by David Harris and Kimberley Cummins
Barbados might have initially dropped the ball on having Kensington Oval used as one of the venues for the 2015 England Test tour of the Caribbean.
But now it looks likely they will have a second “bite at the cherry”.
Barbados TODAY understands that following the Oval’s exclusion for a possible Test next year, Government and sports officials have made representation to the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) for a rethink on the original position that had Jamaica, Guyana and Grenada as the hosts for the three Test matches. Barbados has historically proven to be among the most, if not the most popular destination, for England cricket tourists.
Barbados recently hosted three well attended T20s between England and West Indies and one of the features of the tour were the hundreds of English tourists that flocked to the island, pleasing not only sports but also tourism officials.
Among the criteria which the WICB examines when allocating international matches to member territories include considerations related to pitch and outfield quality, spectator capacity, accommodation, ground travel, logistics and airlift.
Today in a brief response to a query on what local officials were doing to ensure Barbados would be considered for the England tour, president of the Barbados Cricket Association, Joel Garner, said Barbados would be putting in a bid for Kensington Oval to host the English.
“There are a lot of forms being sent out that deal with a lot of different issues. We can only ask the question of the ministers and the different ministries and that is where it is at now,” Garner said, adding there were 11 stadia across the Caribbean and people were competing for the games.
While Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua, Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica traditionally staged international cricket matches in the past, the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean saw a number of islands upgrading their facilities and St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis are now also competing for international matches.
But today in an interview with Barbados TODAY a BCA board member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, put the blame for Barbados not being initially considered for the England tour squarely at the door of his board and Kensington Oval Management Inc. (KOMI). He charged that there was currently no market strategy in place for the Oval.
“Kensington Oval is one of the most historic cricket grounds in the world. After being rebuilt for the World Cup in 2007, it has become a world class facility but there is no marketing plan by the BCA and the state run KOMI to market it”, the official told Barbados TODAY.
He confirmed that the BCA and the Government of Barbados had submitted a draft plan to the WICB indicating that a test match should be played at the Oval when England toured the West next year. But, he added that KOMI and the BCA seemed to be “totally lost” when it came to marketing a world class sports facility in a modern era.
“KOMI and the BCA must be aware that boards in the region are extremely competitive in their bid to get internationals and test matches played in their respective countries,” he said, adding the WICB had no choice but to spread the games around.
He pointed out that bids for international cricket were not restricted to test and other international matches.
“Last year the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Association in conjunction with their government submitted a bid to the WICB to host the regional one-day competition. As a result of that bid the NAGICO Cup will be played in the twin island republic for three years. The semi finals and the finals of the Caribbean Premier League will be played in St Kitts and Nevis this year. These two countries wanted to host those competitions and submitted bids. They did not sit back and hope that someone give them,” the veteran official said.
He noted that KOMI and the BCA should be well aware of the financial benefits gained by Barbados any time England was touring the region and should have planned ahead to ensure that a test match was played on the island.
“Barbados is a stamping ground for English visitors whenever a test match or any kind of international game involving the English is played here. Therefore the England cricket team’s visit to the Caribbean next year had to be a major item on the sports tourism calendar but the BCA and KOMI expected to be given a test match rather than bidding for it. This is not the way it is done anymore, a country got to bid for the matches that they wish to host,” he said.
The official stated that England was a huge tourism market for Barbados and Kensington Oval should not be a difficult venue to market but until the officials at the BCA got out of the mindset that it was their right to have a test or international match played there, a day would come when test matches at the Oval would be few.
“KOMI and the BCA got to have a plan to market the venue. If they do not do that this country is going to lose out on vital foreign exchange that can be earned from sports tourism. I hope the officials at KOMI and the BCA have been taught a lesson and have woken up from their deep sleep fully aware that marketing Kensington Oval is a must,” he said.