The marriage formed three decades ago between Shirley MacDonald Clarke and the sport of cricket is like a match made in heaven.
From playing for Barbados to captaining both the West Indies Under-19 and the Combined Campuses and Colleges at the regional first-class level as a right-handed opener, Clarke within the last decade has had just as much success being a full-time coach.
Clarke’s most recent accomplishment was coaching Carlton Club to glory in the Barbados Cricket Association’s Sagicor Twenty20 title against Empire last Sunday at Kensington Oval. That is Carlton’s second trophy within a couple of months having been promoted to the BCA elite division last year.
“I coach every day. I try to help as many youngsters as I can,” said Clarke, who coaches at the National Sports Council and BCA Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence. He also accompanied the Barbados Under-19 men’s team as an assistant coach last year to St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ironically, the 42-year-old Clarke was part of the successful Carlton team that lifted the Sagicor T20 trophy in 2009 when former West Indies opening great Desmond Haynes was the coach.
Fast forward ten years later and Clarke coached Carlton to the title with his son Kyle Mayers, the talented Barbados and West Indies A all-rounder being named man-of-the-match with an unbeaten 92 runs off 66 balls.
Cricket generally runs in the family as two of Clarke’s brothers also played the sport.
“Winning the Sagicor T20 title was expected, we only lost one game against Gladiola at Rices Cricket Ground leading up to the final, and I was pretty confident that we would do well. Carlton is a young group mixed with a bit of experience and my sons Kyle [Mayers] and Zidane Clarke also played. We also had the likes of captain Mathews Jones, Shamar Springer, Keon Harding and then we had the experience of Carlos Greenidge in the final and Vonrick Nurse along with the other guys made up the squad.
“But the team is one with most of the guys that I would have coached from young, they all went on playing for their schools, and now they are back at the club. It was a natural fit as well because most of them played for Carlton Juniors before playing for their schools and now they are back home.
“My two brothers also played for Carlton, and currently one [Ikins Clarke] is the president of Carlton. My other brother Terry Clarke who has passed away was also a good cricketer. So, coming up playing cricket with both of my brothers in the backyard and the community of Orange Hill [St. James], I learnt a lot about cricket there in St. James. And my two sons followed my footsteps naturally. Sometimes coaching your children is difficult because they feel that you are too hard on them. The mothers might feel you are too hard on them, but I push them to get the best results out of them,” Clarke said.
To date, Clarke still has the 1996 record for most runs [565 in five matches] scored by a batsman in the regional first-class tournament.
But if there is one regret Clarke says he has was not going on to play for West Indies at the senior level having captained the likes of Christopher Gayle, Corey Collymore and Pedro Collins in 1996 at the Under-19 level.
However, Clarke doesn’t intend to dwell on the past, but instead look ahead and develop outstanding cricketers who can be listed one day among former Barbados, West Indies and Carlton greats.
Among those that played for Carlton and whose legacy continues to make an impact are Dale Richards, Carlo Morris, Henderson Bromes, Dale Elcock and Peter Thompson. Also, former West Indies opening great Haynes after whom the Carlton Cricket Ground is named.
“My career should have gone further, but sometimes that is how it goes with politics and so on. But still, I have the regional record for most runs in a tournament set in 1996. Also, the year in front I scored most runs in the regional Under-19 tournament. I played and captain guys like Chris Gayle, Corey Collymore, Pedro Collins, so it is unfortunate that I did not go any further. But I am hoping that now as a coach I can push young players to that level.
“Our goal as a cricket team is to keep producing players for the national side and hopefully go on to represent West Indies. But we intend to keep the programme going and keep pushing the young players as far as we can. The plan has had success and it just as to do with the availability of the players and to get the team together. Right now, everyone is available, so we are at our strongest right now, and that makes it very easy for us to compete. We shouldn’t have been demoted but we learnt a lot in the first division, we played a lot harder and won all the games. So, that experience has made us a lot stronger,” Clarke said.