When the Jimmy Powell Oval was finally opened in West Bay in April, it confirmed the legacy of one of Cayman’s greatest sportsmen.
Jimmy Powell has not just dedicated his life to playing cricket to the highest level he could, he has put his heart and soul into raising Cayman’s overall standards and facilities in the game.
The stadium was not initially intended to be named after him but when West Bay MLA McKeeva Bush became aware of his contribution to promoting cricket locally, it was a no brainer.
Theo Cuffy, Cayman’s technical director of cricket, has been in the job for 13 years since he arrived from Trinidad and has a lot of respect for Powell.
‘Jimmy Powell is not called the Godfather of Cayman cricket for nothing,’ he says. ‘He headed the association for a number of years and helped considerably with his financial resources and influence. He did it all willingly, you can’t take away what he has done for Cayman cricket.’
There is a lot of mutual respect. Powell says: ‘We’ve got a lot of young players who have come up under Cuffy but we need better facilities.
‘We’ve got to get at least two more proper cricket fields. They say they’re going to have them by the schools but that’s not really the way to go. How are you going to play cricket with the school going on? They will have to have lights by the cricket field for that to work.’
Merta Day is a player with the newly formed Esso Panthers in the women’s league. She is also secretary of the Cayman Islands Cricket Association and chair of the Women’s Cricket Development Committee and Youth Development.
‘It’s fantastic to actually have this pavilion open, we’ve been waiting for it for a long time.’
Powell, 69, singles out youngsters Ricardo Roach, Omar Willis, Darren Cato, Zachary McLaughlin, Kervin Ebanks, Marlon Bryan, Ramon Sealy and Conroy Wright to lead the way for Cayman in the future.
Bryan says: ‘Jimmy Powell has helped me tremendously with my bowling. Last year he advised me to try to bowl the first ball of an over as a yorker instead of just line and length and it worked. He has been a major influence on West Bay and Cayman cricket.’
Walton Gooding, a Barbadian who came to Cayman in 1974, spent many years playing alongside Powell and has many great memories.
‘The two people that really brought cricket into the modern era in Cayman were Jimmy Powell and Derek Wight.
‘They both came from different perspectives. Wight had a long history in cricket with his father playing for West Indies and he had five sons who played whereas Jimmy had no background in cricket and he didn’t have any sons.
‘Jimmy understands the game better than most and in terms of his monetary contribution, people don’t know what he’s given. It must run to millions.
‘Jimmy was also way ahead of his time. He wanted to see a flood lit, full size stadium back in the early Nineties, before lit fields in the Caribbean existed. He got the idea from one in Sydney, Australia.
‘He did the research and got all the specs and costing and even got the approval from McKeeva Bush who, I think, was sports minister at the time. But the funding didn’t get passed by the government.
‘Jimmy wanted to lure teams like Australia and England here who might want to relax a bit and maybe scuba dive before going to, say, Jamaica for a game but still want to have a little practice match in Cayman.
‘We would have been ahead of everybody. We already had more floodlit football pitches than any other English speaking Caribbean country, so doing the same with cricket was a natural extension.
‘Jimmy sponsored the West Bay team for years. Even when we played at the Brac, if certain people couldn’t afford the trip, he would help them. Whenever you performed well, he would reward you with maybe a pair of pads or new bat. Yet he never made a big show of it. I’ve still got a bat he gave me.’
David Gooding (no relation), also played with Powell for West Bay. He also played for Police and one day got a ton. ‘Jimmy was really frustrated. I should have got out about five times on his bowling but kept getting dropped.
‘His wicket-keeper dropped me about three times in one over. Jimmy still reminds me about that.’
Last word has to go to Bernie Bush. ‘I wish the whole country could get to know the man. His love for cricket and his country is unbelievable. The way I’ve see him help people and not ask for anything in return is amazing.
‘When I was vice-president of the cricket association I saw him write off over $70,000 that it owed him. He just said: ‘Oh, don’t bother with it.’
‘He is very talented. Whatever he puts his mind to he does well. He’s a first-class pool player, chef and I’ve heard card player too. Where he is really outstanding too is with figures. His memory for detail and head for figures is unique.’
Bernie’s fondest memory is when they lined up to meet Her Majesty, the Queen, at the opening of the Ed Bush Stadium.
Bush shook her hand first and as she went to shake Jimmy’s next, Bernie pinched Powell’s buttocks.
‘Jimmy squeezed the Queen’s hand so hard he almost broke it,’ laughs Bush. ‘You could see on her face it hurt. He wanted to kill me!’