As the cricketing fraternity in Jamaica continues to reel from news that the Government did not bid for any match in the region's hosting of the 2024 Twenty20 (T20) World Cup, one stakeholder has described the seeming indifference as "anti-cricket".
The tournament, scheduled for next June, is to be co-hosted by Cricket West Indies and United States Cricket.
Dr Akshai Mansingh, the dean of the Faculty of Sport at The University of the West Indies, said that by not bidding as a host venue, the Jamaican Government has shunned opportunities to boost the economy, upgrade infrastructure and further showcase the country as a tourist destination.
"We've turned our back to all of that, either because we don't have the foresight for planning, or we don't see this as a priority, or it's the anti-cricket direction we seem to be taking in Jamaica, whereby Jamaican cricket is being ignored, by and large," he told the Jamaica Observer on Wednesday.
"It is unlikely that this region will ever hold an event bigger than a Cricket World Cup, be it 50-over or T20, and this is among the top three events in the world. We're never going to get the FIFA World Cup and we're never going to get the Olympic Games, so what we in Jamaica have turned our back on is the largest possible event that we could host," Mansingh said.
Since Tuesday, the Observer has tried without success to get a response from Minister of Sport Olivia Grange despite several phone calls to her contact number. There was no reply to questions sent via e-mail.
However, in a development late on Wednesday, the ministry issued a statement insisting the Government is "considering a bid to host" World Cup matches.
It said the "Government sees the benefit in hosting T20 World Cup games but was matching that against the tremendous cost involved" in submitting a bid.
The statement added "discussions are continuing with the Jamaica Cricket Association, which is in dialogue with Cricket West Indies, other stakeholders and potential partners on the way forward", given the costs associated with a potential bid.
The statement from the Sport Ministry come after Cricket West Indies (CWI) Chief Executive Officer Johnny Grave told the Observer on Tuesday that Jamaica was not among seven nations from the Caribbean to submit hosting bids. Grave had also said that the world governing body, ICC, is to "announce the venues this month".
The Observer has learnt that the deadline for bid submissions had twice been extended since May. But though those deadlines have long gone there is a chance that the lack of readiness of some venues in the United States could open the door for the Jamaican Government to make a late bid for Sabina Park in Kingston to host matches.
The Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) has distanced itself from the bidding fiasco, noting that months ago it had sent recommendation for the Government to bid for Sabina Park to host a group match and a semi-final fixture at the T20 World Cup.
It is estimated that the cost to upgrade Sabina Park and other venues to be used for training purposes, in addition to expenses associated with the bid would have amounted to over US$2 million.
Mansingh reasoned the investment is worthwhile.
"You have to invest, initially, but the number of people [visitors] who you could potentially bring in and the economical turnover because of the activities you can organise far exceeds the investment. You use these opportunities to develop your country both infrastructurally and economically," he said.
"I see this [failure to bid] as part of that anti-cricket feeling that seems to be pervading through the whole thing," Mansingh reiterated.
Former West Indies wicketkeeper Jackie Hendriks, who became a prominent administrator, identified "short-sightedness" in the Government's approach, while noting Jamaica's prominent role in regional cricket folklore.
"I am distressed to know that the Jamaican Government did not make a bid to host any World Cup matches here. When you look at Jamaica's history of cricket, it's astonishing that they [failed] to match some of the other West Indian islands," the 89-year-old Jamaican, who played for the regional side in the 1960s, said.
Nehemiah Perry, who also played for West Indies and Jamaica, said the news is a major blow for the promotion and marketing of the sport in the country.
"This is very, very disturbing for me, a former cricketer. And even if you are not a former cricketer, you should be disappointed that we are left out in the cold and let down by our Government.
"There needs to be some introspection as a nation. Where are we going as it relates to cricket?
"I am thinking from a young cricketer's standpoint, growing up and building their craft only to hear that our Government was unable to secure games at Sabina Park. What it boils down to, we have lost our way as a nation to develop cricketers and promoting the sport," the former off-spinner, who played four Test matches for the West Indies, said.
The Government has also been taken to task for not partnering with the organisers of the hugely popular Caribbean Premier League (CPL) to have Jamaica Tallawahs host matches on home soil.
The Tallawahs, who won the CPL last year, have not hosted a match in Jamaica since 2019, and this season, the franchise is the only one in the six-team tournament to not have a home venue.
"When we look at the CPL there is no support from the Government. We have countries like St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana who are hosting CPL games.
"And you would have seen where the owners of the Tallawahs franchise have been begging and bawling out for support because they can't do it by themselves. The other governments see it fit because they are looking at the long-term effect of tourism. Enticing people to come and spend money is always a win-win situation," he argued.
Mansingh said he was also nonplussed by the Government's seeming unwillingness to embrace the CPL as an income earner.
"We have not held CPL in four years and everywhere we go we can see economic activities taking place, but Jamaica has been excluded from of that… and now we've not bid for the World Cup.
"Not only have we turned our backs to economic gains that can be made, but we are also turning our back on a sport that traditionally has made more money for Jamaicans than any sport over the years. We've had far more people making a living out of cricket than any other sport," Mansingh said.