MANDEVILLE, Manchester — Manchester recently missed out on a fourth straight Jamaica Cricket Association Senior Cup title, but Coach Barry Barnes is not disheartened.
"That's cricket and we know that's how championships go, but we are looking forward to next year when we expect to bounce back," Barnes told Jamaica Observer Central.
In the recent Senior Cup final at Chedwin Park in St Catherine, Manchester were edged by Melbourne CC on first innings in a drawn game. The scores were Manchester, 203 and 225-9 declared; Melbourne, 216 and 132-2.
"We lost in a final after winning three titles in a row...we know we are on the right path," said Barnes.
He is motivated by a wealth of young talent in his squad, including Jamaica age group representatives such as national under-19 captain Oshane Walters, batsman Tristan Coleman and all-rounder Chris Powell. All three are now with the Jamaica Under-19 squad contesting the regional tournament in Barbados.
The plan is to continue to blend emerging talent with senior players such as Donovan Sinclair, Gary Graham, David Powell, Jamie Merchant and Zeniffe Fowler. The value of experience was underlined in the Senior Cup final as Sinclair slammed a quick-fire second innings 94, opener Fowler stroked 64 and left-arm spinner Powell had a five-wicket first innings haul.
"If we can continue the programme we now have, we know we can grow from strength to strength," said Barnes.
The difficulty for him and the Manchester Cricket Association, as for all parish cricket associations and clubs, is funding. Jamaican cricket has been hit hard by the economic slump of recent years and clubs and parishes have felt the brunt.
In the case of the Manchester CA, the collapse of the bauxite/alumina sector in the parish has been devastating.
"We used to get a little stipend from Windalco (Kirkvine plant) and we really miss that now... and now we have also had to move (home games and practice) from there because the rent that is now being charged is too much," said Barnes.
The cricketers now use Manchester High School field as their base. "We are really grateful to Manchester High for that," added the coach.
Barnes said a challenge for the Manchester CA ahead of the new season would be to find support for the cricket programme from various quarters including the business community and political representatives.