Woes for teams batting first
A worrying pattern of teams badly falling down on batting first has been very evident in the first three rounds of matches in the top Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) three-day Championship.
No side has been able to occupy the crease for an entire day despite generally hard, true pitches. There are two sessions of two-and-a-half hours each, with at least 75 overs to be bowled in a day.
In fact, now in the fifth season since being rebranded as Elite from First division and featuring ten teams, it is the first time that such a sequence has occurred on the opening day of the first three series.
It is a matter, which all coaches, captains, players and the relevant authorities must seek to address immediately.
Not surprisingly, some observers have been critical of the fixtures, especially when it was realised that the longest version of the game would follow a heavy diet of Twenty20 and 50-over competitions, as has been the case this season.
Between April 9 and June 16, the Sagicor General T20 Championship was played in two segments – Super 10 and Super 12. And it was just as hectic with the Super Cup (50-over) from April 30 to August 7.
Effectively, Phase 2 of the T20 and the majority of the Super Cup were played at the same period and as one fan put it “the cricket was being rushed”. One day was the Super Cup and the next day, the T20.
Truth is, the rush has impacted on the Elite division so far following its start on July 2. The facts and figures bear testimony and the indifferent batting cannot be swept under the carpet.
Only two teams to date – CounterPoint Wanderers and BDFSP have managed to score 200, and mind you, just over – on batting first.
Take a look at the following Day 1 scores and analyse the pathetic pattern:
At Trents: ICBL Empire 180 all out (55 overs), Sierka Rentals Maple 54-3 (16 overs).
At Queen’s Park: Brathwaite Construction/Crane Resort St. Catherine 90 all out (28.1 overs), Massy Stores Spartan 175-5 (46 overs).
At SJPP: Police 150 all out (38.1 overs), Massy United Insurance Wildey 105-2 (34 overs).
At Crumpton Street: Guardian General Barbados Youth 187 all out (55.4 overs), BDFSP 47-2 (15 overs).
At 3Ws Oval: CounterPoint Wanderers 213 all out (67.1 overs), Sagicor Life UWI 19-3 (6 overs).
At Bank Hall: Barbados Youth 117 all out (54 overs), Empire 99-2 (19 overs).
At 3Ws Oval: Police 142 all out (39.3 overs), UWI 155-2 (33 overs).
At Dayrells Road: St. Catherine 180 all out (54.2 overs), Wanderers 53-1 (13 overs).
At Paragon: BDFSP 147 all out (47.4 overs), Maple 45-9 (25 overs).
At SJPP: Wildey 133 all out (39.3 overs), Spartan 132-4 (33 overs).
At Bank Hall: Wildey 159 all out (44.1 overs), Empire 41-3 (18 overs).
At Queen’s Park: BDFSP 211 all out (66 overs), Spartan 13-0 (4 overs).
At Trents: Maple 154 all out (45 overs), Wanderers 45-3 (20 overs).
At Bayfield: St. Catherine 153 all out (57.1 overs), UWI 35-3 (12.2 overs).
At Crumpton Street: Barbados Youth 166 all out (65.3 overs), Police 32-1 (11 overs).
In the period under review, one only has to go back to last season to find that there was a sharp contrast on the opening day.
For example, in Series 1, three of the teams batting first all amassed over 300 with one even declaring. St. Catherine scored 333 all out (75.5 overs) v UWI at 3Ws Oval; Spartan 325 for four (79 overs) v Pickwick at Queen’s Park; and Wanderers 342 for two declared (65.5 overs) v BDFSP, who closed on 63 for two (10 overs) at Dayrells Road.
On to Series 2: Two teams batted a full day’s play – St. Catherine 268-8 (75 overs) v Maple at Bayfield; and Wanderers 280-9 (79 overs) v Pickwick at Dayrells Road.
And in Series 3, UWI scored 376 for seven (72 overs) v Spartan at Queen’s Park.
By the end of the third series, there were 12 centuries including eight in the first.
So far, only three hundreds have been recorded – all by Empire batsmen. Kevin Stoute leads the way with two – an unbeaten 150 (second innings) against Maple and 118 not out off Barbados Youth – while Andre Roach made 105 off Barbados Youth.
And while it is still early in the season, there have been only two totals in excess of 300. Maple scored 360 for nine declared (86 overs) against Empire, and Empire 304 for four declared (53 overs) against Barbados Youth.
It would be a useful exercise if the coaches, players and by extension the management of all the Elite division teams examined the reasons for the disappointing batting by teams occupying the crease first on the opening day.
One is almost certain to hear that the batsmen were still in a mood of the T20 and one-day versions, which gave them no breathing space.
In last week’s column, which dealt mainly with problems relating to the West Indies Test team, I touched on the current BCA Elite division competition as far as batting was concerned.
I received an email on Saturday from a reader, Michael King (brother of former Empire and Barbados batsman Tony King), which I am happy to share.
Michael King is a former Harrison College, Empire and Barbados Youth cricketer, who also represented Oxford University Authentics. He is also a former Ambassador of Barbados to the European Union, the UN at Geneva and the United States of America; a former representative of the OAS to The Bahamas and a retired Permanent Secretary of the Government of Barbados.
He wrote: “Keith, Your column in yesterday’s edition of Barbados Today highlights the serious problems which our administrators have been ignoring for decades.
“The BCA should not sponsor or promote limited over cricket at the Under 13, Under 15 or Under 17 level.
The Under 19 could be allowed to play 40 or 50 over games as an introduction to the limited over versions of the games. None of them should be playing T20 cricket.
“Teach them the nuances of the longer version of the game. If we do not do that I am afraid that we will never produce a world-class batsman in our lifetime.
Too many of our batsmen lack the necessary footwork to make adjustments when batting in tricky pitch conditions. Perhaps they should be taught to dance the waltz before you put a bat in their hands. Perhaps we should rethink the covering of our pitches in domestic cricket.
“Limited over cricket produces too many negative bowlers who do not attack enough to get 20 wickets in a match. Our bowlers are scared to attack the opposing batsmen. In other words they really do not bowl to get batsmen out.
“We are fooling ourselves if we think that T20 Cricket will enhance the capacity of our young cricketers to succeed at the Test Level. If you teach young batsmen to play uncultured strokes, I am afraid that we would be more likely to develop baseball players than classic batsmen.
“I have watched T20 Cricket when invited by corporate interests but I have never paid a penny, not even a Zimbabwe penny, to watch that version of the game. I would go to Kensington Oval to watch first-class and Test matches. Do not look for me at T20 matches.
“T20 Cricket could be compared to the Home Run Derby at the Major League Baseball All Star Game. Perhaps it should be played in Yankee Stadium etc.”
Thank you very much for the email, Michael.
There is no doubt that others are very concerned as well with the current path of cricket in the region.
Certain habits are hard to overcome but getting back to the basics and ensuring that structures are right from the school level are vital.
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 three-and-a-half 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