Disappointing batting is clearly revealed in the averages as well as team performances after the halfway stage of the 2016 BCA Elite division three-day Championship.
While there is the usual keen interest in statistics of the top players, an assessment of the batting points cannot be ignored, especially when compared with the previous four seasons.
In fact, the number of overall batting points (48) is the worst at this stage since 2012 when the promotion and relegation system, which started three years earlier, was settled to a ten-team Competition from the original 16 and rebranded the Elite (formerly First) division.
Apart from winning matches outright, it is always vital to gain as many batting points as possible since bowling points tend to come much easier and there is hardly a marked disparity among the teams.
A maximum of 20 points can be gained from a match (outright win 12, batting 4, bowling 4). NB: Batting and bowling points are awarded in the first innings only after 75 overs.
Here is a look at the batting and bowling points after the halfway stage for the past five seasons: 2012 (Batting 67, Bowling 174); 2013 (Batting 73, Bowling 183); 2014 (Batting 89, Bowling 163); 2015 (Batting 85, Bowling 172); 2016 (Batting 48, Bowling 177).
Just one month ago, this column pointed out that batsmen were still in the mode of the Twenty20 and to a lesser extent, 50-over, since both competitions were played in close succession. Little has changed by teams occupying the crease first.
As a reminder, between April 9 and June 16, the Sagicor General T20 Championship was played in two segments – Super 10 and Super 12, while the Super Cup (50-over) was contested from April 30 to August 7.
It meant that effectively, Phase 2 of the T20 and the majority of the Super Cup were played during the same period.
The Elite division started on July 2 and ends November 20.
The points table so far shows (including batting and bowling): ICBL Empire 71 (Batting 12, Bowling 19), CounterPoint Wanderers 69 (Batting 4, Bowling 16), Massy Stores Spartan 64 (Batting 8, Bowling 16), Brathwaite Construction/Crane Resort St. Catherine 53 (Batting 6, Bowling 20), Massy United Insurance Wildey 41 (Batting 6, Bowling 18), BDFSP 40 (Batting 4, Bowling 16), Police 38 (Batting 4, Bowling 19), Home Equipment/Sierka Rentals Maple 33 (Batting 4, Bowling 20), Sagicor Life UWI 31 (Batting 0, Bowling 18), Guardian General Barbados Youth 15 (Batting 0, Bowling 15).
Lest we forget, UWI are the defending champions. In easily their worst season since competing at the top level from 2006 and boasting of five three-day titles including four on the trot from 2009 (2010 was shared with Spartan), they now find themselves languishing one from the bottom of the table and without any batting points, like Barbados Youth who are exempt from demotion.
It would be interesting to hear from the management of UWI, reasons for such a pathetic batting showing, apart from losing three matches – the most they have ever lost in a season.
UWI have always been a fine example of how to gain batting points. In the period under review, they earned 26 (the most ever) in 2012 and 24 last season. Their batting points in the other seasons were 15 in 2013 and 17 in 2014.
With their remaining opponents being Spartan, Wildey, Barbados Youth and BDFSP, it is, however, expected that they will pick up batting points and also avoid relegation. And their only away match is against Barbados Youth at the Lester Vaughan School ground, which has a history of big scores.
As far as top performers are concerned, all-rounder Kevin Stoute of Empire and the Spartan left-arm spinner Andre Marshall are fittingly heading the batting and bowling averages.
Stoute has amassed the most runs (420), has the highest average (84.00), highest score (150 not out) and also the most centuries (two), while Marshall has the most wickets (29) as well as best average (10.82). He has also bowled the most overs (155.2).
Only two other batsmen have managed over 300 runs – Neil Browne of St. Catherine (335; ave: 33.50) and Wildey’s Aaron Jones (302; ave: 43.14).
Marshall’s closest challenger is another left-arm spinner, the veteran Derick Bishop of St. Catherine with 28 wickets (ave: 17.28).
Four bowlers have 22 wickets – left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican of Empire (ave: 11.04), Wanderers pacer Shakeem Clarke (ave: 15.09), his team-mate, leg-spinner Nikolai Charles (ave: 15.45) and the Spartan off-spinner Chaim Holder (ave: 17.00), with another off-spinner, Shane Jones of Empire on 21 (ave: 17.90) and left-arm spinner Ryan Hinds of UWI 20(ave: 16.20).
The wicket-keeper with the most victims is Mario Albert of Maple – 22 (21 catches/1 stumping), followed by Renaldo Arthur of Wanderers – 17 (16 catches/1 stumping) and Empire’s Andre Roach – 17 (14 catches/3 stumpings).
Jointly leading the fielders with nine catches are Jason Greene of Wanderers and Ryan Hinds. Derick Bishop has eight.
But while the leading players are usually highlighted, spare a moment of thought for Kemar Brathwaite, the BDFSP batsman who had a tremendous 2015 season. He went on to make his first-class debut for Barbados Pride, turning out in three matches, but now finds himself badly out of form.
Brathwaite, who celebrated his 23rd birthday yesterday, has scored only 83 runs in nine innings (ave: 9.22) with a highest of 18 in the first innings against Maple in the second series at Paragon.
Last season, he was named the Most Improved Cricketer by the BCA. Prior to the start of 2015, he was a regular middle order batsman but he opened the batting in a major match for the first time on the second day of the Elite division Round 1 match against Wanderers at Dayrells Road, and responded with a maiden century (110) followed by 54 in the second innings.
There was to be no looking back as he amassed the most runs (754) including two hundreds and five half-centuries, at an average of 44.35.
His other hundred was 115 in the first innings against Maple at Trents in the fourth round. And of his five fifties, two were in the 90s – 90 v ESA Field Pickwick at Foursquare Oval (Round 7) and 92 v Barbados Youth at Paragon (Round 8) – both in the first innings.
In the 2015 Sagicor General Super Cup, Brathwaite scored 254 runs (ave: 31.75) in eight matches and was the only batsman to hit two centuries of 13 all told. Those hundreds were 101 against BCL at Paragon in the second series when BDFSP amassed a then all-time record total of 416 for eight off overs, and 101 off Nicholls Baking Combermere at Waterford ‘A’ in the fifth round.
Brathwaite also slammed an attacking hundred in the first Barbados Pride trial match – 132 off 144 balls including 22 fours for Kevin Stoute’s X1 in a massive 502 all out against Roston Chase’s side at Kensington Oval.
Now, one wonders what has suddenly gone wrong. He started this season batting at No. 5 and remained in that position for his first four innings. He has opened in his last five knocks and reached double-figures only once in scoring 35 runs.
It is a reminder of how cruel the game can be. Perhaps, just like how UWI are caving in to earn at least two batting points.
Hopefully, the last four rounds of matches will provide some batting sparks.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org