Mon | Nov 19, 2018

Tony Becca | Wanted: a Jamaica-Windies player, or two

Published:Sunday | September 9, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Courtney Walsh
Chris Gayle
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When the West Indies leave for India next month they will do so without a single Jamaican in the touring party.

Although this will not be the first time that this has happened in the 90 years of the West Indies in international cricket, it must be of concern, not only to Jamaica but to the entire West Indian cricket community.

Jamaica, after all, is not only the most populated member-country of West Indies cricket, and as such is an important, or should be an important part, to cricket in the region, but it has a special place in the history of West Indies cricket.

The father of West Indies cricket is George Headley, the first truly great West Indies player, and Headley is followed by the likes of Lawrence Rowe, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, and Christopher Gayle, some of the illustrious names in world cricket.

In the early years, it was unthinkable to even contemplate a West Indies team without a Jamaican in it, and later on, the absence of a Jamaican in the team, as happened a few times, was something worth talking about.

Today, however, that seems to be the norm, and it is of serious concern to Jamaicans.

Even remembering the controversy between the board and some of the players, and despite the appearance of a few in limited-over matches, the last Jamaican, for example, to represent the West Indies in a Test match was Jermaine Blackwood versus Zimbabwe four series ago in 2017.

On top of that, and after a record five straight victories in the four-day championship, Jamaica has been doing poorly in regional competitions lately, Jamaican representatives have been negligible in the last two youth World Cup tournaments, matches in Jamaica against top-ranked teams, including England, seem to be a thing of the past, and something as historic as the women's T20 championship, with the West Indies defending the title and a Jamaican expected to continue as the captain, will not play a single match in Jamaica.

 

HARD TO SWALLOW

 

Although Jamaicans know the reason for the absence of matches, as a Jamaican the situation is hard to swallow, even if Jamaicans understand why Jamaica cannot afford to bid to host the matches.

The absence of a Jamaican on the squad to India, however, is a horse of a different colour, and Jamaicans should stop, think, and try to find out why no Jamaican is in the squad.

Is it, as some have suggested, that the selectors do not like Jamaicans, or is it that, at this time, no Jamaican is good enough?

Apart from the fact the president of the West Indies board, Dave Cameron, is a Jamaican, I do not believe that this so, and I do not believe it is so when I remember that in the recent past three Jamaicans, Jimmy Adams, Walsh, and Gayle, captained the West Indies team, and the times when four or five Jamaicans were in the playing 11.

There were also the times when players like a young Headley in 1930, a young and inexperienced Alfred Valentine in 1950, a young and inexperienced Holding in 1975, and when a young and inexperienced Marlon Samuels in 2000, two years after his one first-class match, played his first Test match, at age 19, in Australia.

There was also the time, in 1999, when seven Jamaicans were selected to tour New Zealand.

For many years, Jamaicans questioned the continued absence of Nikita Miller in the team, but this time they cannot reasonably do so, and certainly not after Jomel Warrican's recent performance.

In three matches against England 'A', the left-arm spin bowler claimed 31 wickets, and that could not, or cannot, be scoffed at.

No, it is not dislike of Jamaicans and Jamaica or anything like that. Jamaica do not, at this time, really deserve a place on the team, at least not on present performance.

The absence of Jamaican cricketers, or the presence of very few, in West Indies teams, and the performance of Jamaica's teams in regional cricket, is more a reflection of the state of cricket in Jamaica.

The governance of Jamaica's cricket is good, may be very good, as far as the financial and the administrative side of things are concerned.

 

LOW ON PRIORITY LIST

 

The business of cricket, however, appears to be low down on the list of priorities.

When it comes to cricket development, the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA), all the members of the JCA, those who plan the way forward, those who plan the competitions, and those who coach the young players are not doing enough.

Although the JCA, to its credit, has started a youth programme in some clubs, it needs to do more work, the kind of work India have done over the years in an effort to produce fast bowlers of quality, the kind of work New Zealand have done over the years to produce real fast bowlers, and the kind of work Afghanistan have done over the years to produce magical wrist spinners.

Jamaicans need to change their way of doing things. They need to set goals, to work every day, and not just by having a camp when a tournament is coming around at the end of which they select some players and pronounce that they have selected a good team and that they are going to win, even when it is an age group team, even when they do not know the strength of the competing teams, and come back home with the trophy.

On their return home, however, after losing, it is usually, if not always, the same story, or excuse.

"Although we were as talented as all the teams, we were not as prepared as the other teams"; "it was a good learning exercise, however"; and "next year, with most of the boys available, we will be prepared and will do better" are some of the usual comments.

Apart from the fact that there has hardly been any follow-up, the JCA needs to revisit its top competitions.

Playing teams who are not interested in cricket, who disrespect the game, who do not train and practise, who, among other things, fail to field a full team, and get dismissed for a handful of runs in a few overs, time and time again and keep returning season after season, is not only a waste of time, it not only affects the progress of others, but it is also a waste of money.

Jamaican administers need a mirror, they need to look into it, and they need to focus on developing cricket and cricketers.

Jamaica plays lot of cricket, including cricket in almost all age groups. The JCA, however, needs to look at the cricket it plays, plan properly for development, and while doing so, organise women's cricket properly so that the women play regularly.

Jamaica's cricketers also need to stop and think, to get jealous of some of the territories, to remember their heritage, and to really train and practise.