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Short shrift for tourney


Ezra Stuart

Short shrift for tourney

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It is never ideal for a first-class team to be playing in an important semi-final without their best cricketers, but both Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago will have to do without their West Indies’ selectees when they battle at Queen’s Park Oval from Friday for a place in the final of next month’s Regional Four-Day Tournament.
Barbados, with the psychological advantage of defeating Trinidad and Tobago for the first time in five years when they met in the round-robin exchanges at?Kensington Oval, will be without fast bowlers Fidel Edwards and Kemar Roach, as well as dynamic all-rounder Dwayne Smith.
On the other hand, Trinidad and Tobago won’t have the services of Adrian Barath, big-hitting Kieron Pollard, brothers Dwayne Bravo and Darren Bravo as well as mystery off-spinner Sunil Narine, who are all in the West Indies’ Twenty20 squad.
The Trinidadians were clearly unsettled by the pace and bounce of the pitch at “The Mecca”?and it’s really a shame that Barbados won’t have “home” advantage, having finished second to unbeaten Jamaica in the points table.
It raises the question of why the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB)?is staging such matches when teams cannot benefit from having their “stars” available.
Also, with sponsorship hard to come by, one would’ve thought that the WICB?would be trying to build the profile of its premier first-class championship.
In fact, there is really no need for semi-finals or a final in a league competition.
It is really laughable that Jamaica have easily defeated all six of the other competing teams for maximum 72 points and are now being asked to play a semi-final against Guyana to reach the final of the same competition when they should’ve been champions.
Only when teams are playing in different zones, should there be such play-off matches.
It probably would make more sense to pick the best players from the rest and let them play as a combined side against Jamaica, who are going after a fifth successive crown.
Already, this year’s first-class championship has been watered down by the absence of the leading players for other reasons such as injury, which resulted in Trinidad and Tobago also losing their captain Denesh Ramdin and fast-bowling spearhead Ravi Rampaul.
Unfortunately, Tino Best, probably bowling better than he has done at any time during his career and fresh from taking the first six wickets in a practice match during the pre-series preparatory camp at the 3Ws Oval, again sat out all five One-Day Internationals against Australia while Dwayne Bravo opened the bowling. 
There was also the departure of players in the early rounds for the inaugural Bangladesh Premier League while Edwards left in mid-tournament for the South Africa T20 Cup and this was followed by players representing the West Indies in the ongoing Digicel home series against Australia.
One school of thought says it is a wise move to play the regional tournament and the international series simultaneously as it allows the West Indies to select a player who is actually engaged in competitive cricket, should the need arise.
While the unavailability of the leading players has given the reserves or second-string players a window of opportunity, they have certainly looked out of their depth with many of the batsmen unable to score a half-century.
No wonder spectators have been very scarce at the match venues. In fact, the Inspire Sports Under-13 Final; the Christ Church Joel Garner Twenty20, the Sunrise and Emmerton tapeball cricket tournaments have attracted twice and thrice the number of spectators watching Barbados play.
But why should they really watch a substandard competition with below-par players, which is scarcely ever promoted and where teams struggle to reach 100 runs in an innings and are beaten in two or three days?
Apart from Smith, who hit 67 in his only innings against whipping boys the Leeward Islands, no other Barbados batsman has managed an average above 40 runs an innings or recorded a century.
The batting performance of the players in the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC), which include a number of Barbadians, has also been woeful, with no one managing an average above 25.
Jamaican Shacaya Thomas, who was 12th man for the first five matches, more than made the most of his solitary opportunity, with 119 runs from his two innings of 78 and 41 against his native Jamaica, ending with an average of 59.50.
Tall fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder (201 runs, average 18.27 to go with his 23 wickets, average 18.17 ) actually was the only CCC?player who reached the 200-run mark, as 39-year-old coach/player Floyd Reifer again occupied the batting position of a younger player who has a future.
Some readers may feel that I have a beef with the ageing Reifer, but I simply state the facts and call a spade a spade without fear or favour.
The stark reality is that he failed to make a single half-century while managing a mere 164 runs in six matches at an average of 16.40.
Maybe, he is trying to prove a point to Sir Hilary Beckles that he can play at this level once he still has the passion for the game.
Let’s hope the WICB?york CCC?and replace it with a team from the High Performance Centre, which could include some of the past graduates who cannot make their national teams.
Reifer would be my choice as non-playing coach as he has done a commendable job in that role with CCC, who have on occasion beaten the established regional teams, and also with the University of the West Indies outfit in the domestic Division One competition.
Finally, it is really mystifying that even with the resignation of George Linton and fellow selectors Winston Reid and Michael Inniss, no room could be found in the squad for all-rounder Kevin Stoute, who many pundits believe should have been in the team from the very start.
Stoute was named in the 13 for the game against the Leewards but was then, without even playing, omitted from the travelling party to Grenada for the clash with the Windward Islands.
Then, when Smith was called up by the West Indies’ selectors to prepare for the two Twenty20 matches against Australia, one would have thought that Stoute, a batting all-rounder, like Smith, would be the logical choice to replace him.
Also, with Shamarh Brooks, a batsman, who really looks good at the crease, but continues to flatter to deceive, managing a mere 44 runs at an average of 8.80 in three matches, Stoute, a West Indies A player, has still not been afforded a chance.
One just wonders when a new selection panel will be put in place so that?Barbados can again be represented by the best available cricketers and not those who some people of influence believe should wear the Barbados cap but are perennial underachievers.
Maybe, the time has also come for regional teams like the Leewards, who really need a couple of quality batsmen, to recruit players from other territories, who for some strange reasons, are not selected on their national teams.
If West Indies cricket is reach the top again, then the best players in the Caribbean should be playing in the regional competitions.
I could not end without saying congratulations to Darren Sammy and the West Indies team for drawing the ODI?series against Australia.

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