COLUMN – Calm before the storm
Call it the calm after the storm if you wish but the last four teams battling for supremacy in the BCA Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship will have their special interest as well next Tuesday and Wednesday under the lights at Kensington Oval.
As is stands, no one expects dancing girls, packed stands, beating drums and some of the other attractions associated with the third annual Caribbean Premier League (CPL) since last Saturday when the Tournament opened and comes to a climax of the Barbados leg tomorrow.
Yet, the players and supporters of LIME, Sagicor Life UWI, ESA Field Pickwick and CounterPoint Wanderers are all eagerly bracing themselves for exciting play in the Sagicor General T20 semi-finals.
On Tuesday, LIME, seeking their first final since the inaugural Tournament in 2008, will oppose UWI, who are on the hunt for a record third title, and Pickwick and Wanderers, the two oldest clubs in Barbados (a combined 271 years), clash on Wednesday. Wanderers were founded in 1877 and Pickwick in 1882.
Wanderers are anticipating a second straight final, while Pickwick are after their first.
Should UWI advance, they will join ICBL Empire as only the second team to contest four finals. Empire were finalists in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, winning the title five years ago, while UWI reached the big stage in 2010, 2012 and 2013, losing only on the first occasion.
The final is scheduled for July 10.
For the semi-finals and final, fans will be accommodated in a solitary stand –– 3Ws –– with play starting at 7 o’ clock.
So what should one expect?
When LIME and UWI met in the preliminaries (Zone ‘A’) in Series 6 at Wildey on May 31, the home side lost by nine runs.
Now LIME will be without their inspirational captain and off-spinning all-rounder Ashley Nurse, who scored an unbeaten 70 in that preliminary match. In fact, Nurse, who represents Barbados Tridents, is one of three top LIME players who will miss the rest of the Sagicor T20 Championship because of commitments to the CPL. The others are fast bowling all-rounder Javon Searles and pacer Miguel Cummins, both of whom are in the Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel squad. Nurse and Cummins are yet to play a CPL game this season.
Funny enough, the only Sagicor T20 match which both Searles and Cummins played this season was in the quarter-finals against Brathwaite Construction/Crane Resort St. Catherine.
Other key players who have turned out for the semi-final teams in the Sagicor T20 but are now playing in the CPL are the UWI captain and wicket-keeper/batsman Chadwick Walton (Jamaica Tallawahs), his UWI team-mates, batting all-rounder Jonathan Carter and batsman Kyle Corbin (both Barbados Tridents), Shai Hope, the Pickwick wicket-keeper/batsman (Barbados Tridents), and the Wanderers pair of fast bowling all-rounder Jason Holder (Barbados Tridents) and batting all-rounder Raymon Reifer (St Kitts & Nevis Patriots).
So it can be argued that the CPL has robbed the Sagicor General T20 of several leading players at a crucial stage.
Pickwick will also be without former West Indies fast bowler Tino Best, who left for England to play for Lashings a couple days after firing the Foursquare Oval side to their fifth straight win in the preliminaries with a record six wickets for six runs against his old club BDFSP at Paragon.
Wanderers, too, will miss a key batsman with international experience in Kirk Edwards, who scored 60 against two-time champions Maple in the quarter-finals. He is playing club cricket in England.
The Dayrells Road team, however, welcome back the Barbados first-class captain and West Indies Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite, who played in the first two Sagicor T20 matches against Maple and Massy United Insurance Wildey.
Brathwaite may not be the most exciting T20 batsman but he got into that mood on the opening day of the BCA Elite division Championship last Saturday when he slammed an unbeaten 172 to help spur Wanderers to the day’s highest total of 342 for two declared off 65.5 overs against BDFSP at Dayrells Road.
The 22-year-old Brathwaite faced 197 balls and struck 26 fours in his knock which stretched a shade over four hours, and along with 19-year-old Roshon Primus, who made 119 not out off 108 balls with 15 fours and two sixes, added 219 in only in two hours.
In fact, Brathwaite’s record in the Sagicor General T20 Tournament contrasts sharply with the major BCA three-day league, as well as the Sagicor General Super Cup (50-over) Championships.
He has scored only 349 runs (ave: 23.26) with two half-centuries including a highest of 58 not out against Banks at Dayrells Road in 2012, in 21 Sagicor T20 matches.
That’s a far cry from his very impressive Elite (rebranded from Division 1 in 2012) record which currently shows 1964 runs including seven centuries at an average of 67.72 in 25 matches.
Five of those centuries have been for Barbados Youth including a career-best, unbeaten 222 in the first innings against LIME at the Lester Vaughan ground, Cane Garden in 2009 (Series 10) when he amassed 910 runs (ave: 70.00) with three hundreds for the season. The other centuries are for Wanderers.
Brathwaite has also been very impressive in the Sagicor Super Cup. In 30 matches since his debut in 2007 –– and mind you he has played in at least one match every season since then –– he has 1465 runs including a record six centuries, at an average of 61.04.
No other contemporary batsman in the BCA Elite and Sagicor General Super Cup Tournaments with over 1000 runs can boast of such outstanding records in terms of their average. That is why Brathwaite’s rise to the highest level of international cricket at the age of 18 did not come as a fluke. Domestic cricket counts. It is the base to show your ability.
Furthermore, who says that one day Kraigg Brathwaite will not be an outstanding T20 batsman as well?
Talking about statistics, Pickwick captain Kyle Hope is in an excellent position to finish with the highest aggregate in the 2015 Sagicor T20 Championship. He has 293 runs (ave: 58.60) and is just six short of overtaking Wildey’s David Carter, who created a record of hitting two consecutive centuries and finished with a wonderful average of 99.33.
Hope is, however, still a long shot off the record for the most runs in a season – 425 (ave: 42.50) in 11 matches by Empire and Barbados all-rounder Kevin Stoute in 2012.
Daley Hurley, the LIME off-spinner, who has 15 wickets, will be hunting the record for the most wickets (19) in a Tournament, held by leg-spinner Aaron Jones in 2012, then representing Barbados Youth. That season, Jones played in ten matches, bowled 38.3 overs and had an average of 11.31, with an economy rate of 5.56. He now plays for Wildey.
I also want to take this opportunity to sincerely thank those scorers from 15 of the record 19 teams, which took part in this year’s Sagicor General T20 Championship for their wonderful co-operation and understanding in providing the scorecards, which ensured the compilation of statistics.
They are: Marsha Barker (BCL), Jaimie Lashley (Combermere), Aliya Holder (Foundation), Ashli Antoine (Empire), Sanchia Barrow (LIME), Marva Cambridge (Maple), Leslay Prescod (Police), Jacqueline Crick (St. Catherine), Rakelia Walrond (Spartan), Suzanne Belle (Wanderers), Valence Archer (BDFSP), John “Hippie” Griffith (Carlton), Harold Fortune (Pickwick), Carl Sealy (Wildey) and Merton Forde (Yorkshire).
Just take a close look at the first names and you would see the dominance of women (ten). It is a feature, which deserves great praise and shows how the fairer sex has gradually stepped up and dominated in an area, which was once almost exclusively male.
I trust the National Organisation of Women (NOW) will take note, now, with no pun intended, and in the future.
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 (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com.