Whither Women's cricket?
Experts look to schools for sustainability
DESPITE recent successes in regional competitions, local officials close to Women's cricket believe more can be done to develop the sport across the island.
The Stafanie Taylor-led Women, holders of the 50-overs title, also copped the inaugural West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Women's Twenty20 (T20) crown after narrowly defeating Trinidad & Tobago at Sabina Park last week.
However, team manager Dorothy Hobson is not entirely satisfied with the progress made over the years.
"There has been a slight move forward, but I personally think that the board of the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) and the WICB need to pay closer attention to what's happening to the Women's game," Hobson told the Jamaica Observer after the T20 final.
Hobson, a former national player, urged the relevant authorities to introduce a female cricket competition in high schools and called for closer links between the traditional clubs and the Women's game.
"Certainly now the game needs to be introduced into the high schools. I think the current (under-developed) state will remain as it is unless it gets into the schools.
"More needs to be done at the club level. When I played we had Women's teams attached to clubs like Melbourne, Kensington, Lucas and so on. I think we need to get back to that," the manager said, while lamenting the limited preparation for the national team.
"There needs to be regular training sessions and regular camps. We need to have scouts going around the country looking to see any talents emerging. They (the JCA) need to pay more attention to development programmes for the Women.
"For example, in Jamaica the (national) team had six days to prepare (for the T20 tournament) so in that context the team did extremely well to reach the final and win," Hobson said.
Dudley Bryan, a long serving JCA director, said while there have been improvements over the years, he is not "fully satisfied with how the game has developed" and charged that more needs to be done if "more players from Jamaica are to be rated among the best in the world".
Meanwhile, the Women's national head coach Cleon Smith told the Observer that anything short of implementing a workable succession programme by the JCA would leave him "disappointed".
"We have a professional unit here. We have a very wonderful set of ladies. Still, the JCA have to look at a development plan. They (the players) are still young but at the same time anything can happen so there has to be a plan in place. I would be disappointed if that is not put in place for younger girls coming up," he said.
Local cricket boss Lyndel Wright praised the achievement of the Women and conceded that proper infrastructure and a high schools' competition need to be implemented to maintain the success.
"Our ladies have made us really proud. They are always a part of our programmes and I'm sure this (T20) win will enhance that. We will have to see how well we can extend and have ladies' cricket played at the schools. And yes, we also have to look at the domestic point of view," he said.
In 2010, Paul Campbell, then the head of the JCA told this newspaper that they were in talks with the Inter-Secondary Schools Sports Association (ISSA) to pioneer a female cricket competition at that level.
When contacted yesterday ISSA competitions officer George Forbes confirmed that the JCA made contact, but added that lack of funding has been a challenge.
"Over a year ago they (the JCA) intimated some interest in us having a girls' competition but we don't have the funds for it. If they can provide the funding and the girls are willing to come out and play we have no problems in helping to put things together," said Forbes.
The JCA president hailed the recent partnership with Hotel Four Seasons in staging the local Women's T20 competition, but pleaded for other entities to provide support.
"Special thanks to Hotel Four Seasons, because they have helped in a really positive way with our local Women's competition. We would like to improve the Women's programme... (but) of course one would recognise the importance of finance in all of this. We need financial support for our programmes. We need sponsors to come on board," Wright said.
Given the association's history of struggling to attract sponsorship there remains only a tiny glimmer of optimism among the country's many cricket watchers that the Women's game will readily get the boost that is needed.