For long-suffering West Indies cricket fans the year 2015 ended as it had started. While some regional politicians botched their own domestic affairs and unwittingly attempted to do likewise with the regional game, our cricketers and administrators themselves demonstrated they were as equally adept at being inept.
Defeat at the start of the year at the hands of South Africa was followed by even greater embarrassment at yearend at the hands of Australia Down Under. In the intervening months the West Indies flopped at the 11th Cricket World Cup staged in Australia and New Zealand between February 14 and March 29. An earlier 2-1 series victory over South Africa in cricket’s version of baseball proved a mere aberration, as defeat by Ireland in the World Cup where the Irish needed no luck, put the woes of the team in perspective and set the tone for another troubled year.
There was some joy for the West Indies team between April 13 and May 5 when favoured tourists England reached the Caribbean. A draw in the first Test in Antigua was followed by defeat in Grenada and then a series-equalling victory at Kensington Oval. But once again for those whose expectations might have risen too steeply, they were quickly brought down to earth when between October 14 and November 11 the regional side were beaten 2-0 in the Test series against Sri Lanka and 3-0 in the One-Day Internationals. Their consolation, once again, if anyone really cared at that stage, was a slice of a two-match Twenty20 International series.
There were some positives during the year. The continued development of Barbadian all-rounder Jason Holder was clear to anyone and he was earmarked by all and sundry as one of the definite bright prospects for the future. That the regional selectors decided to pass the poisoned chalice (otherwise known as the West Indies captaincy) to him, was not unsurprising. There were very few options. Only time will tell whether his decision to accept it was correct.
While several called for changes and most seemed not to really care, many of those who had contributed handsomely to West Indies’ regression remained fixtures in the team. Marlon Samuels’ style and fashion reminded one more of Elsa Klensch with a bat than an international with 15 years experience. The loss of the Test captaincy seemed to affect the batting, if not the keeping, of Denesh Ramdin. He went from bad to worse.
Kemar Roach, once the leader of the attack and capable of intimidating the best of batsmen, continued to struggle following a spate of injuries and surgery. By the end of a year he would want to forget but batsmen who faced him would want to cherish, Roach had a Bradmanesque average with the ball.
The year would not have been complete without controversy. The West Indies team travelled to Sri Lanka without coach Phil Simmons after a brain freeze and loose tongue led to his casting aspersions on the selection process involving those with whom he broke bread and drank wine. However, it proved not to be his last supper as by yearend he had shown contrition, apologized earnestly and was toeing the line once again.
CARICOM, in its wisdom or lack thereof, appointed a sub-committee to examine issues related to the West Indies Cricket Board’s control of regional cricket and promptly advised the board to dissolve itself. Fat chance! In a year-closing missive the much maligned but redoubtable president Dave Cameron put CARICOM and its sub-committee in their place with a rejection of their offer to implode. Outlining several procedural flaws of the sub-committee of learned personnel, as well as its ignorance of programmes that had been implemented, the WICB basically told the sub-committee to take a hike. Maroons would have been proud.
Away from the headaches of West Indies cricket, the excellent programme that has been fatherly nurtured at the University of the West Indies by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles once again bore fruit. The UWI won the island’s BCA Elite Division cricket title, and it should be noted that it was their fifth title while being in the league for only ten years. Further evidence that there is a place for brain in cricket.
The biggest sporting news for the year surrounded FIFA and its corrupt hierarchy. Though no Barbadian official was implicated in any of the sordid affair, the CONCACAF region was very much in the spotlight. While Austin “Jack” Warner mumbled denials in the face of mounting evidence of his alleged corrupt practices as a FIFA head honcho, his replacement as CONCACAF boss, Jeffrey Webb, threw in the towel and admitted his guilt in a US court. They were just two of several leading football officials implicated in corrupt practices. Warner ended the year still fighting extradition to the United States –– a process that could take an uncertain period of time. One thing was certain, though, Warner would not be among those several West Indians voluntarily celebrating Labour Day on Eastern Parkway next year.
Though not criminally indicted, the year closed with longtime FIFA boss Sepp Blatter, a former colleague of Warner, and UEFA boss Michel Platini, fighting to restore their credibility in the face of FIFA charges related to a breach of ethics. Each was banned for eight years in connection with a $2 million “disloyal payment” made to Platini by Blatter. Both men continued to deny wrongdoing and indicated their intention to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport Swiss Blatter and Frenchman Platini were also fined $50,000 and $80,000 respectively. The fine seemed a blazing joke in the face of the millions that seemingly flittered through the halls of FIFA.
The scourge of doping in sport threatened to rival the scandal of FIFA. Doping has been as popular as skiing in the East European bloc for ages but while before it had been an individual pastime, investigations revealed that doping in Russia was being conducted with complicity by government officials and administrators at the highest level.
The IAAF, athletics governing body, voted to suspend Russia’s federation on November 13 after the publication of an independent World Anti-Doping Agency report that provided evidence of state-sponsored doping. The Russian authorities later accepted a ban from international competition without requesting a hearing. The year closed with the overwhelming likelihood that Russia would not be involved in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
On the domestic football front the Barbados Defence Force Sports Programme went on a winning spree in July to win the coveted Premier League title. The victory was as much a testimony to the skills of the players as it was to their discipline. Michael Jules has been running a fabulous programme at the BDF and it is almost guaranteed that the team would be making it to winners’ row sooner more than later.
In March Barbados’ and arguably the Caribbean’s premier horse racing event, the Gold Cup, went to Sayler’s Creek with jockey Rico Walcott in the saddle. For connections Ken and Sarah Ramsey, it was their second victory in two years, having won in 2014 with Major Marvel.
Darian King continued to make strides on the tennis court during the year, though many football fans would dearly love him to switch focus to their sport. King won a singles title at the USTA Tulsa Pro Championships at Philcrest Hills in June. This followed similar victories in Mexico, Florida and Panama.
He played outstandingly for Barbados in Davis Cup action during the year carrying the hopes of an entire nation on his capable shoulders as the island made significant strides on the regional and international front.
Chelsea Tuach and Chelsea Roett continued to rule the surf as none before them had done.
The excitement for the Sol Barbados Rally was perhaps only matched by the revs of the several engines that converged on Barbados for the island’s major rally event. The May 29 to 31 event was an example of efficient organization of a sporting event at all levels. When the dust cleared the winners’ trophy went to Jamaica’s Jeffrey Panton and Mike Fennell but accolades aplenty flowed toward the organisers.
April is said to be the month of fools but this April was very different. It was an occasion when a diminutive darling named Mary Fraser took the CARIFTA Games by storm. Fraser won the prestigious Austin Sealy Award as the most outstanding athlete after winning gold medals in the 1500, 3000 and 800 –– unheard of in the annals of the competition. And she is an excellent boxer too.
Sprinter Mario Burke also joined the company of Obadele Thompson and Eric Berry when he won gold in the sprint double –– the 100 and 200 metres.
And while all of Barbados were still enthusing about the performances at CARIFTA, another CARIFTA stand-out was taking the United States college circuit by storm.
Akela Jones, competing for Kansas State, won the collegiate title in just the second heptathlon of her career finishing with 6,371 points, way ahead of defending champion Kendell Williams of Georgia who was second on 6,223.
In the pool several Barbadian swimmers continued to make positive advances, including talented Damon St Prix. The swimmer set a new Barbados national age Group Long Course Record of 53:29 in the Boys 13-14 100M Freestyle at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games in Samoa. The previous record of 54:27 was held by Barbadian Olympic swimmer Damian Alleyne and set back in July 1998.
The year was one where the sport of road tennis continued to move forward at a rapid rate; some would say with much venom. And at the end of 2015 one name was on the lips of most fans –– Mark “Venom” Griffith. He shunned no one and he beat everyone and certified himself as an undoubted road tennis superstar.
Several others had their moments, whether on the volleyball, basketball, badminton, squash, netball or lawn tennis courts. There were successes on the polo fields, in game fishing, boating and on the draughts and chess tables. In most instances, those participating did so for the love of the sport where there was no monetary reward but mere personal and national glory.
More of the same is anticipated in 2016.