The Cayman Islands will soon have a full-time professional cricket side that can compete at the top level with any team in the region.
Cayman was at a considerable disadvantage when it faced St Lucia in the Stanford 20/20 tournament Saturday because its opponents had already gone pro and trained intensively for three months.
Cayman – sponsored by Cable & Wireless – has to rely on players who fit in their cricket training around work and family responsibilities. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that half the side is either police or prison officers who work long, irregular shifts.
These were contributing factors behind Cayman’s 46 run loss to St Lucia in Antigua. St Lucia scored 134-8 in their 20 overs. Cayman could only reply with 88-8. St Lucia play Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday in a tournament that continues until 24 February.
Four Cayamanians are in their 40s. They have served the country brilliantly for years but technical director Theo Cuffy said he believes this is the right time to bring in new personnel.
By this time next year when the next Stanford 20/20 runs, Cayman will have a younger, fitter squad far better schooled and prepared for the cauldron-like intensity of the quick fire game. The tournament is wholly funded by Sir Allen Stanford, a Texan billionaire based in Antigua, who wants to revive West Indies cricket and is pumping $100 million into the sport in the next few years to realise that.
‘I was disappointed about the outcome,’ Cuffy said. ‘The fielding and bowling was exceptionally good. I’m really pleased because we really worked hard on improving our fielding and bowling simply because I had a certain degree of confidence on our batting. I was looking at my batsmen and from the last few tournaments they were really looking good so I thought the area we had to sharpen on more was the fielding and bowling. We did well there but batted poorly.
‘It’s obvious that a number of people will not be playing again next year in the Stanford tournament. A reason is that there are a number of guys coming of age. We’re reaching a point now where we’re thinking seriously of what direction we want to go with Cayman’s cricket. We knew last year on our trip to Australia we had to make some changes. That’s when the process began.
‘We have another tournament in July/August, the ICC Americas tournament when changes will be made and by January 2009 we have the World Cricket League Division Three in Argentina. So I believe, honestly that by the time the next Stanford comes around we will have evolved tremendously.’
Best news from the weekend is that Sir Allen told Cuffy that he will soon finance a Cayman pro team.
‘Sir Allen told me that after our match and he’s just waiting for this tournament to finish. I think we’re first in line. A few things have to be worked out because our society is different to the rest of the Caribbean but we’re close to that. The faces of the pro team will be a reflection of the future of Cayman cricket.
‘I’m very happy that the young boys like Ramon Sealy, Marlon Bryan and Darren Cato have taken to this game seriously. We also have Ronald Ebanks away studying, as well as Joseph Kirkconnell and Paul Chin. Kirkconnell is studying to be a priest but he will play cricket at any given opportunity. He’ll be home by May or June this year and be available to go to the Americas tournament. Once he is available, Joseph is on my team.’
Cuffy was impressed with St Lucia, which has the benefit of being coached by former West Indies coach Roger Harper, widely respected for his huge work ethic and disciplined lifestyle, which he expects players to emulate. Plus, the West Indies legend assigned to their team is none other than Sir Garfield Sobers.
The young St Lucians have nothing else to worry about in their lives but totally immersing themselves in cricket. Cayman, of course, did not have that luxury. Additionally, half the St Lucians are left handers, which makes things more difficult for the opposition in bowling and fielding positions.
Cuffy did a fantastic job in preparing his side for the match yet immediately after received anonymous texts saying he should be fired. They were sent in a jokey tone but Cuffy is upset.
‘The texts are not justified,’ he said. ‘Obviously, you can take a joke too far. The last text I had someone said not to worry, don’t take it too seriously. But someone’s fun could be someone else’s poison. I definitely discourage it. None of the players went out there to fail. Each one reacts differently to failure. Some are seen laughing, joking around. It doesn’t mean they’re not hurting.
‘However, it’s how you perceive the whole thing to be. I have always maintained my cool but I feel it is unfair to the whole group that I would receive negative texts because a coach can only do so much. I’m definitely hurt. I keep impressing on the boys on playing straight but three or four of them got out playing across the line of the ball. Even if it’s just a minor adjustment, it means you are crossing the line of the ball and that’s what happened.
Cayman Captain Pearson Best said had he won the toss, the outcome may have been different.
‘The wicket was dry and cracked, whoever batted last would have been in trouble,’ he said. ‘We bowled well and all told we gave away a lot of extras – 27 – and that carried their total higher than we wanted. We were hoping to get them out around the 100 mark. Out batting in the middle fell down, unfortunately, but all in all I felt we gave a good performance under the conditions. I felt there could have been a better wicket for the first game in the Stanford competition, a more even one.
St Lucia won the toss and elected to bat. In the interviews before the match, both captains agreed that because of the state of the pitch whoever won the toss would elect to bat. That wicket lacked water and was under-prepared as far as I’m concerned.’
He was not impressed with the St Lucians.
‘I don’t think they are potential finalists. They have batting problems and on a good wicket with the bowling they have I think any team will prosper.’
At least Cayman can boast the Play of the Match, when fast bowler Conroy Wright ran out Sergio Fedee and won $10,000 which will be shared around the team. ‘That’s superb, I wouldn’t mind doing that again,’ he said. ‘I thought Pearson was going to get it for his huge six but the judges must have thought that anybody can hit a six in a game but a run out like that was definitely outstanding. I alone couldn’t do it and will share it amongst my team-mates.’
Cuffy is changing the team