If you are a true supporter of West Indies cricket and followed the just concluded NAGICO Super50 tournament in Trinidad & Tobago, then you should have no problem in agreeing that Barbados were deserving champions by the dint of hard work, determination, team spirit and a hunger for success.
To defeat Trinidad & Tobago twice in their own backyard in the space of two weeks is not an easy task. Furthermore, to win on both occasions defending totals of over 250 on pitches, which were generally good for batting is very commendable. New skipper Kevin Stoute and his team have every right to beat their chests.
And the Barbados Cricket Association fittingly rewarded the champions with a function at Kensington Oval yesterday evening.
It was in their opening match on February 2 that Barbados scored 269 for eight, mind you, off 45 overs and won by 28 runs as Trinidad & Tobago were bowled out for 241 in 43.3 overs at Queen’s Park Oval. Then last Saturday, before a packed, inevitably very partisan crowd in the final at the same venue, Barbados were bowled out for 252 in 48.4 overs and then dismissed Trinidad & Tobago for 235 in 45.5 overs to triumph by 17 runs. On both occasions, Barbados also won the toss.
In all honesty, no one could blame the Barbadians for the exuberance shown as they celebrated last Saturday night. Even though Barbados boast of competing in the most regional one-day finals (18), this is now only their sixth title and the first alone since 2002.
Their success in 2010 was shared with the Leeward Islands after an unforgettable, crazy run out of Tino Best in a last wicket partnership with Kemar Roach as they attempted a suicidal single with still as many as 12 overs remaining in a low-scoring final at Sabina Park.
The Leewards were bowled out for 139 in 32.5 overs and after being 124 for six in the 36th over, Barbados found every reason to give their supporters heartaches by falling for 139 in 38 overs.
Survivors of that 2010 final who played in the showdown with Trinidad & Tobago last Saturday were Jonathan Carter, Dwayne Smith and Sulieman Benn. How times have changed!
The other players were skipper Ryan Hinds, Dale Richards, Jason Haynes, Kirk Edwards, Carlo Morris, Javon Searles, Roach and Best.
Ironically, it was a run out which sealed Trinidad & Tobago’s fate last Saturday as Ravi Rampaul and Rayad Emrit were trying to complete a third run with the latter losing his wicket. The pair had added 31 runs in just 3.1 overs and on reflection, with another 25 runs needed off 18 balls, Rampaul and Emrit must still be kicking themselves and saying it was an error to challenge for that third run. But such is the beauty of the game.
Ever since beating Trinidad & Tobago in the first two finals in 1976 (by 43 runs at Kensington Oval) and 1977 (by eight wickets at Queen’s Park Oval), Barbados endured agony in finals against their long-standing arch-rivals. They lost in 1979 by 56 runs at Queen’s Park Oval; in 1981 by four wickets at Kensington Oval; in 1990 by five wickets at Queen’s Park Oval; in 1992 by eight wickets at Queen’s Park Oval and 2008 by seven wickets at Providence in Guyana. The losing streak had to stop.
Again for the records, apart from those listed against Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados’ other finals were in 1982 (lost to Leewards by five wickets at Antigua Recreation Ground); 1987 (lost to Jamaica by four wickets at Kensington Oval); 1988 (beat Jamaica by one wicket at Sabina Park); 1994 (lost to Leewards by 34 runs at Kensington Oval); 1995 (lost to Leewards by 78 runs at Antigua Recreation Ground); 2001 (lost to Guyana by six wickets at Kaiser, Discovery Bay in Jamaica); 2002 (beat Jamaica by 33 runs at Kaiser); 2003 (lost to Guyana by 27 runs at Kaiser); and 2005 (lost to Guyana by seven runs at Bourda).
If ever I had any doubt about the way Barbadians follow the fortunes of the national team, it came home strongly when Trinidad & Tobago were batting in the final last Saturday. I was at a medical facility for most of the innings and patients and others in the waiting room were not only glued to the television set but some were also loudly venting their feelings when a few decisions went against the team. It was a sight to behold!
There was no question they were into the game. And they had a point in criticising the standard of umpiring which generally throughout the tournament left a lot to be desired. A few of the umpires lacked confidence and appeared indecisive. Something has to be done in this department.
Very often we tend to look at what happens in the dying stages of a match and point fingers at the team which was on top for the most part, especially if they come close to losing the match.
At the same time, however, we must praise Trinidad & Tobago for their fight back as was the case in the final.
With the excellent foundation laid by the in-form Dwayne Smith and Kraigg Brathwaite, who added 127 in 22.3 overs for the first wicket, Barbados should have made at least 290. But cricket is not played that way.
Brathwaite offered a fine supporting role and his 36 off 63 balls for a strike rate of 57.14, was his best strike rate in four innings in the tournament. Compare it with scores of two off 19 balls (SR 18.18) in the first match against Trinidad & Tobago; 29 from 98 balls (SR: 29.59) v Leeward Islands and 55 not out off 122 balls (SR: 45.00) v Guyana in the semi-finals.
It was unfortunate that some analysts said Brathwaite was putting pressure on Smith by the way of his approach during the final. Smith would later rubbish such remarks at the post-match presentation ceremony by praising Brathwaite for the role he played.
Smith must also be highly commended for his positive batting, which led to him being the only player to score over 200 runs. He ended with 232 (ave: 58.00) including three half-centuries – twice co-incidentally falling for 83 against Trinidad & Tobago.
Teammate Jonathan Carter, who was Barbados’ sole century-maker (109) v Trinidad & Tobago in their first match, was the second highest run-getter with 170 (ave: 42.50).
In the bowling, veteran left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn looked the part and his nine wickets at 13.55 runs each with an economy rate of 3.31 must mean something to the West Indies selectors. Are we to believe that there is a secret ban on Benn, who last represented the region in a One-Day International in India at the ICC World Cup in March, 2011?
In the case of Brathwaite, one can’t help but think that since the advent of Twenty20 cricket, people are getting paranoid and expect similar attacking approaches like in the one-day game. Kraigg Brathwaite can play one-day cricket. His four centuries in the BCA Sagicor General Super Cup (two for Guardian General Barbados Youth and the other two for CounterPoint Wanderers) en route to an aggregate of 1212 (ave: 55.09) in 27 matches are testimony to that.
You couldn’t want more proof of his consistency in the local domestic competition from which players are identified for trials. Don’t ask me about his strike rate in the Sagicor General Super Cup. I am sorry but not all scorers record balls faced.
And talking about Brathwaite, the attention will turn to him by next weekend as he leads Barbados for the first time at the first-class level in their quest to retain the title. Since regional first-class championships were first sponsored in 1966 under the banner of Shell, Brathwaite will be the youngest Barbados captain at the age of 21. He has led Barbados and West Indies Under-19 teams but this is a big step up at such a tender age.
It is now up to the players to support him.
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 (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.