ON THE BOUNDARY Tony Becca
Cricket voted unanimously, one-sidedly, and embarrassingly so for a change in direction a week or so ago, and in so doing, gave the reins to Billy Heaven and his team, which includes Dr Don Bennett, Courtney Walsh, Fitz Harris, and Wayne Sutherland.
The people, however, did not vote for a change for the sake of making a change; they looked at cricket, saw it in its present state where nothing is happening, and voted for Heaven and his team because, despite the success of Jamaican teams in winning regional tournaments, Jamaica's cricket is in a sad state.
A look at Jamaica's cricket shows that it has been suffering from poor administration, despite best intentions in recent years, that basically, most of those elected to serve Jamaica's cricket have lacked the necessary credentials to do a good job, and the result is a decline in the game today.
Part of the reason is the lack of money.
Money for cricket comes from the rental of boxes at Sabina Park, from the Sports Development Foundation, from the West Indies Board, and very little from sponsorship, but it is certainly not enough to fund the game - nurture the sport, pay coaches, run competitions, pay umpires, and look about the national teams.
Jamaica's cricket needs money, and it needs the support of corporate Jamaica, especially as cricket, except for international matches, does not collect at the gates.
It also needs the presence of committed people in the leadership of the game, and those people, particularly former players, who have the ability to get Jamaica's cricket back up to its usual standard, whether through planning programmes or through running programmes.
And the time is now.
Jamaica's cricket needs longer matches, longer than T20 cricket. It also needs the 50-overs game and it needs two-day cricket to prepare players for ODI internationals, four-day, and for five-day matches if Jamaica and the West Indies cricket is to improve along those lines, and it needs it quickly.
work for the benefit of the game
Heaven, a man with little or no cricket in his blood, promised a lot prior to the vote. He said he loved the game, he seems to really love the game, and he promised to work for the benefit of the game.
He needs to start working now. At least, he should be working by now.
Heaven and his team need to take a close look at things, see what is needed, and address them.
First of all, he will need to travel the land and "sell" the game in an effort to make it as popular as it was once upon a time, and he will need money from big and small sponsorships, from small donations, and from entrance fees, however small, to watch club matches and other specially arranged matches.
Heaven and his team will also need to do other things to market the game and to bring more money into the game, especially as they will need to find things for the directors to do with their time apart from attending meetings.
To fix the ills of the local game is the other big challenge for the new body, and it will mean taking and making some tough decisions in this land of ours.
If cricket is to get back to where it was up to a few years ago, the association members will need to structure the game in a more modern way.
The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) will have to concern itself with organised cricket, and while it should be interested in the development of the game anywhere, the association members should come from schools, clubs, and parishes. They should be members of the association, and from these members, unless in exceptional circumstances, should come the members of the national teams.
Membership should be open to all Jamaicans, but it is through membership to clubs and similar kinds of institutions, through regular practising, through regular coaching, through regular matches played on different types of pitches, in different conditions, and against different types of players, and through playing before qualified umpires that one really learns to play the game, to develop a love for the game, that one signifies his desire to go as far as he can, and to get the benefits of team spirit, the code of conduct, and the other things about which every cricketer should know and should uphold.
Probably this is too much to do at this time, but this is certainly not the time for talking. This is the time for action, this is the time to look at the structure of competitions, and to look at them closely.
There is absolutely no reason why everyone in this country should play cricket, and why a country of this size should have a top league with so many teams.
The JCA should limit its club/parish competitions to 20 teams, 10 in the first division and 10 in the second division, played over a reasonable length of time, and then organise its junior and minor competitions as it sees fit.
Jamaica has not had a two-day competition in the past two years.
The cricket clubs stand idle and lonely now, and that is because of their lack of use. The competitions, mostly T20 competitions, take place every now and again, at any time, and they last for a month or so.
That is only for enjoyment. That is not for development.
Another thing which the JCA should keep an eye on is the problem between the universities and the clubs.
With a university being a university and not a cricket club, a cricketer attending a university should be allowed to play for his club.
If a student takes his cricket seriously, or a cricketer takes his studies seriously, one will suffer for the other, and especially so if he plans to devote his time to the game in an effort to go where his bat, or ball, will take him.
The choice should be his, and if club cricket, well organised cricket club, is the answer to Jamaica's cricket problems, it must be protected, just as the university, as an educational institution, must be protected.
The other thing that Heaven should be concerned with is the prize money for winning a competition.
If the JCA's competition involves the best players, as it should, and if it is the best competition in the island, it stands to reason it should carry the richest prize money.
No one should be allowed to offer something bigger.
These things are a lot for one man, one team, to do in a short time, but they are necessary, and on top of that, Jamaica's cricket fans are waiting anxiously for the changes, they are looking towards Heaven and his team, and others are looking on.
Jamaica, certainly, expect.