Over the past couple of weeks, matters relating to West Indies and local cricket have made big headlines.
From complaints by the West Indies team head coach Phil Simmons of a failure by regional territories to play four-day practice matches ahead of the current two-match Test series against Pakistan, to the dramatic one-wicket win by Kraigg Brathwaite’s team in the first match in Jamaica, and a turnaround by the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) to have a domestic season after announcing its cancellation, were more than enough to digest.
It is amazing how events can evolve in a relatively short period. Nowadays, social media and its use make you marvel, especially when misinformed persons who are addicted to posting on WhatsApp and Facebook are in the forefront.
Four days before the start of the Test series against Pakistan – both matches being played at Sabina Park in Kingston – Simmons said he was concerned about the match fitness of the West Indies squad, bearing in mind that the preceding two-Test series against South Africa ended on June 21 with West Indies badly beaten by an innings and 63 runs inside three days and 158 runs with a day to spare – both in St. Lucia.
Simmons sounded despondent as he reflected on a four-day practice match featuring Best versus Best.
“As far as I know, none of the (practice) games were played and there wasn’t enough work done before the players got here,” he said at an online media conference.
“Quite a few players said they didn’t get any work done in their home territories before they came to this camp and four-day game.
“It’s disappointing to know they’ve gone home and there’s nothing done. They have to come back and we’ve got to start from scratch when we get here so it’s a little disappointing.”
In the absence of the regional first-class Championship this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Cricket West Indies (CWI) asked regional Boards to play four-day matches to keep players “sharp” with a view to “proper match practice and possible selection” on the West Indies team.
To shed some light on what Simmons stated, I reached out to CWI Chief Executive Officer Johnny Grave and BCA president Conde Riley.
Grave, on his first day back at work yesterday following vacation, pointed out that issues relating to Covid-19 “depending on the territory” resulted in the lack of practice matches, apart from the Windward Islands.
“Hence why we played a Best v Best to ensure there was at least some preparation for the Test series,” he said.
“We are hoping that all territories can arrange some practise and trial matches after the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) before Christmas,” he added.
The CPL is slated for August 26 to September 15.
From a local perspective, three practice matches were planned for July 1-4, July 8-11 and July 15-18.
But on June 28 the BCA issued a release, stating that “due to unforeseen circumstances” the matches “have been postponed until further notice”.
“Please note that the Association will provide an appropriate update in due course. Any inconvenience caused is regretted.”
Yesterday, Riley commented further on the situation.
“The money that Cricket West Indies was putting up couldn’t cover the cost of those games,” he said.
“And the lockdowns and various protocols had a negative impact on our revenue streams.”
According to Riley, the BCA has since decided to cancel the four-day practice matches and place the focus on the Legends Cup – a one-day Tournament – for the second straight season, with one team to be added, bringing the number to four.
So what’s on the calendar for West Indies for the rest of the year following the T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates and Oman (October 17 to November 14) and early 2022?
“We are due to tour Sri Lanka (Tests) and Pakistan (ODIs and T20s) before Christmas after the T20 World Cup and have Ireland coming before England in January (ODIs & T20Is),” Grave said.
England will play five T20Is (January 28-February 5) and three Tests (March 8-28).
As far as the deadline for the selection of the West Indies squad for the T20 World Cup is concerned, Grave noted that, “teams have 30 days before the first match to nominate squads – which is 17th September for us”.
West Indies will also be hosting the Under-19 World Cup for the first time between January 4 and February 5 (provisional dates).
“We are hoping that we can resume all regional and youth cricket next year but it obviously depends on COVID and whether there will still be reduced flight schedules and quarantine requirements,” Grave explained.
So now to the local scene with the 2021 season set to start September 11 after the initial announcement of a cancellation by the BCA last Friday.
“The Directors of the Board of the Barbados Cricket Association have decided to cancel all plans to stage a domestic cricket season this year. This unfortunate decision has been taken out of an abundance of caution and has been driven by the following:
“The continued detection of COVID-19 cases in Barbados on a daily basis; the spike in new COVID-19 cases which occurred at the beginning of July, peaking on July 11, which has not yet been brought under control; the detection of the highly infectious Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus on the island; evidence that the COVID-19 virus has spread into the community; the current Government Directive which prohibits the presence of spectators at sporting events; and the current Government Directive which prohibits gatherings of more than 100 persons.
“Consideration was given to the fact that for the entire 2020 domestic cricket season (August 15-November 15), 102 new COVID-19 cases were diagnosed in Barbados (with no reported incidence of community spread) while between July 1, 2021 and present (August 11, 2021), 415 new cases have been detected (307 % increase) and there is community spread.
“Given the current presence of the COVID-19 virus in Barbados the Directors of the BCA’s Board strongly believe that in the best interest of all players, match officials and spectators to cancel the domestic 2021 season is the best option at this time.
“However, the BCA will ensure that all national senior and junior teams are adequately prepared for all upcoming engagements within the current Government issued protocols and directives.
“The BCA acknowledges that living in an active COVID-19 environment requires adaptiveness, flexibility, and a readiness to embrace change and it remains committed to the organizing of domestic competitions in the safest possible environment for all players, officials and spectators when play resumes in an enhanced 2022 domestic season. The Board of directors will continue to work with all clubs, schools and interested parties in developing the game of cricket in spite of these challenges.”
There was soon reaction from players, club/school officials and fans, who expressed their disappointment, some with very stinging comments.
Five days later, the BCA said that “following consultations with Government and the receipt of clarification from the COVID Monitoring Unit of the protocols for sport”, the season is scheduled to start on Saturday, September 11.
Competitions will be held in the 40-over Cup (Elite and First division), 40-over Shield (Intermediate division) and 35-over Plate (Second division).
“COVID-19 monitors will be placed at every match played during the season to ensure that all Government COVID-19 protocols and directives are strictly observed. It is expected that all clubs and schools will ensure that all protocols, particularly those related to the wearing of masks, sanitizing of hands, measurement of temperatures, recording of contact information and observance of physical distancing, are strictly adhered to,” it was stated.
Let’s now hope and pray for a safe and exciting season.
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 (rebranded Elite in 2012) Championship for four decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org).
Email: [email protected]