Mixed emotions about going pro

Cayman’s Stanford 20/20 will be selected at the end of the month to play St Lucia in November. It’s an exciting time for young cricketers on the island who want to pursue a full-time career in the sport. All Cayman cricketers are amateur but with the $100 million injection into Caribbean cricket by Antigua-based billionaire Allen Stanford, this is a chance for talented players from smaller territories to show their potential and earn handsomely. Stanford is a Texan who wants to see West Indies return to its former glory and sees a professional league as the only option to raise standards.

A squad of 32 has been invited for trials over the weekend of 25-26 August for selection to the last 16. The chosen ones will train full-time in preparation for the St Lucia match and a chance to eventually compete for a team prize of US$1 million if they beat all comers.

But for some the opportunity may have come too late. The monthly salary being bandied around of US$2,400 is less than some senior players already earn. They are wary of giving up their guaranteed incomes for something as precarious as cricket where injury or poor form can end a career.

I caught up with players from Cayman’s top two sides, Prison and Police at Singh’s Roti shop on Sunday afternoon. They were supposed to be contesting the Money Express Knockout Cup final but it was rained off.

Cayman national manager Stephen Best thinks that overall the tournament will be a good thing for local cricket. He said: ‘Some of our senior players like Ryan Bovell and Pearson Best have a lot of experience but going pro depends on them. I think Cayman has a good chance of progressing. I know St Lucia in their previous Stanford 20/20 team had one or two good players, particularly Darren Sammy who has played for the West Indies. It’s a bigger island but we have some youngsters with a lot of potential, like Ronald Ebanks, who played in a tournament in Canada and won the man of the tournament. He has a good future ahead of him, as does Keneil Irving, a wicket-keeper, batsman who does a little bowling and is a very good fielder too. Troy Taylor is another good youngster. There are teenagers like Darren Cato, Zach McLaughlin and Ramon Sealy who also have a lot of potential.’

Best is not on the selection committee which is a little surprising. Nevertheless, he believes the Stanford 20/20 tournament is a good thing for Cayman’s players. ‘It has lifted their spirits. Some have just been waiting for this chance from last year. But the whole pro thing is causing a little uneasiness because some will have to choose leaving their jobs and careers to go full-time.’

Pearson Best (no relation) may be 44 yet he is the best batsman on the island, hitting five consecutive centuries this season. He said: ‘I haven’t made a decision yet and will wait to see if I’m selected. I’m settled as a policeman and I’m married with a child and have to discuss it with my family and do the responsible thing. It’s a major decision to commit to a cricket contract for maybe three years. The contract will have to be very, very attractive for me to take. I’m going to be 45 next year and don’t think I have to test myself against anybody anymore. Statistics wise I’m in the best form of my career. I put that down to good shot selection and concentration.’

Ryan Bovell is captain of Prison, Cayman’s League Division One champions and he is the national skipper. At 33 and with eight years experience in the police force he is in the comfort zone. The Barbadian would love to test himself at a higher level. ‘It would be a privilege and I would seriously consider it,’ he said. ‘It all goes down to the money. I’m dedicated as far as the police force is concerned but it’s always been my ambition since I was seven years old and I don’t think it’s too late at 33. I’ve seen players like Ian Bradshaw, Vasbert Drakes, Courtney Brown and Sherwin Campbell break into the West Indies side in their thirties. That motivates me.’

  • Tomorrow: What other players think of Stanford 20/20.

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  1. KERVIN EBANKS – PRISON
  2. RONALD EBANKS – PRISON
  3. RYAN EBANKS – ESSO
  4. STEVE GORDON – PRISON
  5. AINSLEY HALL – BY RITE
  6. FRANKLIN HINDS – ESSO
  7. ALISTAIR IFILL – POLICE
  8. KENEIL IRVING – BY RITE
  9. JALON LINTON – BY RITE
  10. DENO McINNIS – PARAMOUNT
  11. SAHEED MOHAMED – PRISON
  12. ALEESANDRO MORRIS – POLICE
  13. WILLIAM QUIN – ESSO
  14. RICARDO ROACH – POLICE
  15. RAMON SEALY – POLICE
  16. GREGORY SMITH – PARAMOUNT
  17. TROY TAYLOR – BY RITE
  18. KENUTE TULLOCH – BY RITE
  19. MICHAEL WIGHT – BY RITE
  20. PHILIP WIGHT – BY RITE
  21. OMAR WILLIS – BY RITE
  22. DAVE WILSON – PARAMOUNT
  23. CONROY WRIGHT – BY RITE

PRACTICE BEGINS ON TUESDAY 14 AUGUST FROM 5.15PM AT SMITH ROAD OVAL

PRACTICE COORDINATOR – STEPHEN BEST

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