Wishing the best for our cricket team

Saturday, January 05, 2013

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It's easily among the more peculiar aspects of Caribbean cricket in recent years.

Though Jamaica's cricketers (men) have dominated the four-day version of the game, winning an unprecedented five straight regional titles and are also the current defending champions in the 50-50 version, they have not been able to top the annual Caribbean twenty20 tournament.

Truth be told, Jamaica's best have often looked out of their depth in cricket's shortest format.

There are reasons, of course. While the fundamentals of cricket remain, the fact that a twenty20 game is over and done with in just about three hours means the level of intensity from first ball to last has to be much higher than in longer formats.

And just like in everything else there has to be plenty of practice and preparation to get it right. In the past, Jamaica's players have suffered from that shortage of preparation since there was very little high-level twenty20 cricket being played here.

Thankfully, there was a conscious effort in 2012 with two tournaments, Jamaica Premier League (JPL) Twenty20 (T20) and the JAM T20 cricket competitions, providing the nation's top cricketers with exposure in recent months.

"It is something the coaching staff welcomes and we wouldn't mind every year it happens," said coach Junior Bennett ahead of his squad's departure for the eastern Caribbean for the 2013 regional tournament.

We note also that the squad bears a decidedly youthful look, including as it does, two teenagers — West Indies Under-19 batsman, Mr John Campbell and the wicketkeeper Mr Aldane Thomas.

It reflects the rapidly changing outlook of Jamaican coaches and selectors, who only a few seasons ago were solidly of the view that very young players should be 'protected' from the 'slam, bang' nature of twenty20 cricket.

The hard, inescapable realties are that young players will just have to learn to adjust quickly, regardless of the format. The experience of other twenty20 tournaments around the world is that when young players are good enough, they do rise to the challenge.

As part of the drive to prepare our young cricketers, the Inter Secondary Schools Sports Association — the body responsible for high school sports — must now find ways to build twenty20 tournaments alongside the more traditional one-day and two-day leagues.

Also, within the schools themselves, the short duration of twenty20 cricket provides an excellent opportunity for coaches and physical education teachers to re-introduce inter-form and inter-house cricket as regular extra-curricular activity.

As is well known, success fosters not just more success but also public interest and support. Should Mr Tamar Lambert and his squad at long last manage to win the regional twenty20 tournament, which opens in Port-of-Spain tomorrow, they will have further boosted the efforts of those who seek to build cricket in schools, clubs and at the grassroots. We wish the Jamaica team the very best.




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