“EXTRAORDINARY. That’s what champions do.”
Those were the joyous sentiments of club president Maurice Adrian King as unbeaten ICBL Empire marched to another capture of the Elite Division, the symbol of supremacy in domestic cricket in this country.
The thrill of victory could not have been any sweeter for the Blues as this latest triumph comes in the 100th anniversary of the formation of the famous Bank Hall Club that has produced knights in Sir Everton Weekes and the late Sir Frank Worrell.
This was the 21st time that Empire had won the top tier in local cricket and their first conquest since 2004.
Yesterday, when the dust had settled after they secured the two points to put them out of the reach of defending champions Maple – achieved at the fall of the fifth Guardian General Barbados Youth wicket – dozens of supporters and former players, including Roland Holder, Michael Inniss and Peter Inniss, gathered at the Bank Hall clubhouse.
King said it was a humbling experience to be president of the club at such a momentous time.
“It is humbling to be custodian of Empire at this time. We have worked very hard for this and it has been a long time in coming. It’s a programme that we started about four or five seasons ago when Sherlon [Greaves] came back to the club to take over as coach.
“It really is quite gratifying that we have put together everything over time. We wanted to be strong in all three divisions and we have achieved that. It is really great to have finally won the Elite Cup;
we are really happy,” he said.
It was an early birthday present for wicketkeeper batsman Jamal Smith, now in his fourth season as captain. Smith, who turns 30 on Thursday, said championship glory was the biggest moment of his career.
“This is fantastic. It’s an overwhelming feeling, especially in the 100th year, because as you know we have been kicking off our celebrations, so the boys knew what they had to do.”
“The president and vice-president supported the guys really well. I was very impressed with the administration of the club, so it was just a matter of the boys returning the favour,” Smith said.
Empire won their first six matches, a record in the modern era, and Smith was in no doubt that it was teamwork that did the trick, although he made special mention of left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican, batsmen Roston Chase and Kevin Stoute and seamer Tennyson Roach.
“Tennyson did us justice in three games in particular. I remember him coming at No. 11 and helping us get first innings lead and we were able to win those matches. He is 34 and gave us a big effort all the way through. Warrican was brilliant with the ball; Chase, bat and ball; Stoute, bat and ball.
“Ryan Hinds played his part. The core players did the job. Myself and Jason Haynes did our part at the top, setting up the game. We played to a plan, we played to a particular style and that seems to be working at the moment,” said Smith.