SKIPPER SHAI HOPE STANDS OUT WITH BAT AS BARBADOS CAPTURE REGIONAL UNDER-19 TITLE
Another proud moment in Barbados’ rich cricketing history was savoured on Thursday evening with the capture of the regional Under-19 three-day title under the captaincy of the inspirational Shai Hope, who stood out with the bat.
Coming as it did just a couple weeks after the national Under-15 team, led by another outstanding batsman in Leniko Boucher, were also champions in St. Kitts, those who have worked closely with the development of youth cricket in the island must feel that there are far more positives than some would want us to believe.
Apart from Hope and his players, heartiest congratulations are in order for the team management of manager Livingstone Coppin, coach Dexter Toppin, physiotherapist Dominic Angoy and analyst Rodney Ashby.
Toppin, who is also a Barbados Cricket Association coach, must be extremely happy since he has been associated with these players for several years. He once had a motto in geeing up the Barbados Youth and Combined Schools teams by saying, “Come on lads”. Now he tells them: “Energy”.
It was the tenth time Barbados had won the championship, which started way back in 1968 with Barbados as hosts and has attracted six different sponsors. The other titles for the island were in 1970 (shared with Trinidad & Tobago), 1981 (also shared with T&T), 1983, 1984, 1988, 1991, 1999, 2002 and 2008. Five of those titles have been won at home – 1984, 1988, 1999, 2008 and 2012.
Only Guyana, with 13 including one shared, have captured more regional Under-19 three-day titles.
We must never lose sight of what youth cricket means to the region and it becomes sickening to hear remarks every now and again about how the game is dying because there are no longer big crowds. That, however, depends on the competition and how well it is promoted.
Those who have tried to make an issue of it have failed to look at the broader picture, especially as it relates to the increased number of competitions at the junior level and also the fact that from a local perspective, the BCA has put in place the Sir Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence at Kensington Oval, which caters to young players.
Though the weather did affect some of the matches in the Under-19 championship, there is no question that it was very competitive right down to the last series when five of the six teams had a mathematical chance of winning the title.
The final standings showed Barbados with 45.5 points, Guyana 38, Trinidad & Tobago 37, Windward Islands 36, last year’s champions Jamaica 29 and Leeward Islands 21.5.
Barbados and Guyana clashed in the key last round match at Desmond Haynes Oval with the standings extremely close. Barbados were on 34 points with Guyana 33.5. Trinidad & Tobago, then on 28.5 were playing against Leeward Islands on 18.5 at Kensington Oval, while the Windward Islands on 28 were opposing Jamaica on 26 at Weymouth.
As it turned out, all three matches were drawn with big first innings totals at Kensington, which produced four centuries. The Leewards made 423 with Akeem Saunders hitting 167 and Deno Baker 109 and Trinidad & Tobago responded with 443 for five as Brian Christmas slammed 153 and the prolific opener Jeremy Solozano 128.
There were also first innings points for Barbados and the Windwards.
Though Barbados did not win a match, the team and management must be highly praised for their understanding and use of the “Pace bonus points” system which was introduced last year to encourage fast bowling and wicket-taking.
Under the heading ‘Pace Bonus Points’ Rule 46 states: “Each team shall be awarded 0.5 points for each wicket taken by a pace bowler. Bonus points shall be added to the match points for each team. Pace bowlers shall be nominated on the official team sheet before the toss. The umpires will verify wickets taken by pace bowlers at the conclusion of the match.”
Barbados gained 18.5 bonus points with the Windwards 14 as their closest rivals. Jamaica got eight, Trinidad & Tobago seven, the Leewards 6.5 and Guyana 5.
While there are opponents of the rule, one can understand the thinking of the West Indies Cricket Board. Fast bowling has played a big part in the success of the West Indies over the years and no one has to be reminded of the glory era from the late 1970s through to 1995 when a four-pronged pace attack was so devastating.
Even so, as far as the Under-19 tournament is concerned, fast bowlers are only allowed a maximum of six overs in each of the three sessions. It is, therefore, not a case of the system being abused. And the bottom line is that you have to take wickets to earn points.
In the circumstances, Barbados’ two main pacers rose to the task. Left-armer Darnell Greenidge got 18 wickets and Akeem Jordan 14.
From a batting perspective, Hope reeled off three centuries en route to amassing 405 runs from seven innings including two not outs at an average of 81.25.
His centuries were 101 v Windward Islands at Queen’s Park (Round 1); 141 not out v Leeward Islands at Bayfield (Round 2) and an unbeaten 104 v Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval (Round 4).
What made the century against Trinidad & Tobago even more telling was that Barbados overtook a first innings total of 337 for eight declared by scoring 339 for six declared.
Hope’s feat on scoring three centuries was very special in that he joined Nigel Johnson as the only other Barbados player to achieve that record in the tournament and dating back four decades. Yes, it was in the 1972 championship, which was also played in Barbados that Johnson slammed his centuries – 102 v Combined Islands at Carlton, Black Rock (now Desmond Haynes Oval), 140 v Guyana at Kensington Oval and 154 v Jamaica at the Wanderers ground, Dayrells Road, en route to an aggregate of 445.
Hope attributed Barbados’ success to “a very good team performance”.
“It feels very good to win the title at home and for the people of Barbados,” he said. “We are very happy. Hats off to everyone who played a role and who helped us along the way. We kept our focus throughout and always believed we would win, no matter what position we were in.
“We came into the tournament looking to win and did just that. We wanted to give all 14 players an opportunity and everyone chipped in when they got that chance to represent Barbados. We always kept our eyes on the bonus points and we benefitted a lot from our fast bowlers who were brilliant for us in this tournament,” Hope said.
It was the third and last regional Under-19 tournament for Hope, who can be described as unique in terms of the make-up of the national team. Unlike the other players, he has never represented Guardian General Barbados Youth in the BCA Elite (formerly First) division, instead playing for ESA Field Pickwick, the club at which his older brother, Kyle, has made his name as an outstanding batsman and indeed the most prolific in the First division between 2009 and 2011.
Success is nothing new for Shai Hope, who is also a wicket-keeper. Born November 10, 1993, he attended St. Cyprian’s Boys’ before entering Queen’s College where he had the honour of captaining the Husbands, St. James school to the title in the 2008 BCA Cable & Wireless (now LIME) Under-15 competition.
As part of the Wanderers Club Junior programme, Hope’s talent was spotted by Graeme Walker, who arranged a cricket scholarship, which took him to England at St. Bedes Senior School in East Sussex after he completed fifth form at Queen’s College.
Hope spent the last two years in Sixth Form at St. Bedes. And he was outstanding with the bat this season, reeling off two centuries — 172 and 105 — in the Schools’ competition.
He no doubt returned to Barbados oozing with confidence, which manifested itself in the regional Under-19 three-day championship.
Now as the teams prepare for the one-day tournament, which starts on Sunday and will embrace another side in the ICC Americas Under-20, Barbados will be hoping to retain that title which they comprehensively won in Guyana last year under the captaincy of Kraigg Brathwaite. The addition of the Americas team is to help with the development of the game in the ICC Americas region.
The regional Under-19 one-day championship started in 1998. Barbados have won three titles and it would be even sweeter to do the double. That would give more “Energy” to Dexter Toppin as well.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association Division 1 championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).