Stars thought Cayman was great

Cayman cricket is bound to improve.

Chris Gayle

Chris Gayle will gladly come back to Cayman.
Photo: Matthew Yates

The fact that West Indies star players came here and felt there was loads of talent here should bear that out.

In particular WI cricket team captain Chris Gayle and fast bowler Jerome Taylor had much praise for Cayman’s young players.

‘The way the kids responded shows they are attentive to the game,’ Taylor said. ‘The talent is here and the coaches are working hard with them.

‘I’m satisfied in their knowledge of the game and the fact that they ask a lot of questions.’

Gayle had an equally positive assessment.

‘It has been a good experience. There is a bright talent level here. I must thank Digicel for giving me a second chance to come here. Though it was short and I hustled from place to place I enjoyed being here.’

Gayle and Taylor were in Cayman two weeks ago to impart cricket tips and tricks to our youth.

Joining the WI cricket team captain and bowling extraordinaire on the brief two-day trip was former bowler Kenneth Benjamin.

The trio visited Cayman on the behest of Digicel and went on to another country as part of the telecommunications giant’s six country Caribbean tour.

Before coming to Cayman the trio were in Jamaica conducting similar clinics for Digicel with young cricketers there.

Gayle, Taylor and Benjamin led coaching clinics at the Smith Road Oval and John A Cumber primary school field.

In addition the stars met a number of promotional duties from autograph signings to visiting local schools.

For Taylor (and Benjamin as well) Cayman was a new experience.

‘This is my first time here in Cayman. I’m loving it and looking forward to coming back and making a vacation stop here on my leisure time.’

Gayle though is no stranger to Cayman as he was here in years past.

‘I actually came to Cayman around four years ago,’ Gayle said. ‘I wish I could say things are different but I didn’t get to go around the island to see what was what.’

Many faces within the local cricket scene shadowed the stars on their visit here.

Among them was technical director Theo Cuffy. He talked about this visit, in particular Gayle’s arrival, versus those years ago.

‘Gayle was here at the last Quincentennial celebrations in 2004. At that time he was alongside the likes of Brian Lara (who hit a century here), Courtney Walsh, Joel Garner and Ramnaresh Sarwan.

‘Like this visit, that trip was organized by Kelly Holdings and Rhonda Kelly who did a phenomenal job once again.

‘Gayle actually hit a century at the Smith Road Oval back then. I remember we had the biggest crowd ever for any sporting event in Cayman.

‘Just like the other day people were lined up back to back. At that time though the crowd was some 5-6,000 strong and 10 man deep. I remember the police blocking off the roads for that occasion as well.’

It may have been a brief trip for the stars but Gayle and Taylor were flowing with kind words about Cayman’s cricket future.

Taylor, 25, spoke about the youngsters’ willingness to listen and learn.

‘What I’m seeing here are guys that are willing to learn. These kids were so happy to be here with us and that’s great to see at their age.

‘All you can ask for is for the kids to be willing to learn and remain attentive. There are a lot of skills we can pass off to them.

‘I’m expecting a lot from them over the next couple days and months ahead on the pitch in their competitions.’

Gayle, 29, felt the kids’ tenacity showed the coaches had committed much time to them.

‘I must say thanks to the coaches for their work. Kenneth [Benjamin] did a wonderful job with the kids as well and I hope the guys can transfer what they learned into the game.’

Gayle, Taylor and Benjamin certainly have the resume to speak about cricket with authority.

Gayle has 19 centuries in one day internationals and an average of about 40 during Test matches.

One of his claims to fame is a record 317 runs against South Africa during a 2005 Test series.

Taylor took seven wickets during the 2006 Champions Trophy One Day International competition, including a record three wickets against Australia.

He is the West Indies most successful current bowler with 81 wickets in 28 Test matches and 92 wickets in 63 one-dayers.

Benjamin had a roughly 10 year playing career where he starred in about 26 Tests and 26 One Day Internationals.

The former right arm fast bowler became legendary in the 1993-1994 campaign when he took 22 wickets in a Test series against England.

The three stars are no strangers to one another. Gayle and Taylor are from Jamaica and both were influenced by Benjamin, an Antigua native.

‘My first first-class game was against Kenny Benjamin,’ Gayle said with a smile.

Benjamin, 42, explained the connection between the three players.

‘I spread my wings over Gayle. He had a tough time with the initial matches but he plays quite well now.

‘I stopped playing in 2001 when the WI team were in South Africa. In fact I assisted with the last WI tour in South Africa where I had Jerome under my wings.’

As many are aware of, the stars have extra time on their hands due to the controversy surrounding West Indies cricket.

In particular a labour dispute exists between the players and the WI Cricket Board that sees most of the senior players (including Gayle and Taylor) boycotting playing for the team.

The media attention to the crisis is huge around the region and this reporter could not help but ask the stars for input on the matter.

Benjamin gave most of his feelings in an article in last Friday’s paper.

Taylor and Gayle were not as open as Benjamin however.

Taylor had little to input on the crisis.

‘I have nothing to say about that at this time.

‘I’ve aspired to be on the West Indies team from the days of my youth and I’m glad I’m on this stage.’

Gayle meanwhile was quick to brush off the situation by talking about his athletic ability.

‘I’m multi-talented. Remember I’m from Jamaica, a place that produces so many athletes. I’m good in many sports like football.

‘I have a sore hamstring that I hope to recover in two-three weeks so I’ll focus on that right now.’

Ultimately Taylor and Gayle are looking forward to coming back to Cayman.

‘I hope to be back soon and come back the same way I am now,’ Taylor said.

‘I’m always happy to be in Cayman,’ Gayle said. ‘Once I’m invited I’ll be back anytime.’