England cricket will be benefiting from the talents of yet another West Indian, after Barbadian all-rounder, Jacob Bethell was selected as co-captain of England Under- 19 squad for the imminent series against the touring West Indies Under-19 team.
Bethell, 17, son of former outstanding domestic and Barbados Under-19 batsman Graham Bethell, and the grandson of Arthur Bethell who played 16 matches for the senior Barbados side between 1963 and 1970 went to England three years ago on a scholarship and is currently on the books at Warwickshire.
Jacob represented Barbados at the regional Under-15 level and was recognised by many – including batting great Brian Lara – as one of the top junior prospects in the Caribbean.
Today, Bethell was offered congratulations by the president of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Conde Riley, who described the former Harrison College student’s preference to play for England as “nothing new” and said there was nothing the local cricket governing body could do about it.
“This happens all the time. It has been happening for a while now. Going back to Gladstone Small and others who ended up playing for England. We are proud of him; we wish him all the best. He came through our junior competitions and represented us well.
But he had that choice and he chose to go the English route. So, I wish him well and all the best to him. There is nothing we can do about those personal decisions that are taken by the players,” Riley told Barbados TODAY.
In recent times former Barbados and West Indies Under-19 player Jofra Archer also opted to ply his trade for England. He followed in the footsteps of mentor and former Barbados first-class cricketer Chris Jordan who switched allegiance to England after a few seasons playing in the regional tournament.
Riley told Barbados TODAY that this latest development was a reflection of the great work being done at the youth level of Barbados’ cricket through the Everton Weekes Centre of Excellence program.
“Most of them have that English connection. Jofra and Jacob have that English connection so it is easy for them to get into the English setup, unlike a guy who has no English connection at all. But it is a choice and we (BCA) don’t try to prohibit them and at that age, they can’t even sign contracts so it is a chance we take.
“If a guy is good and gets selected for the Center of Excellence, we develop guys and like I said it is a choice. We are proud of what we do, we can’t stop them. I think that what we are doing here is a reflection of the quality of our coaches and what we do at the Everton Weekes Center of Excellence,” he said.
BCA vice-president Calvin Hope shared similar sentiments as Riley and insisted that there was nothing the local cricket administration could do to stop players from making these types of decisions. Hope explained that these opportunities should not be seen as heartbreak for Barbados or West Indies cricket. Rather, he noted, opportunities like these should be embraced. He said cricket was like any other discipline.
“If you leave Barbados and you are a talented student and you went to the United States to get an opportunity to be an astronaut or do something in medicine or something. Why should it be heartbreak for Barbados? Cricket is no different than any other discipline. This is not a communist country. A person is free based on their circumstances and if he has citizenship or whatever and he is eligible to (play), then he and his (parents) make a choice.
I don’t know what Barbados or the BCA can do or anybody can do about it. What can we do? We can’t stop him; we shouldn’t stop him. The boy did what he can and I wish him the greatest success,” Hope stressed.
Bethell was also part of the Franklyn Stephenson Cricket Academy headed by the former outstanding Barbados first-class cricketer.
Stephenson told Barbados TODAY he was extremely proud of Bethell who over the years had worked hard and shown consistency. However, he hinted that circumstances in the region often led West Indians to make these types of decisions “I am very pleased for the young man. From the first time I saw Jacob Bethell playing Under-11, I saw a star in the making. I remember when Jacob came to the academy Brian Lara came to give the boys a pep talk. He saw Jacob batting and remarked to him that ‘you are better than I was when I was 11’. So that is how many promises that young man showed and his head was always in the right place, really focused on his cricket,” Stephenson recalled.
Stephenson suggested that Bethell was so talented that in his estimation, he should be a star in the West Indies team. But he added that when “the climate is not right birds migrate”, referencing Bethell’s decision to play for England.
The former fast-bowling allrounder who played at the first-class level in England, South Africa, and Australia, said it was heartbreaking that Barbados and by extension the West Indies continue to lose young talented cricketers.
“That is what we created here. I remember Jacob playing in the Under-13 cricket competition and all the talk around the ground was that he was never going to continue in cricket. That as soon as he gets to a certain age his dad will say to him ‘stop that nonsense and come do something in the family business.
“I believe when your heart is set on something you can achieve it and Jacob was always fully focused on cricket. Unfortunately, with the climate and what has happened to white people playing cricket in Barbados over time, they tell themselves that they get unfair, to put it bluntly. Anybody that has a sort of opportunity right now, they are looking to take their talent elsewhere because our water here is so muddy,” Stephenson remarked.
He pointed to the irony that though it was easier to get into a West Indies team in this era than years ago, some youngsters were still opting to go elsewhere.
“The West Indies right now, this is the team to play for because you got a perfect opportunity, the team is doing so poorly that any good cricketer right now is going to be a bright shining light. So, this is the place to be.
But far beyond the aspects of the game, the youngsters are seeing themselves far better off in other countries,” he said while questioning the administrative culture in Barbados’ cricket.