Cayman’s national cricket team performed so badly at the ICC World Cricket League Division 6 tournament in England two weeks ago that a revamp of the system is an absolute necessity, according to the team’s spin bowler Alessandro Morris.
Cayman, led by Chris Palmer, finished seventh of the seven teams that competed, losing all their matches. The tournament finished on Sept. 14.
Morris feels that the team’s failure is due to a combination of factors.
“It is hard to pinpoint any one reason, but I feel that we are far behind the other countries at the moment in terms of structure, tactics and preparation,” Morris said.
He added that Cayman face countries with more relaxed immigration policies that are able to get exceptional players from countries with much higher standards of cricket.
Even if the players cannot represent their adopted nations, they at least improve their local leagues.
From information Cayman had on the other teams, they played the least number of games together against tough opposition leading up to the tournament, Morris said. This lack of match preparation had an adverse effect.
“Everyone looking at Cayman in the field says we look like the most talented team on show, but unfortunately, talent alone won’t win you game[s] at this level,” he said. “On a personal side, I think picking up a hamstring injury a week before this tournament wasn’t ideal as I was slated to play a key role in us doing well.”
Morris feels this is not the time to point blame, but he believes “everyone can look [to] do things better to improve how we perform in tournaments.”
He wants to get the sport’s energy back. “We have left things to meander along for the last eight years or so and just hope for the best.
“This is just not acceptable while the other countries are busy planning and using their resources well to make sure their youth programs are on point.”
Competing countries ensure their senior team gets regular exposure to tough opposition and full preparation on how to win games at the highest level.
The economics have been tough for Cayman as money goes a lot further in other countries, but he feels that the situation calls for a collective effort from former and current players, coaching staff, the Cayman cricket community and the corporate sector, and “the government needs to take cricket as a sport more seriously.”
“We represent Cayman on a global scene and we get very little support,” Morris said, “but when things go wrong, we are heavily criticized.”
Only a few years ago, Cayman was doing well on a regional level, but its appeal and participation has fallen behind other sports, including football, rugby, swimming, boxing and track.
“I was lucky to have played cricket when Cayman was on top and can remember the reasons why we were successful in international competitions,” Morris said, adding that cricket was vibrant then.
“We had some class players and all the clubs were running efficiently.”
By-Rite, for example, had the four Wight brothers – twins David and Christopher, and Philip and Michael – all of whom were extremely good. Sides like Police, Prison and Greenies boasted players of the caliber of Pearson Best, Franklyn Hinds, Larry Cunningham and Steve Gordon, who had played at a higher level. Best and Hinds were the coaches at the tournament in England.
Morris feels they were the glory days of local cricket and while this was happening, there was “a very good youth program.”
“Those days are long behind us now after the senior guys moved on,” he said. “This has affected our league in a massive way.”
The global recession, the demise of fraudster Allen Stanford who used to bankroll Caribbean cricket, and Cayman’s roll-over laws had an impact from 2008 when many expats moved on. “We were never able to replace the players we lost,” Morris said. “Yes, cricket has fallen behind, but I would put this down to the ‘perfect storm’ and now we have to find a way back up.”
Morris emphasizes a need for a collective effort and is aware that “no one is going to invest money and time without us drafting up a workable plan.”
He wants to see a two-phase approach with an improved youth program and a system to get the current senior team winning.
The 32-year-old Caymanian is a senior systems administrator for Walkers Ireland in Dublin. “Having lived in Ireland and played for the last two seasons here, I realize that a good structure is priceless and something that we can achieve in Cayman with everyone coming together and doing their par.”
He also supports Cayman getting help externally from people who have contributed to similar setups in countries that have been successful.
“This is mainly because the game has changed and we are far behind at the moment.”
Morris wants to see partnerships formed with clubs like his Irish club side Malahide who have the vastly experienced and highly respected South African batsman Reinhardt Strydom.
“Malahide have been very helpful in my own development and it would be great to get more of our Cayman players playing in these leagues,” Morris said.
“Playing in Ireland and places like the U.K. is [where] you get high-quality coaching and exposure to the best facilities and cricketing environment.”
He has just finished a successful season there and was the second-most economical bowler with 20 wickets.
No matter what, Morris wants to continue representing Cayman and help them climb back up the world rankings.
He added that he is grateful to Walkers for their continued support. “I am always allowed time off to represent my country and I’m truly grateful for their assistance.
“I believe there is great hope and that the team give 100 percent every time we go on the field. We just need to get a few more things in place and we will be back to the top where we belong.”
Morris believes that youngsters like Darren Cato, Ramon Sealy, Omar Willis, Sacha De Alwis and Conroy Wright are talented enough to improve Cayman’s fortunes.
Sports tourism is a major market to tap into, Morris added, which in turn will boost local cricket’s popularity.
“When we travel to play in other countries, people ask about our facilities and what we have back home.
“Usually, the big clubs and international teams are always looking for destinations to do their winter training and why not welcome them to our beautiful shores in the Cayman Islands?”
Theo Cuffy, technical director of Cayman Cricket, said, “It is difficult for me to make a judgement as I did not make the trip.
“We have not received any reports as yet from the administrative staff who participated in the ICC World Cricket League Division 6 tournament.
“There are various schools of thought on the way forward for Cayman Cricket. No man is an island and, as such, we are always open to suggestions and recommendations for progress.
“We will assess the situation over the next few weeks and make the changes as required with the hope that we are successful.”