Let's fix it!
JCA VP urges Gov't to renovate Sabina Park after World Cup letdown
A section of Sabina Park cricket ground in Kingston, Jamaica. (Photo: Observer file)

Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) Vice-President Dr Donovan Bennett wants the Government to move quickly on a pledge to renovate the country's premier cricket facility, Sabina Park.

Bennett told the Jamaica Observer this was essential if the country is to have a chance of staging a tri-nation series set for next year.

The series is to form part of teams' preparations for the Twenty20 (T20) World Cup to be co-hosted by the West Indies and the United States in June 2024.

"I would ask [the Government] to make some money available to do the necessary retrofitting to bring Sabina Park up to international standard. I say this because I'm aware there is a tri-nation series planned for early next year — about March or April — that is to involve West Indies, South Africa, and possibly Pakistan… as a sort of warm-up for the T20 World Cup," he said.

GRANGE...the Government will invest $100 million in the development of youth cricket and cricket in schools over the next five years.

"If the retrofitting is done on time, Jamaica could more than likely be rewarded with that series without any bidding cost at all. The only cost that would be incurred is getting the park up to international standards, which would not just be an investment for that tri-series but would be an investment with long-term effects," Bennett, a medical doctor and a Cricket West Indies (CWI) board director, explained.

Jamaica will not stage T20 World Cup games after the Andrew Holness-led Jamaica Labour Party Government stunned the cricket fraternity by not bidding for hosting rights.

Aside from noting Jamaica's prominent role in West Indies cricket, critics have lambasted the Government for missing the opportunity to boost the economy, upgrade infrastructure, and showcase the country as a leading tourist destination.

However, Sports Minister Olivia Grange said the Government chose not to bid after doing a cost-benefit analysis and deciding the expense to bid and upgrade infrastructure — estimated at over $450 million — was too high.

BENNETT...you can't have a comfortable conversation in the eastern Caribbean right now because of what people are thinking and saying about Jamaica's perceived non-commitment to regional cricket (Photo: Observer file)

"At the end of our consultations with stakeholders it was agreed that Jamaica should prioritise investing in developing cricket from the grass-roots to the high-performance levels over putting in a formal bid," she said in a statement.

The statement said that, in playing its part in "fixing West Indies cricket", the Jamaican Government "will prioritise investment in the local game".

It added that, "The Government will invest $100 million in the development of youth cricket and cricket in schools over the next five years," in addition to "our ambitious plan for the rehabilitation and development of Jamaica's sports infrastructure".

The sport minister said she will "continue discussions with stakeholders about bringing international cricket to Jamaica in the near future".

Bennett suggested that the Government and the JCA sit at the table to determine a way forward.

"I embrace and I'm very happy about the minister's offer, and I'm looking forward to when she can find the time to sit down with the JCA and probably draft a [document] that cements what she's proposing.

"There must be a discussion with the JCA and some sort of draft must be signed in this regard, so we can know how to plan and how we intend to implement the programme that she is suggesting.

"Minister Grange said she wants to host games in the near future, well the near future is next March to April," the JCA vice-president told the Observer.

Bennett, who was recently in Guyana for the climax of the Caribbean Premier League T20 competition, said the tri-series tournament presents an opportunity for Jamaica to somewhat redeem itself among cricket-playing peers in the region after the T20 World Cup fall-out.

"Travelling around the region questions are being asked and comments are being made — you can't have a comfortable conversation in the eastern Caribbean right now because of what people are thinking and saying about Jamaica's perceived non-commitment to regional cricket and to West Indies cricket," he said.

"I can't accept the fact that we do not have a park in Jamaica that can host international cricket."

He said, most significantly, Sabina Park's electronic scoreboard is in a state of disrepair and the bathrooms require refurbishing.

"All this promise about cricket in the near future cannot take place unless Sabina Park is brought up to international standards, which would mean putting up a proper scoreboard, and retrofitting of the bathrooms, etc," said Bennett.

Sanjay Myers

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