The Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) and Barbados Association of Principals of Public Secondary Schools (BAPPS) are set for a showdown on the opening day of the 2015 domestic season tomorrow. And the latter is well on course for an overwhelming victory.
Based on reports from well-placed sources, all school teams will be boycotting their matches over a BCA Board of Management decision (a whopping 11-1, I have been told), which calls for the best team to be selected for Guardian General Barbados Youth before the two school sides in the First division –– Caribbean Alliance/Akobah Gardens Foundation and Nicholls Baking Combermere –– pick their squads.
When the BCA introduced its promotion and relegation system for the 2009 season, they would have hardly envisaged that a decision to exempt Barbados Youth from demotion would come to haunt them six years later.
It was then stated that, “the Barbados Youth team, irrespective of the number of points earned, shall not be relegated”.
Now on the eve of 2015 season, the BCA Board finds itself pinned on the back foot with sharply rising deliveries at the head, throat and body from BAPPS, unquestionably aggrieved that Foundation and Combermere are unable to field full strength teams after earning promotion to the First division (rebranded from Intermediate three years ago) in consecutive years respectively.
What a twist of irony!
There was sharp correspondence from both sides, meetings of one kind or another and to such an extent that neither Foundation nor Combermere announced their teams for the opening round of the Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship tomorrow.
Traditionally, picking teams for local domestic matches at any level is an exercise completed by Thursday evenings before the start on Saturdays.
Based on increasingly poor performances by Barbados Youth in the last four seasons of the major three-day Championship (rebranded Elite from First division in 2012), the BCA Board is now adamant that the strongest team be selected for all competitions.
Foundation won the Intermediate division title in 2013 and were promoted to the First division in 2014, while Combermere were the Intermediate division champions last year, thus joining Foundation as the second school team.
Both want to have full strength sides and the BCA has found itself in an embarrassing situation.
As it stands, Division 1 teams join those in the Elite division to compete in the Sagicor General T20 and Super50 Championships.
Barbados Youth field teams in those competitions, as well as in the Elite and First divisions.
Now let us digest the following letter from Rollins Howard, the BCA Cricket Operations Manager, addressed to Vere Parris, the president of BAPPS and Principal of Combermere, dated April 30, 2015, and sent on May 4:
Mr. Vere Parris
Dear Mr Parris:
On Friday April 17, 2015 a delegation from the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) led by the President, Mr. Joel Garner, met with you, Mr Robert Cumberbatch, Principal of Christ Church Foundation together with Mr Seibert Straughn and coaches of both Schools.
The main purpose of that meeting was to find some common ground which would allow the two Schools as well as the Barbados Youth to field very competitive teams in the Elite and First Division competitions as well as provide the very best players for Barbados representative age-group teams.
After much discussion the following compromise was reached:
The team to represent the Barbados Youth in the Elite Division would be selected on Tuesdays from the best players from all Schools.No more than two (2) players would be selected from Foundation or Combermere.The teams would be sent to all Schools on Wednesday mornings or if possible on Tuesday evenings.Schools in the First Division, currently Combermere and Foundation, would be permitted to play a maximum of three adults (not necessarily masters or members of staff) to counter the loss of their two players. The current regulations (18 (b)(iv) allow Schools to be represented by a maximum of three masters or members of staff in any one match.The team to represent the Barbados Youth in the First Division would be selected from players from all Schools except Combermere and Foundation. This team would also be selected on Tuesdays and forwarded to the Schools at the same time as the Elite team.
The participation of Schools in the Second Division was also raised and it was confirmed that the Board of the BCA had agreed to the inclusion of the following Schools in the Second Division with effect from Season 2015:
Queen’s College. St Leonard’s. Lester Vaughan
Unfortunately, subsequent to that meeting the Board of the BCA did not approve the compromise which had been brokered at the meeting and confirmed that the original decision which it had made would remain in force.
That decision is as follows:
‘Where a player is selected to represent the Barbados Youth in any BCA-administered domestic competition but instead plays for his school, all points gained by said school in that series shall be forfeited’.
Only those persons representing the Guardian General Barbados Youth teams in the local competitions should be eligible for selection to the national teams to participate in regional competitions’.
You are therefore asked to note carefully the import of the above decision and the implications which it would have for your players.
Rollins B. Howard
Cricket Operations Manager
In correspondence sent May 5 to BAPPS members, Parris stated:
“I received this correspondence this morning, following a conversation that Mr Rollins Howard had with me yesterday afternoon, which he indicated that the BCA Board did not accept the proposal and agreement that we had brokered with the BCA committee.
“We need to have an urgent meeting of ALL the Schools’ cricket Coaches and the BAPPS Cricket Committee. This must not be allowed to end like this!
“We must stand our ground on this one!
Now, it was confirmed that BAPPS held a meeting with its members and schools’ coaches at Harrison College on Tuesday and decided on a plan of action.
Yesterday, there was a scheduled meeting with members of BAPPS and the BCA Board at Kensington Oval. It also embraced the Association of Schools’ Cricket coaches, but the BCA was unable to form a quorum.
BCA Board members were to be contacted again this morning to confirm their position on the issue as everyone waited patiently for the announcement of the Barbados Youth team.
But the announcement after lunch upset BAPPS. When I contacted Parris, this is what he had to say:
“I received correspondence from the BCA by email this afternoon. I was expecting it this morning but it came around 1:16 p.m. I have responded to it and we have stated our position to them,” Parris told me in a frank telephone interview.
“We have a position on the table and it is very simple. When schools have worked as hard as they have done to excel in any competition that they entered and relating to cricket especially, when you therefore have earned the right to move forward to another division, you should then not be punished for such excellence, which effectively is what has been happening here.
“You have done well and are promoted to a higher division which is going to be more demanding and then you have to give up a number of your best players and effectively what happens is that in the next year you are out of that same division because your best players have been taken off to represent another team.
“Under the present system you have no control how many players are taken. We are saying that precedence was set previously where a school team was allowed to maintain its best players in that same Division 1. So you would have had the Guardian General Barbados Youth chosen from the remaining schools. That kind of precedence should not be neglected. It operated up to last year. Suddenly that position has changed and we met with a representative committee from the BCA on April 17th and we brokered what we thought was a good deal and what the committee thought was a good deal too.
“So we compromised and we agreed that two players can be selected from the two schools that are in Division 1 –– to play in the Elite division.
“We also told them that for the Sagicor T20 and Super 50 competitions, the two schools, Foundation and Combermere, should be able to compete at full strength.
“We said this is the age of negotiation and it is not just one person or one organisation dominating another so in that spirit we compromised.
“BAPPS and the schools coaches are walking hand in hand.” Parris said.
Honestly, I have to be open-minded on this matter without any fear of victimisation. It should have never reached this stage. There is a lot more to be written and said but I will wait patiently for the events tomorrow.
My heart, however, tells me that not a single match featuring individual school teams will be played. It will be a dark day and weekend for Barbados’ cricket.
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 on Tuesday nights. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.