Dalton Myers | All hands on deck for cricket
The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) election is heating up. Incumbent Wilford ‘Billy’ Heaven faces another challenge, this time, from his first vice-president, Mark Neita. Both gentlemen are my good friends and fellow JCA directors, and while I exit the JCA boardroom I hope whoever is elected on February 28, 2019 will look to take cricket much further.
Heaven is not new to challenges, in fact, the CHASE chief executive officer will be facing his third election in six years since taking over from Lyndel Wright, who did not seek re-election in 2013. While this may be his strongest test yet, Heaven fended off challenges from former JCA first vice-president Milton Henry 75-21 in the 2013 elections; then beat his former honorary secretary, Fritz Harris, 52-47 in 2016. Neita, on the other hand, has served one term on the board so far and is hoping that his stay at the crease will be much longer and more fruitful. The Melbourne Cricket Club president, and former captain has made clear his intentions to be different and to make a significant impact on the sport.
I am happy that persons are coming forward to put themselves up for leadership. Whoever wins has a tough task ahead. Cricket as we know it today, is not what it used to be. Many young people in Jamaica are turning to other sports for various reasons, as now there are more attractive alternatives to cricket.
I personally hope that the incoming board will look to build a consensus around the strategic plan for cricket in the country. There is now a plan, but buy-in is crucial, and we need all hands on deck if the country is to return to winning ways. Both Heaven and Neita have admitted that there are some positives, so we need to build on those. More cricketers may be earning from the sport but when they look over the boundary ropes, they see a larger percentage of track and field athletes earning more in terms of revenue and exposure. So, the aim must be to improve on that for cricketers.
On the field, either the talent is no longer there, or we are not developing it as we used to, but our teams are not winning like before. Winning isn’t everything, but the overall structure of cricket needs to be examined in a significant way. I will not posit a view on tournaments like the Super League and Senior Cup but it’s clear that the structures we currently have in place are not churning out the performances we were used to; and fewer players are making the transition to the West Indies senior teams.
Cricket facilities are a huge challenge and must be addressed quickly. CEO Courtney Francis has tried to put measures in place for teams to play on the best surfaces for the major competitions, but such venues are few and far between. The winner of the 2019 election must prioritise working with the current venues which have good facilities to help the others who are struggling. For the most, the facilities are poorly maintained, and lack of covers is one problem that needs to be addressed.
Some time ago, the JCA partnered with University of Technology Jamaica as well as GC Foster College to fund student-athletes to attend tertiary institutions. Later, The University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona and The Mico University College restructured their programmes to start producing quality players. Out of that crop, we have Paul Palmer going on to captain Jamaica Scorpions and Rovman Powell, now a regular in the Windies limited-overs teams. Now there were several other factors to their success, but the board will need to continue partnering with tertiary institutions to help develop cricketers after they have left the secondary school system.
Finally, I have repeated that cricket is struggling in the West Indies. Never mind Windies senior men’s and women’s team currently doing well against England and Pakistan, respectively, we have a far way to go to turn the proverbial corner. So, when the dust is settled on February 28 and the rhetoric scaled down, the JCA board will need to huddle in the dressing room, then look to bat for a long innings and take cricket far ‘Beyond A Boundary’.