By Steven Leslie | Sun, November 11, 2012 - 12:03 AM
Former Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) president Tony Marshall and members of the board provided the opportunity for the Sagicor UWI student team to fully participate in the Division 1 Championship in 2006.
It was widely known that the physical infrastructure had developed significantly at the 3Ws Oval.
One noteworthy feature that existed prior to admission was that UWI had no fewer than 40 student cricketers who were involved and spread amongst Division 1 clubs.
Would a group of tertiary level student cricketers exposed to specialized coaching expertise and proper facilities improve the base of Barbadian talent?
A basic model was suggested – permit a group of students of the Cave Hill Campus who were in a cricket development programme the opportunity to compete at Division 1 level and expand the base of cricketing talent available for Barbados and West Indies selection.
The identification and role to be played by coach/player Floyd Reifer, an experienced individual, to mould and provide guidance to these young cricketers was key to the success of the programme.
The proposal was accepted and the time had arrived to test the experiment. The invitation by the BCA was appreciated by players, officials and administrators.
Over the years, the programme has seen the elevation of players such as Omar Phillips to West Indies Test colours.
Other notable strides have been made by Kyle Corbin, Kevin McClean and Raymon Reifer. Our Caribbean neighbours have also benefitted from the UWI development programme with players such as Vincentians Miles Bascombe and Romel Currency, Jamaican Chadwick Walton, Dominican Liam and Trinidadian Kavesh Kantasingh making positive strides.
Young players such as Anthony Alleyne, Nekoli Parris and Marques Clarke will continue to benefit from the UWI development programme.
UWI made a cautious start to competitive cricket in the big league and finished second in the three-day competition in their zone (2006 and 2007) at the end of the first two years.
Part of the focus of the UWI programme has been on personal development, hard work and building team spirit.
The records will reflect that the first victory achieved by the team in a BCA three-day fixture was in 2006 against Barbados Cricket League (BCL) at the Brereton Cricket Ground. The success of the team continued.
Under the direction of former West Indies Under-19 captain Shirley Clarke, the UWI team secured ten consecutive victories and were crowned champions of the 2007 Sagicor Super Cup (50-over) competition.
This was then followed by a period of dominance, the strategic execution of which was orchestrated by Reifer. The combination of Reifer and Phillips in 2008 has borne fruit for the team from Cave Hill.
UWI created modern day history by capturing four consecutive championship titles between 2009 and 2012. The dominance of the Phillips-led side is highlighted by the fact that UWI have secured more victories than any of their competitors in three of the four seasons under review.
In 48 Division 1 (Elite Division) matches played during the four-year period (2009-2012), UWI have won 20 matches and had three losses. Twenty-five matches have been drawn.
The UWI remains committed to ensuring that effective community outreach programmes are implemented.
The success and effectiveness of the cricket programme may be enhanced where the benefits to wider society are acknowledged and appreciated.
The annual UWI Inter-Parish 20/20 tournament has served to promote community spirit and integrate players from every section of the cricket fraternity.
The inaugural tournament was held in 2007 with representative teams from each parish comprising players from the BCA and BCL.
All matches are held under lights at the 3Ws Oval which creates the perfect environment for large groups from the urban and rural community to support their Barbadian players.
The rules of the competition require each team to have two Under-19 players in their final XI on the field of play.
Schoolboy batting prodigy and West Indies Test player Kraigg Brathwaite has joined a host of other Barbados senior and junior players in the much anticipated competition.
In the five-year history of the competition, some WI Test players such as Dwayne Smith, Kemar Roach, Fidel Edwards, Kirk Edwards, Pedro Collins, Ryan Hinds, Floyd Reifer and Tino Best have been eager participants.
The teams that have captured the coveted prize are: St Peter Voyagers (2007), UWI Blackbirds (2008), 2009 (St Lucy Pirates), 2010 (Christ Church Dolphins), 2011 (St James Settlers).
The sacrifice and commitment required by this group of student cricketers to achieve success must be commended.
It is fair to suggest that the notion that a young person should “choose” between academic or sporting excellence could now be dismissed.
The fruits of hard work, scientific planning and strategic thinking will only continue to benefit Barbados and the wider region in years to come.
• Steven Leslie is the cricket coordinator at the UWI Cave Hill Campus. He is a post-graduate student pursuing an MSc in Cricket Studies and has served as manager of the UWI team since 2006.
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