Under-19 points system is bizarre madness
There are times when in order to solve one problem, sports administrators create another problem, and what's happening with the fast-bowling component of age-group cricket is a classic case in point.
A few years ago, a decision was made that young fast bowlers should bowl no more than six overs per session, and, therefore, no more than 18 overs per day. Fast bowlers were breaking down left, right and centre across the West Indies, and the authorities felt they had to do something.
I believe that a young, fit fast bowler should be able to run in for more than 18 overs a day without too much trouble. A Manning Cup footballer who runs hard for 90 minutes would have done more work, in my opinion, than a fast bowler who bowls 18 overs a day, stretched over three sessions. Indeed, there are times in schoolboy football when a youngster has to play three gruelling games in a week, and without ill effect.
The difference is that the average schoolboy footballer would have been better prepared, based on his training regimen, than the average schoolboy fast bowler. Plus, many young footballers play a lot outside of organised competitions, which means the body would be accustomed to the rigours of the job.
NOT ENOUGH GAME READINESS
On the other hand, too many of our young quickies don't bowl often enough before the start of the cricket season; in fact, they just don't play enough cricket, period, and they are more prone to injury because their bodies are unaccustomed to the work.
The six-over-per-session rule is, therefore, not addressing the real problem - that these young pacers are just not physically prepared for the task of bowling fast. What the rulemakers should be concerned about is what the young fast bowlers are doing BEFORE - not DURING - the cricket season.
The six-over-per-session rule for fast bowlers is, therefore, inadequate in addressing the real problem, but things have been taken further. The West Indies Cricket Board has decided that it has to come up with a system that rewards a team for wickets taken by fast bowlers in our regional age-group competitions. Half a point is tallied for every wicket taken by the pacers. Half a point per wicket is a possible five points per innings, and in a two-innings match, a whopping 10 points per game!
How can that make sense? How can wickets taken by fast bowlers be worth more to a team's chances of winning a competition than wickets taken by spinners? If the board feels quickies are not as effective as they once were in regional cricket, and wants to do something, other things could be done.
The quality of the pitches is the best way to start. You won't encourage fast bowling in the Caribbean if most of the pitches are flat and docile, starving pacers of their just rewards. The board should also be concerned that the fit athletic boys around the region are gravitating to other sports, basketball and track and field, for example. Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake both started out as cricketers, before they took up sprinting. If cricket were an attractive enough option, chances are they wouldn't. It would be track and field's loss, but cricket's gain.
What this new rule means is that a team can win a competition, although winning fewer games, than those they finish in front of, if their fast bowlers got more people out, which is precisely what happened in this year's regional Under-19 one-day competition!
The Windward Islands topped the standings with 35 points, winning three games, losing one, with two no-results. Guyana, from the six games they played, ended with 34 points. They won four, lost none, and had two no-results.
Despite this superior win-loss record, Guyana finished second; and the Windwards won the competition because they took more fast-bowling wickets. This is absolute madness!
The authorities need to rethink these rules. To quote the classic cliché, "This is just not cricket."
KLAS reporter Orville Higgins is the 2011 winner of the Hugh Crosskill/Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Reporting. Email feedback to email@example.com.