There are some decisions made by the Operations department of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), which boggle the mind.
Having to adjust the fixtures for one match in the dying stages of the 2016-17 Digicel Regional first-class Championship in light of the three-match One-Day International series between West Indies and Pakistan in Guyana, which started Friday, could very well result in a psychological advantage for at least one team, Guyana Jaguars.
And the fact that players have been forced to miss the ninth and penultimate round, which also opened today because of their selection on the WICB President’s X1 team for a three-day match against Pakistan in Jamaica starting April 15, cannot go unnoticed.
Better planning was needed.
Before going into the pros and cons, let’s remind all and sundry of the points table, led by champions for the past two seasons, Guyana Jaguars on 109.8, with Barbados Pride on 99.2, Jamaica Scorpions 95.2, Windward Islands Volcanoes 74.2, Leeward Islands Hurricanes 66.4 and Trinidad & Tobago Red Force 63.8.
Effectively, there are now three contenders for the title in Guyana, Barbados and Jamaica.
Both Guyana and Barbados have their remaining matches at home. Guyana’s opponents are Windward Islands (April 15-18) and Leeward Islands (April 21-24), Barbados clash with Trinidad & Tobago (April 7-10, Day/Night) and Jamaica (April 15-18), while Jamaica play Windward Islands in St. Vincent (April 7-10) and Barbados.
As it stands, therefore, depending on the results, Guyana will be in an excellent position to know what is required to win the Championship when they meet the Leeward Islands.
Surely, those responsible for the fixtures could have slotted in that match last weekend when all of the teams were idle.
In making adjustments to the original fixtures for the tour by Pakistan, they found it convenient to have a “rest” day after the first three days of the eighth round match between Barbados and Guyana at Kensington Oval to accommodate the first Twenty20 International featuring West Indies and Pakistan.
The unavailability of some players for the current round because they have been picked for the President’s X1 match could have been handled better. Just imagine that one day in travel arrangements would have made a difference.
For example, in the case of Barbados Pride, batsman Shamarh Brooks and fast bowler Kemar Roach cannot play because they are required to travel to Jamaica on Monday. So too is the talented batsman Kyle Hope, another Barbadian, who now represents Trinidad & Tobago Red Force.
The match is being played in Trelawney so the powers that be reckoned an extra day was needed for the squad to assemble early.
For the sake of the four-day Tournament and giving players every possible opportunity to be in the middle, it would have been better for members of the President’s XI squad to be taking part in this round.
Already without top players either because of international duties or the Indian Premier League, the quality of the tournament should not be further diluted by having others just relaxing, simply to embrace an “extra” day for travel.
Playing as much as possible in your major tournament is paramount. No wonder one bewildered fan found it convenient to send me a message, which read: “I noticed that Kyle Hope and Shamarh Brooks are listed as out of their respective teams. Are they both injured or are there other reasons?”
In its preview of the current round, the WICB said in a release: “All the sides playing this weekend, except the Volcanoes, have been ravaged in one way or the other, either through West Indies duty, selection policy or injury, and a number of uncapped players are likely to make their first-class debuts which should help to make the outcomes of the matches far more exciting”.
Perhaps, the release could have gone further by explaining “selection policy” and also announcing the President’s X1 squad and travel arrangements.
We are devaluing the game. A lot more thought must be given in making certain decisions. Is this really the much-touted WICB Professional Cricket League?
Another aspect of the first-class fixtures relates to Day/Night matches and the use of the pink ball. Six were scheduled with a starting time of 3 p.m.
With all due respect to what the ICC wants to achieve in relation to some Test matches being played under such conditions, two sessions per day under lights can be dreary, especially for spectators. One session would be more acceptable.
And the sooner the WICB can discard Pace Bowling Points, the better, unless they can truly define the word ‘pace’.
The rule states that Pace Bowling Points are awarded for each wicket taken by a pace bowler during the match in both the first and second innings.
0.2 pace bowling points will be awarded to the fielding team and will be retained whatever the outcome of the match. Each team must declare its pace bowlers to the Match Referee on the team sheet at the Toss. Points will only be awarded to those wickets taken by pace bowlers who have been declared on the team sheet at the Toss.
So what is the WICB trying to achieve, especially when it is clear that some ordinary medium-pace bowlers come under the category of “pace”? That’s a joke.
It is perhaps ironic that Guyana, renowned for its spin bowlers, boast of the most pace bowling points (13.8). But they have been smart in using the rule.
Barbados have 12.2, Windward Islands 11.2, Leeward Islands 10.4, Trinidad & Tobago 8.8 and Jamaica 7.2.
Yet, the spinners, as expected, continue to dominate. Nikita Miller (Jamaica) has 48 wickets, Veerasammy Permaul (Guyana) 39, Damion Jacobs (Jamaica) 34, Imran Khan (Trinidad & Tobago) 32, Rahkeem Cornwall (Leeward Islands) 32 and Shane Shillingford (Windward Islands) 31.
Medium-pacer Raymon Reifer, a Barbadian, who plays for Guyana, has the most wickets (30) among the “pacers”.
If the WICB is hoping that the rule will encourage more fast bowling, then they ought to tell us about the results as well.
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]