Theo Cuffy has been a stalwart on the Cayman Islands cricket scene for 16 years but the Trinidadian’s achievements before he arrived here were just as significant which is why he received a top honour recently in his homeland.
Cuffy attended a huge function in Port of Spain three weeks ago to celebrate the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board honouring 50 of their top administrators and cricketers to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the country’s independence. Recipients included Brian Lara, Ian Bishop, Gus Logie, Phil Simmonds, Daren Ganga and Deryck Murray.
“I was deeply honoured to be chosen among that group,” Cuffy says. “To be included in such a group I felt very, very honoured.”
By his own admission, Cuffy was not a sensational player but nevertheless gained enormous respect. “I gained a few bits and pieces. My highlight was scoring 140 against Combined Islands around 1979.
“I captained the national team in 1983 but that was not a good exercise at all. We couldn’t win a game. That was the end of my career playing regionally. But I did move on from playing into coaching which I really love.”
From 1986-90 Cuffy was manager of the Trinidad and Tobago team when Lara was emerging as a world beater. In 1987 Lara was sensational in the Under-19 team, gaining records as the most outstanding batsman in the region, taking the most catches and leading the Trinidadians to the regional championship with one round still remaining. “He was outstanding that year. People had been aware of his ability for a long time,” Cuffy remembers.
“I can’t ever say that I coached Lara. Yes, he played when I was the coach but he was one of those you didn’t really have to explain things to. He knew from an early age he was going to be outstanding and it was great for me those days to have him on the team.
“There were two other guys on that team who were brilliant. Rajindra Dhanraj, a leg bowler, and Harmat Gangapersad, a wicket-keeper, and between those three everything surrounded them.
“Dhanraj got the most wickets, Lara hit all the runs and Gangapersad was a brilliant wicket-keeper. The unit was built around those guys. They were able to handle the cricket for themselves.”
Cuffy took his coaching badges and graduated to the West Indies Cricket Panel and started teaching coaches throughout the Caribbean. “I had a good run until 1996 when I got the chance to come to the Cayman Islands.
“I came here more for financial reasons and needed to find a way out for my family and also had the opportunity to do the thing I love best – coach.
“It was a challenge coming to Cayman, partly because I didn’t know where it was and also because it had no youth programme.
“Today, seeing the Cayman team in the Challenge Trophy where they have reached the final against Jamaica on 25 November, with 11 boys who have passed through our coaching programme, is an accomplishment.”
Cuffy has seen players like Ricardo Roach, Ronald Ebanks, Kervin Ebanks, Troy Taylor, Joseph Kirkconnell, Ramon Sealy, Omar Willis, Darren Cato and Zachary McLaughlin emerge from schoolboy level to play for the national team.
“I’m sure that coach Andy Myles (youth coach) is happier than I am because he is Caymanian. We are extremely happy to see the youngsters putting it together and really playing good cricket.
“I never anticipated that it was going to be this good in the Cayman Islands. My family feel very much at home here having come here not knowing anyone and being accepted into society.
“My children have done exceedingly well and I’m very happy to be here. Trisha now works with the immigration department and Tyrell graduated last year from King’s College, Tennessee with a double major in business administration and sports administration. My wife Sandra has been gainfully employed and the people have treated us very well.
“On a sporting side I have benefited tremendously from being here. The opportunities presented to me are way above what I would have met in Trinidad. I’ve gone on from being a representative of the Cayman Islands to representing the region on the International Cricket Council Development Committee since 2008 and have travelled all over the world. That would never have happened if I had stayed in Trinidad.”
Cuffy has just turned 63 and still gushes with enthusiasm.
“My career as a coach, I don’t think I’ve reached the end of it yet. I’m really enjoying what I’m doing. We have expanded the coaching aspect where I am now the technical director and we have coaches handling the senior team, the Under-19s, the U-15s and the women.
“We have a good structure in place and continuity. It is now for people to enjoy themselves and really have a good time.”