This year marks a decade since the University of the West Indies (UWI) gained admission to the Barbados Cricket Association’s highest domestic three-day Championship, known for well over a century as the First division and rebranded Elite three seasons ago.
By extension, it meant that they would also automatically compete in the other major Tournaments – Sagicor General Super Cup (50-over) and Sagicor General Twenty20, which started in 2008.
And honestly, their presence has had a major impact on the standard of play in all three competitions. But it must be emphatically stated as well that there is a huge advantage for Sagicor Life UWI over the other teams in that they are able to select players from other territories in the region – many of them with first-class experience.
Yet, nothing should be taken away from the success, which the Cave Hill men have had in all three versions. The luxury, which they continue to enjoy, however, hit home again last night when they brushed aside hapless Police by 76 runs at Kensington Oval in the second quarter-final match of T20 Championship.
Before getting down to reasons for the dominance of UWI, one must concede that there is a high level of professionalism which they display. No wonder they can boast of capturing the three-day title for a modern day record of four consecutive seasons (2009 to 2012 – one shared in 2010 with Spartan), along with two Super Cup titles in 2007 and 2012 and a record-equalling two T20 titles – 2012 and 2013. Maple have also won the T20 Championship twice in 2008 and 2011.
And mind you, UWI briefly claimed the three-day crown in 2013 as well, boldly celebrating with photos carried prematurely in one section of the local print media before Maple were elevated as champions after winning a protest against Carlton.
It must be pointed out as well that UWI sometimes behave as though they have a right to win every Championship. For example, when they were beaten by St. Catherine at Bayfield in the semi-finals of the 2010 Super Cup, they protested over the ball which was used and carried it to the wire, resulting in the authorities aborting the competition, when poor Guardian General Barbados Youth had advanced to the Final for the very first time.
There are also a couple other instances of UWI protesting defeats to no avail.
For all of that, however, what is so special about UWI? Apart from boasting of students from territories throughout the Caribbean, they have the funding to woo players who may not be that academically inclined but fit in as coaches etc.
In fact, there are some critics who have gone as far as poking fun at UWI by saying that a few players have been signed up as maintenance workers etc.
Hilarious or not, it is hard to stop the UWI parade. Sir Hilary Beckles, the principal at Cave Hill for many years and now the Pro Vice-Chancellor, will always be credited for the foresight in paving the way for UWI to play at the highest level of local domestic competition without even having won the Intermediate division.
In the latter part of this column, I have listed the names of UWI champion teams the first time they won the First (Elite) division, 50-over and T20 titles since 2006, but to give a sample of their riches of players, let’s examine the current Sagicor General T20 Championship as the quarter-finals are completed this weekend.
Hours before the match against Police last night, UWI named a 15-man squad, minus the appointed captain Chadwick Walton, the wicket-keeper/batsman who returned to his native Jamaica to prepare with the Jamaica Tallawahs for the Caribbean Premier League Championship, which begins in Barbados on June 20.
They also went into the game without veteran coach and batsman Floyd Reifer, who has played in four T20 matches this season.
The team showed four Barbadians – Kyle Corbin (captain), Jonathan Carter, newcomer Ryan Hinds and Justin Bramble; two Jamaicans in Roveman Powell and Akeem Dewar, along with Cameron Pennyfeather (St. Kitts), Kavem Hodge (Dominica), Nino Henry (Antigua), Keron Cottoy (St. Vincent) and Kristopher Ramsaran (Trinidad & Tobago).
Apart from Reifer, who was named in the 15, the other reserves were Paul Palmer, Jermaine Levy (both Jamaica), and Shaquille Williams (Guyana).
All have played in the current T20 Championship.
Of those who took the field, only Pennyfeather, Henry and Bramble have not played at the first-class level, while Powell has had a couple regional 50-over matches.
Add to that list the fact that both Reifer and Walton have represented the West Indies in all versions of the game with Reifer being a former captain of the regional team.
Hinds, a former Barbados captain and West Indies all-rounder, was turning out for UWI for the first time after spending the last 11 seasons with current Elite division champions ICBL Empire, who failed to reach the quarter-finals of the T20 Tournament this year after appearing in a record four finals. He recently returned home from playing club cricket in Trinidad.
The facts on the riches of UWI are as hard as they come. No other local team can come close to fielding so many players with first-class experience in a single match.
Now carefully examine the first UWI Division 1 Cup winning team in 2009. (NB: There were 26 players and the first 18 listed have all played at the first-class level) – Kyle Corbin, Miles Bascombe, Nekoli Parris, Romel Currency, Floyd Reifer, Liam Sebastien, Gilford Moore, Ryan Austin, Craig Emmanuel, Jason Bennett, Chadwick Walton, Kurt Wilkinson, Omar Phillips, Gavin Wallace, Ruel Brathwaite, Khismar Catlin, Kavesh Kantasingh and Boris Hutchinson. The other players were Jason Crawford, Nhamo Winn, Brian Gooding, Jamal Jordan, Nicholas Brathwaite, Esra Greene, Niaz Dookrat and Clyde Estwick.
Their first Super Cup success in 2007 was also marked by a vast majority of first-class or List A players, numbering 15 of 22, who turned out. They were: Romel Currency, Omar Phillips, Floyd Reifer, Nekoli Parris, Shirley Clarke, Khismar Catlin, Gilford Moore, Craig Emmanuel, Miles Bascombe, Liam Sebastien, Jason Bennett, Kavesh Kantasingh, Simon Jackson, Chadwick Walton and Ramnarine Chattergoon. The others who played were Dwight Carter, Don O’neal, Nhamo Winn, Raymond Singh, Brian Gooding, Dion Pinder and Dion Lovell.
And when the 3Ws Oval-based team won the T20 title for the first time in 2012, they fielded 15 players, 14 of whom had first-class, List A or regional T20 experience in Chadwick Walton, Raymon Reifer, Kyle Corbin, Jonathan Carter, Floyd Reifer, Steven Jacobs, Anthony Alleyne, Kevin McClean, Nekoli Parris, Ryan Austin, Akeem Dewar, Kesrick Williams, Derone Davis and Kjorn Ottley. The odd man out was Barbadian pacer Marques Clarke.
It is really amazing how the UWI squads have changed significantly in terms of an increasing number of non-Barbadians since their first taste of Division 1 competition in 2006. That season, captain Shirley Clarke, who scored a century in the very first series against St. Catherine at Bayfield, was one of 15 Barbadians among 18 players all told. The other three were Guyanese Raymond Singh, Gilford Moore and Ramnarine Chattergoon.
Apart from Clarke, the other Bajans were Omar Phillips, Eric Batson, Dion Lovell, Don O’neal, Nekoli Parris, Jabbar Niles, Nhamo Winn, Khismar Catlin, Floyd Reifer, Andre Edwards, Tyson Belgrave, Emelike Edghill, Jason Maloney and Pierre Rock.
It would take another column to go through the composition of UWI teams in all three versions since 2006 but it is crystal clear how the authorities at Cave Hill have manoeuvred to ensure success.
Sir Hilary certainly knows how to keep things clicking on the hill.
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. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.