For the second time in just over three months, a Barbados junior team made the island proud by capturing a regional one-day title.
The national Under-17s, captained by Rashawn Worrell, lifted the Cricket West Indies (CWI) Championship in Trinidad on Tuesday in a very tight finish among the top three teams.
Now rewind to the period of March 28 to April 4 when the Barbados Under-15s repeated as champions in Jamaica after winning at home in 2017.
There were a couple similarities en route to glory in that like the Under-15s, the Under 17s bounced back after losing their very first match as well. And mind you, the fixtures showed that they played against the same territories in the same order in both Tournaments.
In the Under-17s, Barbados were soundly beaten by 154 runs by Trinidad & Tobago, who were champions for the previous two seasons. They then endured a washout against the Windward Islands before beating Jamaica by six wickets, Leeward Islands by 130 runs and Guyana by six wickets.
Barbados finished on 20.6 points, followed by Trinidad & Tobago on 20.5, Guyana 19.2, Leeward Islands 13.6, Windward Islands 13.4 and Jamaica 0.5.
The Under-15s also lost their opening match against Trinidad & Tobago – by five wickets – before bouncing back to reel off wins against Windward Islands by seven wickets, Jamaica by four wickets, Leeward Islands by 140 runs and Guyana by four wickets.
Led by Nimar Bolden, they ended with 26.2 points, followed by Guyana 24.5, Jamaica 13.2, Windward Islands 12.6, Trinidad & Tobago 12.4 and Leeward Islands 7.7.
Following is an interview with coach of the Barbados Under-17 team Dexter Toppin, who previously coached the Barbados Under-19s for 12 years.
HOLDER: Dexter, this was your first year as coach of the Barbados Under-17 team. What would you attribute to the success?
Toppin: This success goes a long way back in terms of the preparation at the Sir Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence.
The team had nine months of preparation. The Centre of Excellence is serving its purpose in terms of preparing young cricketers.
I must give the boys a lot of credit for the way in which they batted.
In the first game against Trinidad & Tobago, we got bowled out for 96 and lost by 154 runs, and there was no play in the next against the Windward Islands.
But the boys kept their faith and believed in what they had to do. Their belief was inspired by an outstanding management team (Toppin, Nhamo Winn – assistant coach, Dwayne Best – manager and Kwayne Dalrymple -physiotherapist), which I think was the best that I have ever encountered in my journey as a Barbados Youth coach.
Everyone knew their role and as the head coach it made it very easy for me to carry out my duties. The players were very, very disciplined both on and off the field and it showed in their performance. Management played their part in helping them to focus as young cricketers. And the team effort was great.
HOLDER: Antonio Morris was outstanding with the bat, scoring the most runs all told (202) including one century, at an average of 67.33. He was named the Most Valuable Player of the Tournament and also copped the award for Most Runs. How would you sum up his batting?
TOPPIN: Antonio is a very simple but effective batsman. He has very good hand-eye coordination, and he reminds me of old time players in the way he plays his shots. He gets the ball off of him in a very effective manner on both sides of the wicket.
He was one of the best batsmen in the tournament in terms of skills and he is definitely one for the future.
I was the Barbados Under-19 team coach for 12 years prior to this season and the century (101 not out) by Antonio against Guyana was one of the best I have ever seen in regional youth cricket. He was commanding against all of the bowlers. He reminded me of the days when you saw a Viv Richards or Collis King playing shots with disdain.
Antonio struck one ball inside out over extra-cover. It was an amazing shot for a boy who is just 16 years old.
His teammates call him Steve Smith because of the way he goes about his innings, like the Australian star batsman. The way he batted in the tournament you could see that he is a thinker and he understands how to make runs once he is at the crease. He attacks the ball but I find that he also has a very good defence.
HOLDER: And what would you say about the styles of some of the other Barbados batsmen?
TOPPIN: Matthew Forde is a very talented all-rounder, who bowls medium-pace. He is a useful middle-order batsman, who I think will go on in his career to be a better batsman than bowler.
He and Morris had a very important, unbroken partnership of over 100 (103 in 14.4 overs) against Guyana. That partnership was very crucial. Although Antonio made a hundred, when Matthew went to the crease we were still under a bit of pressure. Matthew’s presence helped to swing the game back in our favour.
It gave Antonio the impetus to play his shots. Antonio was hitting the ball down the ground, pulling through midwicket, there were lovely cover drives and Matthew (who made 23 not out off 35 balls) was supporting well throughout.
They ran well between the wickets and Matthew was the driving force behind turning ones into twos.
In the previous match against the Leeward Islands, Matthew made a crucial 68. He batted very well and showed good maturity.
The captain Rashawn Worrell is also a good player. I call him the Big Cat after Clive Lloyd because of the way he strokes the ball off the back foot. He is a bit laid back but I think he has some good batting skills. He only got one half-century this year (69 against Jamaica) but he scored a century in the tournament last year against the Leewards.
It was a good innings against Jamaica. The way he batted showed his understanding of the game. He led the batting from the front. He is a stroke-maker.
Then we have Rivaldo Clarke, who is a very talented cricketer. He can bat, bowl, keep wicket and is also a nice fielder. He made 55 (60 balls, 5 fours and two sixes) against Jamaica. That was a very good innings. It was well put together under pressure. It was one of the best innings during the tournament. It was a classical knock.
Seth Agard got a couple starts but did not carry on.
Shamar Forde did not get among the runs but he was brilliant behind the stumps. He has very quick hands. He had three stumpings against the Leewards and two were down the leg-side. Brilliant work.
HOLDER: Off-spinner Jayden Hoyte and left-arm pacer Ramon Simmonds were your top wicket-takers with six each. Hoyte had an average of 14.50, with an economy rate (ER) of 2.90. His ER and average were the best among the Barbados bowlers who delivered more than five overs. In addition, his figures of three for 29 against the Leeward Islands in the penultimate round at NCC, was the only instance of a Barbados bowler picking up three wickets in a match. Simmonds had an average of 21.50 with an economy rate of 4.07. How would you analyse the team’s bowling?
TOPPIN: Hoyte bowled in some precious situations. He showed that he has the ability to come through. He is very simple and he showed good control and got wickets at crucial stages.
Simmonds is a very talented fast bowler, who swings the ball. I think he can develop into a genuinely quick bowler.
But Nicholas Austin (five wickets – ave: 14.60. ER: 3.47) was the best Barbados spinner in my opinion. He got wickets at crucial times. He is also a very good fielder off his own bowling. He spins the ball and bowled with good control and flight.
Jaden Leacock showed great maturity. He is full of talent. He is a fast-medium bowler, who gets the ball to slide. He is a nippy bowler. He gets the ball on to you very quickly and he has very good skills with the bat. As a reminder, he was the MVP at the regional Under-15 Tournament this year.
HOLDER: Were there any areas of concern?
TOPPIN: I think one of the areas of concerns was the number of extras (132) we conceded, especially wides (93). We could have been better in the field as well because we dropped a few crucial catches.
HOLDER: What were the pitches like?
TOPPIN: We only played at two grounds – the Brian Lara Cricket Academy and the National Cricket Centre. Both pitches were slow but they were very good to bat on.
HOLDER: It is my understanding that a few of the players’ relatives were present for the Tournament. How much did their support help the team?
TOPPIN: We had some support from the families of a couple players. Rivaldo Clarke’s parents were present, as well as Jayden Hoyte’s parents. Jayden and Rivaldo are cousins. Antonio Morris’ father was also there right through and another Barbadian, Eddie Carter, was also lending support. It was very heart-warming.
HOLDER: How would you sum up the Tournament?
TOPPIN: The tournament was very competitive and was well organised. But I think Cricket West Indies should look at hectic nature of the Tournament. There was one rest day between the matches for first four rounds and then we played two straight days. That was too much for the players. You are pushing five rounds of matches into ten days. There is not enough time for rest and recovery, which the players need.I believe there should also be a two-day tournament for the Under-17s.
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 over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).Email:Keithfholder@gmail.com