Purely from a cricketing perspective, it’s a pity that Allen Stanford’s millions that he was pumping into the Caribbean’s declining sport has dried up.
Stanford faces trial in an alleged multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme later this month but whilst he was splashing the cash, smaller cricket nations like the Cayman Islands were benefiting enormously from his largesse, albeit misplaced.
Cricket as a viable career became more appealing and a focal point for many youngsters. Stanford even financed full-time national teams in such places as Antigua and St Lucia. Cayman was in line for a Stanford-backed full-time team until it all came to a screeching halt.
Three young fast bowlers who hoped to get the full-time opportunity were Marlon Bryan, Kervin Ebanks, and Conroy Wright with Wright at the head of the pecking order.
Wright even won $10,000 for the team at last year’s Stanford 20/20 tournament in Antigua when a run out he threw against St Lucia got the match’s Play of the Day.
All three have progressed considerably this year and a newly focused Bryan is arguably the most improved of the three.
In his second season with LIME Schools, 15 wickets were plundered in six games at an astounding average of 3.9.
The motivation actually came from a tour to Fort Lauderdale last November when Bryan failed to live up to expectations and bowled poorly. In one match the umpire took him off for bowling two no balls in one over.
‘I felt like I failed not just myself, but my country,’ the softly-spoken Bryan says. ‘I actually broke down and at that point I felt instead of being the No.1 pick I was now bottom of the table for selection so I had to try my hardest this year to make the team.’
Training took on a more serious tone for the muscular six footer. Instead of only two laps around the Smith Road Oval boundary he was doing eight.
‘It showed that hard work does pay off because I started the season on a high. As well as being fitter and trimmer I realised I was hitting the mark consistently which is what you need to do as a bowler to cause the batsman to make mistakes instead of giving them the opportunity to hit you.
‘I also had more agility on the field and was moving around better, getting in the ball from the boundary and helping with run outs.’
The importance of maintaining that fitness keeps him busy now with free weights. Although the season won’t resume until next year, a nation’s cup is being mooted for later this year with ex-pats playing for their respective countries.
‘Right now, Guyana seems to have a pretty strong team, because of Prison, so maybe they’ll take the cup, who knows…’ says Bryan but he feels Cayman will have a strong side because the majority of the youngsters coming up are now in the national team.
Besides himself, they include Kervin Ebanks, Omar Willis, Ricardo Roach and Ramon Sealy if he decides not to play for Barbados.
Jamaican Wright has lived here for four years so qualifies to play for Cayman too.
Bryan, 22, still has a year to go for his computer science degree because, sadly, his father, Cleverly, died of a rare cancer in January at only 46. Marlon pulled out of college for a year to help with family finances.
At the moment Marlon is working at Creative Tech as an assistant technician and sales rep. A career in computer science is the intention or he may stay at Creative Tech.
Another option could be a cricket career in England. On tour two years ago in the UK he was offered a semi-pro contract with Old Ruts but had to decline because of problems with his British passport.
Esso will be touring England again next year and Bryan hopes to renew the association with Old Ruts then.
His ultimate dream remains to pull on the burgundy of the West Indies side but to do that Bryan knows he has to go to one of the big playing countries like Trinidad to improve.
If he chose Trinidad, Bryan would get a chance to link up with former West Indies pacer Ian Bishop who now commentates for a living. ‘I had a word with him a few times when he came down. It’s his whole approach to cricket and his understanding.
‘He got me to hit that mark so well, I respect him for that.’
Much of Bryan’s coaching has come from technical director Theo Cuffy and head coach Andy Myles who have moulded his style since he picked up a ball in primary school.
‘Cuffy has not just taught me how to bowl, but whole aspect of cricket. You have to work on your batting, fielding positions and know how other people work on the team.’