One more term of Heaven means hell for Jamaica's cricket

One more term of Heaven means hell for Jamaica's cricket


Thursday, February 28, 2019

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When head of the Culture, Health, Arts, Sports and Education (CHASE) Fund Wilford “Billy” Heaven took over the leadership of Jamaica's cricket a few years ago, there was optimism and hope.

However, his leadership has been disastrous.

At present, cricket in the island is at its worst stage ever. Under his leadership cricket in Jamaica has plummeted so much so it can only move in one direction from there — and that is up. One thing is certain, based on what we have seen from Heaven over the past four years, his ideas can in no way move the cricket forward.

Mr Heaven, in my view, has done a fantastic job working at CHASE Fund and should be highly commended for that. His leadership of Jamaica Cricket Association leaves a lot to be desired and another term of his leadership will send cricket into perpetual doom.

The annual general meeting of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) is expected to take place today and Heaven is expected to be challenged by former Jamaica batsman Mark Neita. Even before this meeting, and elections take place, there are several issues this administration has failed to deal with. These issues do not augur well for good leadership and should have serious implications for the elections.

The last JCA elections were held at the annual general meeting (AGM) in 2016. The following AGM, in 2017, was called to order without the tabling of the minutes from the 2016 AGM — to be read, corrected and confirmed. This was demanded by the members in attendance and it was not forthcoming. The meeting ended abruptly. To date, a meeting has not been called by President Heaven to address this situation.

It is therefore not certain what method is now being used to determine the legitimacy of those who were recently published on a voters' list. I am not sure if the director can single-handedly confirm the minutes from the 2016 AGM.

I grew up on the notion that when Jamaica and Barbados cricket is strong, West Indies cricket is strong. It now appears West Indies cricket is moving ahead with very little contribution from local talent. We no longer have three or four Jamaicans in the West Indies team, which was a regular feature not so long ago.

If our cricket continues along this path, the chances of the young players representing the regional team could be further stifled. This is evident in the poor preparation of the age-group teams and the results when they participate in regional competitions.

The woeful performance of the Under-15, Under-17, Under-19 boys over the last three years in the regional competitions is unacceptable. Also, it is inexplicable that Jamaica is the only country in the region that does not have a female team participating in the regional Under-19 competition.

Sports cannot be developed if attention is not paid to those at various levels in school. The JCA has placed very little focus in this area. This lack of attention has seen the Under-15 team's best-placed position in the past three tournaments being a distant third, and that was last year. In 2017 they finished second from bottom. In 2016 Trinidad and Tobago won the tournament with 31.5 points. Jamaica finished last with .03 point.

At the Under-17 level, the results were not much different. In 2018, Jamaica, with 1.5 points, came last. The only team they finished ahead of in 2017 was Canada, and in 2016 it was second from bottom. The Under-19 boys' best position was a third-place finish last year.

Under the presidency of Heaven we have witnessed the continued poor performance of the Jamaica Scorpions. In fact, the Scorpions board does not even meet. Against that background, one can understand why there is no marketing or promotion of the Scorpions games played at Sabina Park, thus the players are often greeted by empty stands.

The women's team that came second in the regional tournament held in Jamaica last year did so on raw talent. The preparation they had for that competition was a tournament that lasted for two weekends and then a final.

There has been no T20 tournament for the past four years. The Social Development Commission-run T20 community league continues to attract large followings. If the JCA had not discontinued the national T20 competition I am sure we would be seeing some rising stars around.

The Senior Cup competition now has only four rounds before the knockout stages. Four million dollars is shared among the 24 teams. Teams entering the knockout stages will no doubt encounter more financial troubles.

In the entire term of this administration, no awards ceremony has been held to recognise the cricketers. This is nothing short of a colossal disgrace. Regardless of their performances on the field, our cricketers deserve to be recognised.

The support from the JCA at the parish and club levels is pathetic.

The Headley Cup and Grace Shield competitions, played among high school boys, have seen a decline in the number of schools participating. These competitions are run by the Inter-secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA). However, over the years the JCA pays close attention to them because it is from them the various age group teams are selected.

If the JCA has turned a blind eye to those competitions, the way the primary and prep schools tournaments are treated by them clearly denotes a lack of care and focus. Both have been without sponsors and nothing has been done by the JCA to assist. Then again, another big downfall for this administration is its inability to attract sponsorship of any kind at any level of the game.

I am of the view that Heaven can make a significant contribution to the development of cricket in Jamaica by walking away from the presidency, which would make way for new ideas.

And, while the focus of attention in some quarters is on the stewardship of Heaven, much is not known of the ability of his challenger, Mark Neita, to take charge of the JCA. In the mid-1980s to early 1990s he was an outstanding middle-order batsman for Jamaica. Since his retirement from playing cricket he has been involved in cricket administration at his local club Melbourne and also on the JCA. However, being the leader of a local club does not in any way denote capability to lead a national association, particularly at a time where there is a dearth of quality leadership.

The voters will therefore have to determine who, in their view, is best suited to lead cricket in Jamaica at this time.

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