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Batting meltdown

Losing to the Windward Islands is usually not taken lightly by Barbadian cricket fans.

And it is not only a matter of being beaten but also the manner. Hence, when title-holders Barbados were soundly defeated by nine wickets in two-and-a-half days in the first round West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Day/Night first-class match at Beausejour in St Lucia, the inevitable criticism followed. For many years, the Windwards were viewed as the minnows of regional cricket and though there have been improvements in their play, local fans were clearly upset by the fact that the Barbados batting in the second innings appeared to be reckless as they fell for 90, giving the Windwards only 52 to win.

It was not the sort of stuff this proud cricketing nation is known for. In the midst of following the first and second One-Day Internationals between West Indies and England in Antigua last Friday and Sunday, I also had a commitment in relation to the Windwards-Barbados match by way of updates for the Barbados Cricket Association website. Make no bones about it.

There were challenges ranging from inconsistent radio commentaries to an absence of live video streaming which it is understood was due to Internet problems at the ground. In the circumstances, I must wholeheartedly thank the Barbados team manager Hartley Reid, along with the likes of scorer/statistician Roland Cox and his fellow St Lucian, journalist and commentator Ryan O’Brian, whom I have known for over three decades since he was a student at The Lodge School, for helping my cause.

Reid, in particular, was very co-operative. The effective use of cell phones with texting very much in focus became even more telling on the third day when Barbados were losing wickets rapidly.

The last nine tumbled for 45 runs in 23.2 overs. Based on the thousands of hits on the BCA website, I know that cricket fans generally were following the match with keen interest. When I questioned Reid about the Barbados batting display in the second innings, he put it down to habits, which he reckoned the players had developed from the recent NAGICO Super50 championship in Trinidad & Tobago, which Barbados won.

Yet, with all due respect, I had to challenge Reid’s assessment. After all, it was only last season that the regional Super50 tournament was played simultaneously with the four-day championship and players were forced to adjust accordingly.

In the match against the Windwards, only new captain Kraigg Brathwaite, with a typically solid knock of 82 in 333 minutes off 251 balls containing five fours and the unrelated Carlos Brathwaite, who made 44 off 107 balls with five boundaries as well, had anything to shout about in a first innings total of 213 all out.

Kraigg Brathwaite was the only batsman who performed in Barbados' opening match against the Windward Islands.

Kraigg Brathwaite was the only batsman who performed in Barbados’ opening match against the Windward Islands.

Be that as it may, I maintain that nothing beats the good, old traditional trial matches when preparing for major competitions. Even in the face of the NAGICO Super50 ending two weeks before the start of the four-day tournament, it still boggles the mind as to why Barbados did not have a single trial or practice match, whatever you want to call it, leading up to the four-day competition.

I am aware that the selectors sought to have a Day/Night three-day practice match against Combined Campuses & Colleges (CCC) at 3Ws Oval, with the knowledge that in the original fixtures, CCC and Barbados were to have met at the same venue for a Day/Night third round encounter, starting March 14.

All told, Barbados were listed to play four Day/Night matches. When it was realised that the Day/Night practice match against CCC was not possible, every effort should still have been made to play a warm-up day game, even if it meant among the Barbados trial invitees with a few more interested players added. As it has turned out, the WICB announced only on Tuesday, without giving reasons for the changes, that the CCC-Barbados match will now be played during the day only, along with two others – the sixth round match between Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica at Queen’s Park
in Port of Spain, and the last round fixture featuring the Leeward Islands and Barbados at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground in Antigua.

In doing a bit of research, one would find that totals of under 100 have been creeping into Barbados’ cricket at the first-class level in recent years. It is an area that needs seriously addressing, especially for a nation, which boasts of a record 21 titles at this level, along with two others in the so-called “International” Challenge series.

In fact, Barbados were bowled out for 85 in the second innings against the Windward Islands at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada in 2012 but still won by 71 runs following a total of 192 in the first innings. There are two other low scores made by Barbados in recent years: 90 in the first innings against Combined Campuses & Colleges at 3Ws Oval in 2011 when CCC won by five wickets and 90 again in the second innings against Jamaica at Sabina Park in the 2012 final when Barbados lost by 139 runs after taking a first innings lead of 18 with a total of 291.

Now in light of the indifferent batting against the Windward Islands in the opening round and clearly with the knowledge that it was most unlikely former captain and key batsman Kirk Edwards and fast bowler Jason Holder would be in the West Indies squad for the three-match Twenty20 International series against England at Kensington Oval next week, I felt strongly that every effort should have been made for them to play in the second round Day/Night match against Guyana at Providence, starting today.

Both Edwards and Holder, along with all-rounder Dwayne Smith, who is in the West Indies T20 squad, were involved in the three-match ODI series against England in Antigua, which ended on Wednesday.

In checking with officials of the WICB, I was told it would not have been a problem for Edwards and Holder to get a flight into Georgetown by yesterday. But Barbados stuck with the same squad.

Yet, Trinidad & Tobago found it fitting to include Darren Bravo, who was also a part of the West Indies ODI squad in Antigua, for their match against the Windward Islands at Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, also starting today. On every possible occasion, your best team
should be on show. This, after all, is the highest level of domestic cricket in the region and though the standard of play has dropped significantly, we cannot appear to accept certain shortcomings.
(Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website ( Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights.)

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