Sun | Feb 16, 2020

‘Countryman’ run Jamaican cricket

Published:Saturday | January 25, 2020 | 12:10 AM
Jamaica Scorpions batsman John Campbell plays a shot during his 101 runs knock against the Windward Islands Volcanoes at Sabina Park on Saturday, January 18, 2020.
Jamaica Scorpions batsman John Campbell plays a shot during his 101 runs knock against the Windward Islands Volcanoes at Sabina Park on Saturday, January 18, 2020.

As a child growing up in rural Jamaica, I remember one of the common cliches that dominated conversations back then, was how back in the ’70s and ’80s “dem use to fight ‘gainst countryman on national teams”.

We sort of took it for granted that it was true.

As a boy growing up in Westmoreland, we kept hearing how such and such a ‘country man’ was a “big bat” or “big baller,” but was constantly overlooked for urban area-based folks who were not as good as him.

Fast forward three decades and I am covering regional four-day cricket at Sabina Park. The Scorpions are taking on The Windward Islands Volcanoes. The batting line-up for the Scorpions in that game was John Campbell, Assad Fudadin, Jermaine Blackwood, Paul Palmer Jr, Nkrumah Bonner, Aldane Thomas, Derval Green, Jamie Merchant, Markino Mindley, Nicholson Gordon, and Patrick Harty.

rural backgrounds

The thought struck me that all 10 Jamaica-based players had rural backgrounds. Fudadin, of course, is Guyanese.

Let me emphasise.

Not one Kingston-born and bred cricketer was on a national cricket team for last weekend’s game! A few changes were made for the current game against Barbados Pride, but again, it showed a heavy bias towards rural-based players.

The thought then struck me that the dominance of rural cricket was indeed heavily entrenched in all facets of cricket in Jamaica. Rural high schools have dominated the Spalding Cup, the symbol of all-island high school supremacy. I can think of only two or three times in the last, maybe, 30 years, when the all island cricket trophy would have gone to a Kingston-based school.

On age group national teams from the 90s up, rural cricketers are always more prominently featured. Over the last two or three years there has been a slight difference where Kingston is more heavily represented. When they had the all-island Carib Cement All-Age competition a few years ago, New Hope, out of Westmoreland, were the dominant team. The Social Development Commission All-Island Twenty20 community competition, the most popular cricket competition in Jamaica, is also dominated by rural teams.

What is causing this domination by rural cricket may well be the subject of another article. Right now, suffice it to say that if we as a nation are serious about developing cricket in Jamaica, then we have to do something about developing cricket in Kingston.

The Jamaica Cricket Association must come up with plans to develop cricket in Kingston. We know that cricket is big in the south, central, and western belts, but the Kingston and eastern areas are lagging behind badly.

Our national cricket teams would be so much better if the Kingston area was producing better cricketers. One thing for sure: the old timers can no longer say “dem a fight out countryman” from national teams. It is now the town cricketers who are struggling to get in.

Orville Higgins is a sports commentator and media personality. For feedback, email sports@gleanerjm.com