Orville Higgins, Contributor
Junior Bennett must sometimes wonder if the gods are against him. For some reason he doesn't get his just due as a coach in the region. For those who are unaware of this man's résumé, let me remind you.
Junior, while in charge at STETHS, has won 17 Headley Cup titles! Fourteen of those years he won the Spalding Cup title, which means that for 14 years, Junior was the man conditioning the top schoolboy team in the island. I can't think of any other coach in any other sport who would have won so many national schoolboy titles.
It doesn't stop there. He coached at the regional Under-19 level for 11 years, and won five regional titles, roughly one every other year. That's outstanding enough, but it is at the senior level that Junior has truly made his mark. He took over the job as the national senior coach in 2007, and has won a regional title every year since then, either the regional one-day or the four-day tournament. He has also been to two regional 2020 finals.
After winning the regional four-day title three years in a row, he was deemed not good enough and was replaced one year by Gus Logie! The team won the four-day tournament that year as well, but it was with a side that Junior had built. Junior came back the following year and was the man in charge when Jamaica won the four-day title again, handing Jamaica the historic five-in-a-row as far as the four-day tournament is concerned.
Last season, the West Indies Cricket Board incorporated the regional Under-17 competition on its calendar for the first time. Junior was given the job of coaching Jamaica's team at the tournament, and guess what? He won that too!
Despite this extraordinary success over the years, this man has never been asked to coach at a higher level. People with far less impressive résumés are put in charge of regional age-group teams, or West Indies 'A' teams, or West Indies women's teams. People who have far inferior track records are asked to work with the up-and-coming cricketers at the High Performance Centre.
HONOUR BENNETT TOO
Apparently, Junior Bennett must 'did tief smaddy white fowl'! Here in Jamaica, we see Tamar Lambert being given the Order of Distinction for his role in guiding Jamaica to their impressive run in regional cricket in the last five years. I believe Tamar is a good captain, arguably the best in the region, and I have no quarrel with his national award at all, but I could make a serious case that Junior Bennett, the man who coached the team throughout that period of dominance, was no less deserving of national honours himself.
In other words, Tamar Lambert has no more impressive a résumé as a national captain than does Junior Bennett as a national coach. If we saw it fit to recognise Lambert nationally, it's inexplicable why Junior was slighted.
Why is this? Why is it that the man with arguably the best coaching record of all current coaches in the region is being treated like this? The answer, I think, is twofold. For one, Junior never played first-class cricket, and it seems that this will be perennially used against him. There are some people who continue to hang on to the archaic view that to coach at any West Indies level, you must have played for your country. That, of course, is utter madness.
Arguably, the two best sprint coaches in the world are Glen Mills and Stephen Francis. None of them has ever represented Jamaica at sprinting. None of them had a career as a sprinter anywhere at all. In fact, based on the portly nature of both men, neither of them is able to even walk too fast! If track and field had the same 'chupid' mindset as cricket, then people like Usain Bolt and Asafa Powell and Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce would never have risen to the heights they did.
The other thing that works against Junior is that he is too much an 'ordinary' man. He didn't go to the right schools, doesn't hang with the right crowd, doesn't speak with the cultured tones of the aristocracy. All of that shouldn't matter, but sadly, in Jamaica, and the Caribbean, it does!
KLAS's Orville Higgins is a sportscaster. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.