WICB title debate

hitting out


As the regional first class championship entered the seventh and last round of preliminary matches today with only Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados in contention for the WICB President’s Trophy, one got the impression in some quarters that the main focus is still on winning the George Headley/Everton Weekes Trophy, currently held by Barbados.

In other words, the Headley/Weekes Trophy is being viewed as the major one. Any likely confusion is understandable though the format is nothing new. It all has to do with a decision by the West Indies Cricket Board to contest two trophies within the four-day format this year. The WICB stated that the team accumulating the most points following the preliminary round matches will be awarded the President’s Trophy.

The top four teams will then battle for the Headley/Weekes Trophy. This move came against the background of Jamaica quite rightly contending that after topping the preliminaries last season and then losing to Trinidad & Tobago in the semi-finals, they had nothing to show at the end.

Though the WICB has outlined its position in relation to the two trophies being contested, if for example Trinidad & Tobago won the President’s Trophy and another team captured the Headley/Weekes Trophy, would the winners of the latter view themselves as first class champions as well?

Contesting two trophies in a regional first-class season took the spotlight between 2001 and 2008. During that period, the competition among the semi-finalists was termed an International Trophy when other teams from outside of the region were invited to take part.

Let’s look at the records with four-day and “International” champions in that order during the period under review: 2001 (Barbados, Jamaica); 2002 (Jamaica, Guyana); 2003 (Barbados, Barbados); 2004 (Barbados, Barbados); 2005 (Jamaica, Jamaica); 2006 (Trinidad & Tobago, Trinidad & Tobago); 2007 (Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago); 2008 (Jamaica, Jamaica).

Now going into the last round, Trinidad & Tobago were leading on 72 points with Barbados on 65 – the same as the Windward Islands who have completed all of their matches. Those three teams have booked their places in the semi-finals, which are to be hosted by the top two.  It has always been said that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties but with Trinidad & Tobago playing against rock-bottom Guyana on 21 points at the Guyana National Stadium in Providence, it is expected that Trinidad & Tobago should pull off a win and gain their first four-day title in seven years.

Barbados’ opponents are the Leeward Islands, who are one from the bottom on 40 points, at the Sir Vivian Richards Ground in North Sound, Antigua.

If there is a win for Trinidad & Tobago, they can argue that they dethroned Barbados. Similarly, if Barbados beat the Leewards and Trinidad & Tobago are held to a draw, Barbados would have retained their title. But hold it!

Some fans are arguing that the title Barbados won last year is named after Headley/Weekes. No wonder not only fans but also some players and officials are seemingly paying more attention to the battle among the semi-finalists. I can only smirk.

The remaining semi-final place up for grabs appears to be between Combined Campuses & Colleges (CCC), who were on 46 points and Jamaica with 44 in their battle at the 3Ws Oval.

Perhaps if the WICB had switched the naming of the titles, no one would question the so-called true champions.  That issue apart, two players from CCC were heading the batting aggregates.

Shacaya Thomas, an attacking opener, had amassed exactly 500 runs including two centuries at an average of 50.00, while fellow Jamaican Chadwick Walton had 385 runs (ave: 42.77). Another CCC player, veteran off-spinner Ryan Austin of Barbados, and left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul of Guyana were the joint leading wicket-takers with 29 scalps.

Shacaya Thomas has been in the best form of his life this season.
Shacaya Thomas has been in the best form of his life this season.

Not surprisingly, spinners were again dominating in the top five positions as far as wickets were concerned. Though there have been four totals in excess of 400 – significantly with Barbados and Trinidad & Tobago equally featuring – the batting generally has left a lot to be desired.

Barbados amassed 479 for eight off 124.5 overs against Trinidad & Tobago at Kensington Oval and 423 (142.3 overs) off Jamaica at Sabina Park, while Trinidad & Tobago made 458 for seven declared (153 overs) against the Leeward Islands at Queen’s Park Oval and 451 for eight declared (116.5 overs) off CCC, also at Queen’s Park.

But there have been some woeful batting performances as well, leaving one to search for reasons. Is it a matter of batsmen still
in a limited overs frame of mind, good bowling or poor pitches?

Having dominated the first-class championship in recent years with five consecutive titles starting in 2008 – a feat which Barbados first achieved between 1976 and 1980 – Jamaica have been rather disappointing this year.

Prior to this round, they had lost three consecutive matches including two at home. The authorities in Guyana and the Leeward Islands must also be very concerned about the results. There have been four defeats for the Guyanese and three for the Leewards.

This column has already bemoaned an absence of radio commentaries for the vast majority of matches and though the WICB must again be commended for at least providing live streaming of matches, it can be very challenging for those who do not have access to the Internet. Even so, there is a limitation in relation to the view of the field. Be that as it may, there is still a lot of interest in the tournament.
(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.)

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