Batting flop - Top-order batsmen criticised
— failure to deliver all season
IN the aftermath of Jamaica's unsavoury, if not all too unsurprising exit from the 2013 Regional Four-Day competition, plenty of criticism has been thrown at the feet of a batting line-up that failed time and again to compile respectable scores.
Jamaica's underwhelm-ing performances this season were widely noted, despite the team winning six straight matches -- all ending inside three days -- during the preliminary stage.
Crucially, all those triumphs were heavily influenced by exceptional team bowling efforts.
Left-arm orthodox slow bowler Nikita Miller topped the regional charts with 52 wickets at a phenomenal average of 8.05.
Windward Islands off-spinner Shane Shillingford also accounted for 52 victims, but his tally came at a less miserly 12.28 runs per wicket.
Wrist spinner Odean Brown (19), left-arm speedster Sheldon Cotterell (17), seamer David Bernard (16) and veteran pacer Andrew Richardson (16) were the other major wicket takers for a Jamaica bowling unit that ran through the region's opposition batting at will.
Nevertheless, matters came to a head when the regional first-class kingpins, who won an
unprecedented five consecutive four-day titles between the 2007-08 and 2011-12 seasons, suffered a three-wicket loss to Trinidad & Tobago in the May 2-5 semi-final at Sabina Park.
The defeat also ended a historic 15-match win streak that spanned three seasons.
In that contest, the Jamaicans failed to adequately build on a crucial 76-run first innings advantage by being bowled
out for an appalling 102 in their second innings.
Trinidad & Tobago, guided by Imran Khan's unbeaten 50, and to a lesser extent Rayad Emrit's 25 not out, reached 179-7 to seal the win, despite Bernard snaring 6-39.
For once, the bowlers, though fighting tooth and nail, just could not shelter the Junior Bennett-coached team from the deluge of incompetent batting.
Furthermore, the visitors' quest for victory was made less difficult after two straightforward catching opportunities were missed by Jamaica late in the run chase.
Khan, who batted solidly to 43, was lured into a drive from Bernard's away swinging delivery, but the resultant edge, which flew at a comfortable catching height, was spilled by captain Tamar Lambert at slip.
Moments later, Emrit, then on 11, was inexplicably put down by Nkrumah Bonner at midwicket -- again off the indefatigable Bernard.
The Jamaica team manager Donovan Senior said the frail top-order batting left the lower-order players with plenty to do on one too many occasion.
"We just didn't make enough runs...the lower order batting usually comes good, but it didn't happen in this game (versus T&T)," Senior told the Jamaica Observer recently.
He called for improved preparation of the national team and, while not being detailed, he vaguely fingered behind-the-
"We need to prepare them properly. I don't think we prepared this team properly, especially this year.
"It's a whole heap of problems and persons on the outside can't see those. We have administrative problems and we have preparation problems, but I wouldn't say (there are) coaching problems," the manager added.
Despite accepting that the dropped chances were crucial, 30-year-old Miller was certain where the game was lost.
"Against Trinidad it is pretty obvious...we didn't make as many runs as we could have in that second innings. After getting a lead of about 70 (runs) we needed to consolidate and get a decent total.
"If we had gotten anything close to what we got in the first innings (246 runs), we would have won the game easily. Also, taking those (dropped) chances could have made a lot of difference," the left-arm finger spinner said.
And Miller did not stop at that match. He felt the signs were there throughout the preliminary phase.
"I believe this is the worst season in terms of our batting display as a unit. I think the senior batters didn't come up trumps for us this year and I'm sure they are disappointed about that," he said.
The team failed to muster 300 runs in any single innings during the seven matches. Nor did anyone score a century.
The diminutive wicketkeeper Carlton Baugh was the top Jamaica batsman with an aggregate of 395 runs at an average of 35.90. His top score was 99.
Baugh, 30, was the lone batting light against Trinidad, notching unbeaten knocks of 88 and 38.
While praising the bowling effort, Miller declared that Jamaica did not deserve a place in the regional four-day final.
"I think as a bowling unit we put up a decent show trying to defend a low total... and if we had taken the opportunities we probably wouldn't be talking about this so much.
"But when you look at our season it wouldn't be a fair thing to say that we were deserving of reaching the final, based on how we batted. We didn't have a century all season and the closest anybody came was 99," he said.
Chairman of selectors Courtney Daley agreed that the batting was the major flop, but pin-pointed a bowling option that he felt Lambert could have handled differently. According to Daley, the usually accurate Miller should have been brought into the attack earlier to partner the rampaging Bernard.
"The batting wasn't good at all and that caused it (the loss) ... We were always behind the eighth ball throughout the tournament.
"But I think that possibly if we had done differently with the use of the bowlers we could have come out better. He (Lambert) could have used the left-arm spinner (Miller) at the other end from earlier (in the fourth day's play)," Daley said.
Addressing the reasons for the woeful batting displays, Miller said too many times batsmen opted for big hits when they were under pressure. He suggested that camps should be set up to improve technique.
"I don't think enough people learn the art of batting, especially the young players and even guys playing for (many) years. You don't find too many people being patient or trying to bat themselves out of a difficulty.
"We probably need batting camps both for senior and junior players... the chance to work on technique. Things need to change because what we are doing is totally unacceptable," he said.
He questioned the growing focus on Twenty20 cricket and said some players are struggling to transition from that format to the longer versions.
"Some players are caught in the Twenty20 thing... I think T20 cricket is affecting some batters. Everybody is thinking about T20 cricket, when in my eyes, if you don't play four-day cricket you cannot learn the art and can't improve your batting.
"T20 cricket is entertainment that is important, but in order to be successful at that level people need to play the longer version," Miller lamented.
Jamaica, who have never won a regional Twenty20 competition, also missed out on retaining the Regional Super50 title, after a semi-final defeat to the eventually winners Windward Islands last month.