Cricket Casualty? Switch from Jamaica now almost certain
UP to press time last night a final word had not yet come, but it seemed certain that the Jamaica leg of the Digicel Home Series involving the current South Africa tour of the West Indies will have to be moved elsewhere because of the ongoing violence and unrest in sections of Kingston.
A last ditch effort by the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) to organise a switch of Test matches with Barbados, which would see Jamaica hosting in late June rather than the first half of the month, seemed doomed to failure yesterday because of logistical considerations, including ticket sales and television broadcast arrangements.
"I have to tell you there are some major challenges, and there is no easy way around them," a clearly disheartened Paul Campbell, president of the JCA told the Observer last night.
Campbell, who arrived in Kingston yesterday from Fort Lauderdale, Florida where Jamaica was part of a cricket festival on the weekend, said it was hoped that a late night teleconference among West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) directors would be possible and that a final decision would be announced today.
The West Indies and South Africa teams were scheduled to arrive in Jamaica early next week ahead of the last of five One Day Internationals set for Sabina Park, the nation's headquarters of cricket on South Camp Road in downtown Kingston, on June 3. That game would have been followed by a practise match between the South Africans and a Jamaica team at Chedwin Park, St Catherine June 6 and 7, as well as the first Test between West Indies and South Africa at Sabina Park, June 10-14.
A State of Emergency limited to Kingston and St Andrew has been in place since Sunday, following the government's decision to sign an extradition order for West Kingston 'Don' Christopher Coke, which triggered a heightening and widening of disorder.
An interview aired on KLAS FM 89 Radio yesterday involving WICB Ernest Hilaire and former West Indies batsman, now broadcaster, Maurice Foster appeared to suggest that a switch was inevitable and all that remained was the formality of final ratification by board members.
The Observer has learnt that among the major considerations that would have influenced the final decision was the word from the high command of Jamaica's security forces to the WICB that as a result of the prevailing instability there could be no "guarantees".
Under the JCA's proposed arrangement for a switch of Tests, Barbados would host the first Test, June 10-14 and Jamaica the third and last, June 26-30. However, Campbell told the Observer last night that among the "challenges" was that Barbados was already well advanced in arranging for the third Test, "including ticket sales". Additionally, he said, the proposal would probably not sit well with television broadcasters who would have to rearrange.
Hilaire, yesterday, also appeared to pour cold water on the proposal for a switch of venues for the first and third Tests, pointing out that any such arrangement would be based on the "risky" supposition that all would be back to normal in Jamaica by late June.
Hilaire said yesterday that last year's gun attack on a bus carrying Sri Lankan cricketers in strife-torn Pakistan had made world cricket's governing body, the International Cricket Council (ICC) even more cautious as regards to the threat of terrorism.
The WICB has already had to arrange a venue switch during the current tour. Two Twenty20s and the first two ODIs had to be switched from Port of Spain to Antigua following the announcement of a snap elections in Trinidad and Tobago.