Breaking up one’s night rest for the past couple of weeks to follow the ICC Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh was not easy but as a West Indian, there is great satisfaction and pride in knowing that it was worth the exercise with the success of Shimron Hetmeyer’s team.
It took a lot of mental strength, several cups of coffee and ultimately a strong heart to survive. Honestly, as West Indies inched to their target of 146 against pre-match favourites India in the final at Shere Bangla National Stadium in Mirpur last Sunday, my body started to feel as though needles were running through it.
The result showed West Indies triumphing by five wickets with three balls to spare. It was the first Under-19 World Cup title for West Indies. Those who tend to be excited about Valentine’s Day would say it was true love displayed by the young side.
After all, tension had started to develop when West Indies slipped from 67 for two in the 23rd over to 77 for five just six overs later.
But Keacy Carty, an 18-year-old from St. Maarten, and due for a score of note, showed tremendous character in partnership with Keemo Paul, the Guyanese fast bowling all-rounder whose career will always be remembered for his smart “Mankading” in the two-run win against Zimbabwe, which put West Indies into the quarter-finals.
That they stayed together to the end, with a little luck by way of dropped catches, was meant to be. Level-headedness was vital. The partnership was worth 69 in 20.3 overs with Carty scoring 52 not out off 125 balls including two boundaries and Paul, an unbeaten 40 off 68 deliveries with one four and one six.
Honestly, I am still trying to return to a proper sleeping pattern as my addiction to the game also included watching the other knockout matches. What made last weekend even tougher on the mind and body was having to work as a ball-by-ball commentator for the sixth round WICB PCL first-class match between Barbados Pride and Windward Islands Volcanoes at Kensington Oval, with just a few hours sleep before the start of the Under-19 matches at 11 p.m. (Eastern Caribbean time).
Yet, as I reflect on the comments made by some fans and analysts, as well as the coverage given by a couple of the media houses, namely the print, it is amazing how they have jumped on the bandwagon.
Interestingly, Graeme West, the West Indies Under-19 head coach, pointed out that the turning point of the campaign was when Barbadian fast bowler Chemar Holder was called up as a late replacement for the injured Grenadian Obed McCoy, the Vincentian left-arm pacer, to join the impressive Antiguan Alzarri Joseph with the new ball.
“The introduction of Chemar Holder was very significant in terms of the whole dynamic of the team. All credit to him, he had three days to acclimatize and then all of a sudden he is playing in the World Cup quarterfinal,” West said after the team returned home.
“We said to him, ‘you’ve just come off the back of a very successful competition in the NAGICO Super50, just continue to do what you’ve been doing.
“I think the partnership of Alzarri and Chemar started to give the team belief. And there are a lot of things that followed on from there and I think the first spell against Pakistan was a real turning point for the group,” West added.
Significantly, if one wants to get parochial, partisan, prejudice or any fitting word beginning with “P”, Holder and the ebullient all-rounder Shamar Springer, the only Barbadians in the team, were at the top of the averages.
The 18-year-old “chest-roller” Springer – oh, what a wonderful dancer – amassed the most runs (285), was the only West Indies batsman to hit a century (106) and headed the batting averages (57.00). To boot, he took seven wickets (ave: 23.14; ER: 4.76) with his medium-pace and was also sharp in the field.
In three matches, the 17-year-old Holder picked up five wickets at 16.40 runs each and boasted of the best economy rate of 3.03.
Joseph was by far the leading West Indies wicket-taker with 13 scalps (ave: 13.76) and an ER of 3.31, which was the second best.
But spare a moment of thought for Holder, who I maintain was treated shabbily by the local print media for the second time in the space of roughly a month. Now they want to big him up as much as possible.
Here are two glaring examples. On January 2, under the headline “Aaron Jones, Chemar Holder among four Barbadians in CCC squad for NAGICO Super50”, on the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org), the first paragraph read: “The uncapped pair of batting all-rounder Aaron Jones and teenaged fast bowler Chemar Holder are among four Barbadians in the Combined Campuses & Colleges (CCC) Marooners squad for the WICB NAGICO Super50 Championship in Trinidad & Tobago and St. Kitts, January 7 to 25”.
Two days later, the story appeared in a section of the local print media as though it originated there, and with no credit to the source. Lol. I really laughed out loudly. Why? When I spoke with the CCC team manager Shane Lewis on January 2, he indicated that the information on Holder being in the CCC team had been put in a “deep freeze” somewhere in Fontabelle for two weeks. So it was a case of a scoop in reverse.
Even more amazing was the failure of the same media house to carry the story of Holder’s call-up to the West Indies Under-19 team when the BCA website screamed the headline on February 3: “Excited Barbadian pacer Chemar Holder off to Bangladesh for ICC Under-19 World Cup”.
The very first paragraph read: “Barbadian fast bowler Chemar Holder could be pressed into action just a couple days after arriving in Bangladesh for the West Indies’ quarter-final match against Pakistan in the ICC Under-19 World Cup Championship on February 8”.
After all, the story did not originate from Cricinfo or one of those “big-up” websites, so it didn’t matter to those in the print media who ignored it. A humble boy from St. Leonard’s School at Richmond Gap, St. Michael, was going places but couldn’t get a paragraph in a paper, which boasts of being No. 1. How sad!
Now, they want to “crash the party” after the success.
It brings one to the question of not paying enough attention to local domestic cricket. There is something called “roots”. We are developing a culture where “air-conditioned” reporters have been playing a part in “squeezing” some of our talented cricketers.
Then there is a scramble to get background information and not surprisingly, the public wants to know which school so and so attended. Get the message?
With the success of the West Indies Under-19s, there are countless calls for the West Indies Cricket Board to ensure that things are put in place to help the players to bridge the gap to the next level. Suddenly, these “analysts” have emerged with some of the greatest ideas as though players from previous regional teams to Under-19 World Cups have not gone on to play at the highest level.
They know little or nothing about the young blokes because they hardly take any interest in local domestic cricket.
After he won the Man of the Match award against Bangladesh in the semi-finals, Springer spoke of his self-belief.
“A lot of pressure but I overcame it today,” he said. “I listen to a motivational speech before each game and tell myself I am a champion. I’m quite adaptable,” he said.
Brilliant words, Shamar! You are a champion and played a big role in a champion team.
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 three-and-a-half 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: Keithfholder@gmail.com.