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Congrats Jamaica, but don't get carried away

Published:Sunday | March 7, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Tony Becca

Jamaica returned home last Tuesday as four-day cricket champions of the region, everyone, more so captain Tamar Lambert, coach Junior Bennett and Jamaica Cricket Association's Paul Campbell were proud and happy, and congratulations to each and every member of the team.

Based on their successes in the junior and the women's events, plus the blind players' competition, Jamaica must be, right now - and undoubtedly so - the number-one territory in the region.

Add to the fact that although Barbados, winners of the title 20 times since its inception in 1966, including 10 times between 1972 and 1986 when they won it four times in a row between 1977 and 1980, remain the envy of the region, this victory made it a memorable three in a row for Jamaica.

In scoring a satisfying 'three-peat', Jamaica played five of the six matches away from home, they won five matches, they won four of them away from home, and in winning one by six wickets and the others by seven wickets, by an innings and 27 runs, and by an innings and 72 runs, all four by commanding margins.

The one disappointment came in match number five against Barbados when, with a perfect 48 points from four matches, with victory all but in the bag once they did not lose, they committed the cardinal sin of playing too safe, they selected one batsman too many, one bowler too few, and they lost easily.

a lively pitch

Although Barbadian batsmen, and certainly those of today, are suspect against off-spin bowling, Jamaica also dropped their recognised off-spinner, after winning the toss they went to bat on what was reported as a lively pitch, and against an attack of four pacers, including the experienced left-hander Pedro Collins, they had no chance.

Another mistake, probably so, was how Jamaica used batsman John Ross Campbell in that match.

A young opening batsman, Campbell, on his debut, was surprisingly sent to bat at number four, not surprisingly, he failed to deal with the situation, and not surprisingly, he was dropped immediately.

That one disappointment aside, Jamaica did well.

When it is remembered that Jamaica posted scores of 335 versus the Windward Islands, 379 for nine declared against the Leeward Islands, 429 against Guyana, and in the final decisive match, 379 against Trinidad and Tobago, the country's batting, as their coach emphasised, really did well, and especially so when a look at the statistics shows that in three matches, Hinds scored 330 runs with one century at an average of 110.00, and that Carlton Baugh Jr, Brendan Parchment, and Danza Hyatt also scored centuries.

Just as it is with the results, just as it is with the batting, a look at the bowling figures also suggests that Jamaica's cricket is stepping up.

Left-arm spinner Nikita Miller preened himself with 22 wickets in three matches at an average of 12.86, including a best return of seven for 28 in 26.1 overs, right-arm leg-spinner Odean Brown was almost as deadly with 30 wickets in six matches at an average of 22.26 with a best of eight for 54 off 25.4 overs, medium-pacer David Bernard Jr followed the two spin bowlers with 25 wickets in five matches at an average of 20.83 with a best of six for 40 off 16.4 overs, and lest we forget, captain Tamar Lambert surprised all and sundry, including probably his mother and his father, with figures of eight for 42 off 31.1 overs in one innings.

When it is remembered, however, that the 'cream' of West Indies cricketers were not in the action, neither with the bat nor with the ball, that batsmen like Devon Smith and Ryan Hinds, and a spin bowler like Rawl Lewis, failures at the top level, were, for example, once again in the thick of things, that when batsmen like Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan were in action, the bowlers could hardly pass their bats, and that when the batsmen were faced with a pitch helpful to bowlers, they surrendered like lambs, Jamaica's dominance is more like that of a one-eyed man in a blind man's country.

the one-eyed man

The reference to the one-eyed man is even more applicable when one looks at the state of West Indies cricket.

West Indies cricket is at the foot of the ladder, it is in that position because the standard of West Indies cricket is poor, and if that was not obvious by every one before, including those who play, those who coach, those who select, those who manage, and those who administer, then it should be by now - and not so much after the beating in Australia, not so much after the defeat last Thursday, but more so and especially so after the embarrassment last Sunday.

To me, Twenty20 cricket is anybody's game. In other words, Twenty20 cricket is so short that any team, on its day, can beat any team.

To lose to Zimbabwe, however, not so much after sending them reeling at zero for three after three overs, but more so after limiting them to 105 was embarrassing, totally embarrassing.

The West Indies, the once mighty West Indies, playing at home and after reaching 21 without loss, were limited to 79 for seven in 20 overs.

The West Indies could recover and win the one-day internationals, and that would be great. With batsmen like Christopher and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, plus others like Ramnaresh Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo, victory is always possible.

Nothing, however, will get rid of last Sunday's embarrassment.

A team can only play against who it is pitted against, Jamaica took care of business for the third time in a row, and once again congratulations.

As technical director and team manager, James Adams, said on Tuesday, however, the performance of the West Indies team is the important thing.

Being a one-eyed man in a blind man's country is no good - at least it should not be to sportsmen who want to be the best and who want to be a part of the best.

Jamaica's cricket administrators, at the national level and at the club level, the managers, the selectors, and particularly so the coaches, should now focus their attention on developing players - batsmen, bowlers, fielders, and even captains - who can make a difference to the West Indies team.

It should be remembered that although Hinds did well, with Parchment scoring 209 runs with one century and averaging 26.12 in five matches, with Hyatt scoring 213 runs with one century and averaging 35.50 in four matches, with Donovan Pagon scoring 309 runs with a top score of 80 and averaging 34.33 in six matches, with Lambert scoring 203 runs with a top score of 58 and averaging 20.30 in six matches, and that with Xavier Marshall scoring 25 runs at an average of 6.25 in two matches, Shaun Findlay scoring 14 runs at an average of 7.00 in one match, and young Nkrumah Bonner scoring 16 runs in two matches at an average of 4.00, the other batsmen, for example, were not so hot.