a national embarrassment.

The only good part of the season was its last three matches, JDF versus Westmoreland, Melbourne versus Kingston, and JDF versus Melbourne.

 

BITTERSWEET VICTORY

 

The JDF have regained the title, but for all intents and purposes, it was a bittersweet victory; bitter because of the lack of quality of the general competition, and sweet because of their triumph over Melbourne, who defeated Kingston, one of the other few good teams in the competition.

After lining up in a field that included 22 other teams, broken down into four groups, with each team playing four or five matches each, with each team playing only one good team in the early rounds before the weaker teams disappeared, the JDF, realistically, played only two matches, in the semi-final and in the final, against Westmoreland and against Melbourne.

At the end of a "season", which was played without two of the better teams, without Kensington and St Thomas, a season which was spread out for some 12 weekends, although most teams only played four or five two-day, or one-day matches, a "season" which was so unimportant that, like most cricket in the West Indies these days, it was hardly ever watched, or remembered, and that some teams played without some of their best players.

The season was bittersweet; bitter for the players who played before empty stands, bitter for those players who were so poor, they simply could not compete, bitter for those players who did not have to sweat to win a match, and sweet only for the winners who are known as champions of Jamaica at the end of the fiasco.

The season of 2017, like so many before it, was a mistake, and the hope is that there will never be another one like it.

If there is, Jamaica's cricket will continue to slide into insignificance.

Jamaica's cricket must be competitive, and it must be competitive for long periods and played in a good environment with good conditions for any worthwhile benefit to be derived from it.

Jamaica's cricket needs to be the top cricket competition in the country. It cannot continue to be allowed to be classed as a second-rate competition in comparison to the Social Development Commission's national competition simply because it offers a smaller prize money; and its semi-finals and final cannot continue to be two-day affairs when the schoolboy finals are scheduled for three days after playing one-day matches during the season.

The present Senior Cup competition is also bad for the selection of the national team, especially with the good idea of ending the system of trials.

A selector's job is normally a most difficult one, especially when it comes to selecting something like a cricket team.

Selecting a cricket team is really difficult because of the nature of the game and because there are so many things to take into consideration; things like who are the opposition, the type of pitch, the weather, the length of the game, one's technique, one's ability to perform on the day, and so on.

Sometimes, however, it comes down to instinct by those who select, and that is why sometimes you will see a player on a team and you are convinced that "somebody up there likes him".

Whatever it is, and even if that is not true, the selection of a cricketer is nowhere as easy as is the selection of an athlete, for example. Barring something unforeseen, it is usually the one who runs faster, throws farther, or jumps higher that is selected.

Normally, the athlete selects himself. It is as simple, and as fair, as that.

In cricket, however, that is not so. It is far from that, and most times, it is because of the technical skills and quality of the opposition one faces when he is putting forward his credentials.

The selector's job is difficult, and it will continue to be difficult as long as the competitive cricket, the top-level cricket, remains as it is. The results, the performances, will always be questionable.

Cricket in Jamaica is not geared at producing and providing the right people to the selectors from which to choose.

Selection is supposed to be based mainly on performance, but how can performance really count when so many teams are simply too weak.

Performance becomes a farce when weak teams make merry when they play each other, wickets are taken and runs are scored, and when the strong plays the weak, their players go to town and turn out runs and wickets like sands on the seashore.

In that situation, the poor selector is in a bind. How does the selection process work? Does he select a batsman who has scored double centuries against weak teams or does he select a batsman who performs against the stronger teams, the teams which boast the country's best bowlers, teams like JDF, Melbourne, and Kingston?

The JCA needs to organise its top competition better, it needs to give the good players a "level field" in order to judge their performance for national selection, and it needs to give the selectors a chance of seeing the best from the best so that they can select the best players for national duty.

Jamaica's cricket needs complete restructuring.