Cayman Cricket’s off-season T20 tournament, The Challenge Trophy, started on Sunday with one major upset and the triumphant return of another team.
The 20-over matches were played at the Smith Road Oval and at the Jimmy Powell Oval where Jamaica steam-rolled India, winning by 9 wickets. Paul Manning and Deno McInnis got the Jamaican runs.
This tournament runs for six weeks ending with the big showdown of the top two teams.
All-rounder Ryan Bovell was in the Barbados side at Smith Road Oval but they were soundly beaten by Guyana who once again relied on the excellence of Alister Ifill who scored 33. Guyana’s Vicki Rampersaud also lashed out, hitting 21 not out. Ummy Wilson lasted for a time at the crease for Guyana too. Guyana – missing from action for two years – returned impressively to defeat Barbados by 8 wickets.
The biggest surprise was an under-strength Cayman Islands losing to World Stars.
Bovell has captained the Cayman national side in the past but last weekend he was not in top form.
With this being an off-season tournament, it’s geared more toward having fun and keeping the players ticking over before the full season begins in January.
“We have a number of past players and the likes of Ramon Sealy and Ricardo Roach who add some youth to it,” said Bovell. “We were soundly beaten by Guyana but we had fun and will get better as the tournament goes on.” Roach and Sealy share the captaincy duties.
Bovell added, “I don’t know the makeup of all the teams yet. Jamaica and Cayman should be the top two, but the other teams are good enough to spring a few surprises.”
Cricket has absorbed Bovell since he was 7 years old, playing with older boys and men from his district in Barbados. The 41-year-old policeman has spent most of his adult life in the Cayman Islands.
He played for By-Rite initially and they won the league several times before he joined Police, becoming captain and winning the league and cup.
A few years ago, Bovell joined the Village Greenies – formerly a side chiefly known for partying. Since taking their cricket more seriously, Greenies have become champions over the last three seasons.
When Bovell captained the Cayman Islands between 2004-2007, they played 21 games, winning nine, and he led the team up to the International Cricket Council World Cricket League Division 3. They were so good, they even beat Canada during that period, who were a World Cup team at the time. Another highlight was him earning an MVP award in 2002. “That will always stand out,” Bovell said.
Cricket in Barbados is so widely played and loved that when Bovell was a youngster his national team was comparable to the West Indies side.
“I loved playing cricket from when I was a kid, competing against the older guys to see if I was good enough,” he said. “I enjoy the months of preparation for tournaments, with the gym and net sessions so that I go onto the field knowing I’m ready to play hard and have fun.
“It’s out there on the field where I can be myself and leave the stresses of the world behind for a few hours.” He believes he has a few years left. “My body is holding up well and my skills are getting better. I have a renewed ambition to lead the team for a couple of years and believe I can lead this team upward.”
His plan for the next two years is to help the team back into the ICC Americas Division 1 by 2017 and ICC WCL Division 4 from Division 6 by 2019. “Our administration needs to involve me more in the preparation of the team.” Bovell plays a little football when the cricket season is finished and as he is a firearms expert in the police force he enjoys some recreational shooting.
As a youngster, he represented Barbados in track and field at CARIFTA and the Junior Pan American Games and in cricket at Under-19 level.
The dominant West Indies era of the past has been lost for many years, but Bovell believes with the right set up they can return to that legendary status. West Indies have many world-class T20 players but the team fails miserably in the longer Test format which is where they used to dominate. “First, they need to put the past aside and focus on creating a new dynasty for West Indies cricket,” he said.
“I believe the West Indies have good enough players, it’s just the way the West Indies Cricket Board and team go about things that needs adjusting.
“Test players develop later and we have to accept that. Australia are selecting older, mature players for their Test team, so it’s horses for the course being run.”
He also has a clear idea of what Cayman has to do to improve its international results.
“Long-term fix, our administration needs to not solely focus on national team cricket but also include community cricket,” Bovell said.
He would like to see a national development manager appointed “who can infuse our junior cricket with fresh energy.”
Bovell feels that introducing initiatives focusing on kids aged 5-13 would be a good start. He would also like to see cricket development officers from each registered Division 1 club. “They will be responsible for canvassing the primary schools to try and recruit children to the clubs’ junior team[s]. We can encourage clubs to play shorter forms of the game or matches with fewer players.”
His short-term fix for the national team would be a vast improvement in preparations for tournaments.
“We need proper training programs for the national team geared towards skill and tactical development. This program should measure progress or decline and offer players and the team proper feedback on their development.”
If possible, Bovell would bring the best local players together to train and play on a regular basis even if they haven’t qualified to represent Cayman yet.
“Find our identity back, we are a diverse community and we have to accept that our best team will also be culturally diverse. We have to adopt this attitude if we are to put out our strongest team on the park.”
The nature of cricket means that any number of funny or quirky incidents can happen. Bovell remembers a Cayman teammate was fielding against the USA and he chased a ball down to the boundary.
“As he approached the boundary line he put in the dive to stop the ball but somehow he ended up well short of the boundary and the ball. He then started swimming after the ball as he lay on his tummy and the ball trickled over the line.”
All-rounder Ryan Bovell was in the Barbados side at Smith Road Oval but they were soundly beaten by Guyana who once again relied on the excellence of Alister Ifill.