Busy year for JCA despite pandemic
Local cricket was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, much like all other sports in 2020. Since March, all cricket activities were suspended indefinitely, resulting in local-based cricketers spending nearly 10 months on the sidelines.
On February 10, the Jamaica Cricket Association’s (JCA) Senior Cup competition took place, with The Mico University College making their debut. But they had to pull stumps on the season a little over a month later, with only five rounds completed because of the pandemic. Training camps for the national senior women’s, under-19 women’s, and under-15 boys’ teams were also suspended.
The nation’s women cricketers got a boost in February when the JCA signed a sponsorship deal with Pace Electrical Works and Building Contractors worth over $4 million.
The one-year sponsorship was a full cash injection to offset costs associated with preparing Jamaica’s two women’s teams (senior and under-19) for regional tournaments which were set for March and April, as well as the women’s 50-over championship, which was to be held in August.
At the end of April, President Wilford Heaven said that the JCA lost more than $5 million because of the pandemic. He said that restrictions on mass gatherings and the postponement and cancellation of local sporting events scheduled for Sabina Park, where the JCA earns a significant portion of its revenue, were the key factors.
In May, Jamaica women’s team head coach, Cleon Smith, passed away after he had fallen ill and was admitted to the Kingston Public Hospital for about two weeks. He was 60 years old.
By mid-July, the association submitted its safety protocols to the Government and despite the unpredictability of the pandemic, Heaven was positive and predicted that the sport would return by November or December.
In August, the association held its annual general meeting online, the first time in the JCA’s history, and there it was decided not to play any domestic cricket for the rest of the calendar year because of the increase in coronavirus cases.
In October, JCA Chief Executive Officer Courtney Francis said he expected the Senior Cup to restart in February 2021, though he emphasised that approval from the Ministry of Health and Wellness was needed.
The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) also supported the JCA in August, through its PSOJ COVID-19 Jamaica Response Fund. The fund was used to provide food packages to current and former cricketers, including the youth and female teams.
The JCA also launched its redesigned website on August 27 via its Facebook page. The association also offered online training courses in financial management, nutrition, fitness and conditioning, rules of the game, and media and interview techniques, among others topics.
The Jamaica Tallawahs named four local players as their Caribbean players for the 2020 Hero Caribbean Premier League in May. The players selected were Andre Russell, Rovman Powell, Oshane Thomas and Chadwick Walton. The team also included locals such as Ramaal Lewis, Derval Green, Jeavor Royal, Jermaine Blackwood, Andre McCarthy and Nkrumah Bonner.
In August, just ahead of the tournament in Trinidad, Tallawahs assistant coach Ramnaresh Sarwan decided to withdraw from the team and exited the CPL biosecure bubble due to personal reasons. Sarwan was also the subject of a lengthy YouTube rant by former Tallawahs star Chris Gayle, who accused him of being involved in backroom politics in the team, leading to Gayle’s decision to depart. Sarwan, however, denied those allegations.
The Tallawahs made it to the semi-finals, where they lost to eventual winners Trinbago Knight Riders. At the end of the tournament, Tallawahs’ wicketkeeper-batsman Glenn Phillips and spinner Mujeeb Ur Rahman were named to the team of the tournament.
JCA elections are due in 2021, and in December 2020 former Jamaica and West Indies cricketer Nehemiah Perry declared his intentions to challenge Heaven for the presidency in November. Heaven defeated Mark Neita in 2019 to secure a third two-year term. Perry, who said he was far from pleased with the current state of cricket on the island, admitted though that he was still considering and had not yet come to a decision.