Returning to our cricket glorySaturday, June 06, 2020
In light of the novel coronavirus pandemic and the ban on sporting activities, this is an excellent time to reflect and consider how Jamaica and the West Indies can return to sporting glory.
There was a time when West Indies and Jamaican cricket was synonymous with world-class cricket and champions number one batsmen and bowlers. Names such as Garfield Sobers, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, among others, were known worldwide. Today we still have number one batsmen and maybe bowlers but certainly since the early 1990s, our cricket has been on the decline. Sporadic victories and only glimpses of our world-class skills are now the epitome of our cricket. As we continue to look, as a Caricom nation, for West Indies and local cricket to return to its glory days, the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) in the 2017-18 cricket season started the JCA Super League.
The Super League is comprised of six franchises, namely: Southern Seals, Northern Panthers, Western Warriors, Eastern Eagles, Central Titans, and the Combined Universities and Colleges. This tournament is the highest level of local cricket in the country and is played in a home and away format.
The winning team is the one that has accumulated the most points at the end of the 10 games played. Each franchise is made up of 20 players, bringing the tally to 120 players, which in my opinion transforms it to one of quantity instead of quality tournament. I remind you that since its inception the purpose of this tournament was to replace the national trials and also to make players match-ready in the event that they are needed to replace out-of-form or injured players during the regional tournaments.
One hundred and twenty players could never be in contention to replace players at the national or regional level. This number is too large and comprises players that are out of contention for the national team due to fitness levels, poor bowling actions, poor form, etc. This number could be reduced to allow for the inclusion of those players requiring more practice and who have serious ambitions of playing cricket at the highest levels, whether on national teams or plying their trade in tournaments across the world.
In addition, this could create vacancies for past national players and those who require quality cricket games to maintain a high playing level while out of international tournaments.
As we look to improve upon what already exists, the number of franchises could be reduced. The conditions of play should be similar to that of regional cricket or higher, to mirror the possible situations that these players, when selected, will encounter. Players should be exposed to travelling to venues to play and staying overnight at different facilities. The fitness of players should also be a requirement for players' participation.
There should be more control over pitch preparation to ensure the standards are at an acceptable level across the board. The quality of the pitches being used is vastly different and is affecting the quality of play. The batsmen and bowlers alike are being affected as a result of poor pitch preparation. Bowlers end up taking many wickets on a particular pitch as opposed to another where they are unable to take any.
The JCA should be applauded for its initiative in trying a different format to prepare players. However, I believe that this model requires adjusting to improve its quality. As this tournament is still relatively new, I implore the JCA not to abandon but improve on this model to get maximum results.
The current financial support given to the franchisees would be more than sufficient to strengthen the competition if the number of franchises are reduced. This would help with streamlining, hence producing cricketers of better quality rather than quantity, based on the above recommendations.
Quality local players produced by quality tournaments can only mean quality regional players and most certainly a return to our glory days!
Editor's note: Laurence Garriques is a lecturer at the University of Technology, Jamaica Caribbean School of Sport Sciences.
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