Restart of regional 4-day cricket is good news, but...
Jamaica Scorpions captain and opener John Campbell drives during a match in the 2022 regional four day competition. (Photo: CWI Media)

THOSE who closely watch West Indies cricket know that the morale-boosting 1-0 Test series victory over England in March was helped considerably by preparation gained over two rounds of the 2022 regional four-day tournament just before that.

Hence the importance of the second phase of the red-ball tournament which opens today in Trinidad and Tobago, with all six Caribbean franchise teams being hosted there until early June for three rounds of matches.

As Cricket West Indies (CWI) and its selectors Messrs Desmond Haynes and Ramnaresh Sarwan eye the schedule ahead, there is expectation for young, emerging players to do well with a view to cricket’s longest format.

Though unconfirmed, reports suggest that West Indies are likely to host Bangladesh for a two-Test series late next month as part of the ongoing World Test championships. West Indies are currently in seventh place ahead of Bangladesh and England.

Batsmen, in particular, gained from the first two rounds of six regional four-day games involving franchise teams from Jamaica, Leeward Islands, Windward Islands, Guyana, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago.

West Indies Captain Mr Kraigg Brathwaite, leading run scorer for the West Indies against England in the three-Test series in March, and wicketkeeper/batsman Mr Joshua Da Silva who scored a match-winning century in the final Test, were probably most pleased with the four-day match preparation ahead of that series.

Others such as Messrs Jermaine Blackwood and Nkrumah Bonner, who also made centuries against England, gained confidence from those games which were restricted to Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago because of the pandemic.

The ongoing health crisis and related costs were no doubt at the forefront of the decision to limit the last three rounds to just Trinidad and Tobago.

The situation is by no means ideal. Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, CWI will find itself in a position to revert to the pre-pandemic format when the teams played each other home and away.

There is a clear and pressing need for greater corporate support for development-based competition such as the annual four-day tournament. That said, we are well aware that such support will only come on a sustained basis if success, as was achieved against England in March, can be repeated consistently.

Readers may recall that in early 2020 the four-day tournament was cut short in its final stages by the pandemic. There was no tournament last year.

As the situation now stands, Barbados Pride are atop the four-day tournament standings after the first two rounds with 42 points. Trinidad and Tobago Red Force are at their shoulder with 38.8 points. After two losses in the first two rounds, the Jamaica Scorpions are last with just 8.8 points.

The Jamaicans are obviously out of contention for the Headley/Weekes Trophy, but individuals have much to prove, not least the highly regarded batter Mr Brandon King. The latter missed the first two rounds in March because of white-ball duties with the West Indies team in Asia. Now he will probably have just one game before departing for The Netherlands with the West Indies white-ball squad for a 50-overs tournament there.

Such are the realities for elite players everywhere as global cricket’s schedule becomes increasingly more crowded and complex.

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