It can be argued that the writing was on the wall for a long time but the background to the exit of the Barbados Cricket League (BCL) from the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) domestic competitions after more than four-and-a-half decades is most painful.
Having been demoted to the Intermediate division at the end of last season, the BCL were desperately searching for players to rebuild. Instead, they were bombarded by requests for transfers to other clubs and embarrassingly, only one player, veteran Carl Chapman, actually turned up for practice sessions at Blenheim.
For all of the negatives, which were mounting, the BCL Board of Management still hoped to get things in shape for the 2016 season. They appointed a new coach in Derwin Thompson, the former long-standing Police wicket-keeper/batsman, who no doubt was eagerly looking forward to the challenge.
But after turning up at Blenheim a few times, Thompson realised that it was an exercise in futility. And based on reports from well-placed sources, even the handling of a few transfers raised eyebrows.
Now we are hearing that the hierarchy of the BCA will meet with the BCL management to find ways of addressing the issues faced by the BCL. One expects to get more information from the BCL president Glyne St. Hill in the not too distant future.
Let us face the facts.
Way back in the 1990s when hard statistics showed a decline in the fortunes of the BCL in the major BCA competitions, there were cries of players not wanting to leave their clubs and represent the First and Intermediate division teams. While there was some merit, it boggles the mind as to why the problems could not be sorted out.
There were still a few talented players going to Blenheim, a venue which now seems like a scorn. Did the surroundings and atmosphere of the Ivy play a big part in turning away potential players or long gone were the days when the BCL was seen as a nursery?
Yet, it was only a few seasons ago that young players from a couple noted secondary schools were turning out for the BCL, raising hopes of a turnaround in fortunes. Will the true story be told as to why they soon opted to represent other clubs?
In assessing the pros and cons of the BCL as a team in the BCA competitions, it is vital to look at their record.
Lest we forget, when the BCA introduced the promotion and relegation system in 2009, BCL, who competed at the First division level since 1969, were among the first three teams to de demoted. The others were BDFSP and Bristol.
BCL finished that season at the very bottom on 87 points. BDFSP picked up 91 points and Bristol 90. BDFSP had gained Division 1 status in 2001 and Bristol got their first taste in 2007.
For many years, the BCL had remained very competitive in the First division (rebranded Elite division in 2012) as well as in the Intermediate division and the top limited overs competition – the Sagicor General Super Cup (known for many years as the Barbados Fire Cup).
With the likes of Owen L. Estwick, the former long-standing president, and the fearsome Barbados and West Indies fast bowler of the 1960s, Charlie Griffith, in the forefront, BCL won the Division 1 title for the first time in 1973. That was the same year they became the first club to capture the then three major BCA titles, which included the Intermediate division and the 40-over-a-side Cup.
The limited overs competition at the time was a knockout, known as the Derrick Robins Cup. Indeed, it was the forerunner to the Barbados Fire Cup, which started in 1975.
BCL next won the First division Cup in 1976, sharing it with Police, and for good measure, they won four Fire Cup titles in the space of seven seasons, starting in 1981 before things went haywire.
In those days, it was a straight knockout unlike the significant change from 1995 when teams had the luxury of playing in zones on a round robin basis before the quarter-finalists etc, were determined.
It was without doubt a joy going to Blenheim or wherever BCL played to watch the likes of wicket-keeper Ricky Skeete, standing up occasionally to the express pace of the late Sylvester Clarke, rookies like fellow fast bowlers Ezra Moseley and Franklyn Stephenson, the sharpness in the field of Richard Straker and Winston Herbert, the stubborn batting of Roy Alleyne; Noel Broomes with his left-arm spin as tight and effective as ever, and others like Tyrone “Babba” Knight, John Holder, Allison Johnson and the late Tyrone Greenidge, later to be joined by the trio of Brathwaite brothers, Rommel, Adrian and Donville, Byron Morris and others who played key roles.
As the BCL went into decline, one has to point out their terrible Division 1 record of playing as many as 110 matches without a win between the last round of the 1995 season and the fifth round of 2004.
Their last win before that woeful record began was against Banks by five wickets at Blenheim on the 12th and penultimate round series in 1995 under the captaincy of batsman Terry Holder.
They did not win again before Series 6 of 2004, coming from behind to triumph over BDFSP by seven wickets at Blenheim with Randy Thomas as captain.
During that period, BCL finished last on three occasions and second from the bottom five times. They were also in the cellar position in 1991 and 1992.
It was a clear indication that the BCL had serious problems as a competitive unit.
There were significant cases of the BCL changing captains during a season, either due to firings or resignations, especially between 1990 and 2000.
From a one-day perspective, I can also refer to a long drought, which the BCL ended in 2009 (Round 5 of the Super Cup).
The following is part of a report which I wrote on the BCA website on August 29, 2009.
“It can be considered a case of lighting striking in the same place twice as BCL, the whipping boys of local domestic cricket in recent years, finally ended a long, painful drought with a four-wicket win over hapless Banks on Sun”Battered, bruised and beaten repeatedly, the win was the first for BCL in 26 matches since they last triumphed, co-incidentally also against Banks, by two wickets and at the very same venue, Blenheim ‘A’, on September 25, 2005.”
That’s just another example of the rough times the BCL were experiencing. So eventually, down they went from the top league division after 2009, followed by another demotion last season.
There must now be much more action than all of the long talk to revive the BCL.
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:[email protected]