December 7, 2006

Bermuda

Face reality and bite the bullet

Martin Williamson
David Hemp is bowled by Henry Osinde, Bermuda v Canada, 4th match, ICC Tri-Series, Benoni, November 30, 2006
 © ICC
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Bermuda have returned from their African tour with their World Cup preparations in tatters.

A year ago, Bermuda cricket was on a high and expectations were high - possibly unrealistically so, but there was a general expectation that the country was about to be elevated from the middle of the also-runs of the ICC Associates to the brink of the top flight. And yet, despite a massive financial investment by the government, less than three months before the jamboree in the Caribbean kicks off, the side is in turmoil are facing possible humiliation.

The results in Africa confirmed what many suspected by few wanted to believe. Bermuda, for all the enthusiasm and passion, are simply not good enough to hold their own among the leading Associates, let alone scrap with the big boys. They lost all three ODIs in Kenya, and what is worse, locals expressed surprise at how poor and out of condition the Bermudans were.

The second leg of the trip in South Africa offered only marginal solace. The side at least won one ODI, albeit a dead rubber against Netherlands, and they also drew the Intercontinental Cup tie with the same opponents, but despite the appearance of the scorecard, they did not dominate a game played on a pitch which got easier and easier.

The inquest was underway long before the side returned home, but it is already too late to make changes in time for the World Cup. As far as that is concerned, the team will have to hope and pray. Or, as coach Gus Logie, admitted in a remarkably candid confession this week, they might have to be threatened to perform at their best.

What is needed, however, is remedial action immediately. The lack of fitness was one observation that kept being raised. If other non full-time Associates can produce players with reasonable levels of fitness, why can't Bermuda?

One of the reasons is that the selectors have chosen to go with old players rather than bring in young blood. That strategy sometimes works, but it has been clear for some time that it wasn't going to in this instance. By sticking with the same old faces, the selectors have helped to foster a feeling of complacency among the squad, who know that there are no youngsters snapping at their heels. Again, it's too late now, any newcomers have precious little time to find their feet, but a wholesale clearout is a must next April.

The comparisons with Kenya are interesting. Both sides are ageing, although Kenya are broke whereas Bermuda have cash. But Kenya have opted to build around a nucleus of old timers while drafting in youngsters to play alongside them and learn from them. It is worth noting that two of the successes of the series between the two countries were 19-year-old Tanmay Mishra and 22-year-old Hiren Varaiya. Both were thrown in at the deep end and both are swimming. Come the next ICC Trophy in 2009, these two will be among the core of a new-look Kenyan side and they will be able to draw on their World Cup experiences. Even if Bermuda start from scratch, they will be a year or more behind, and raw as well.

And Kenya, despite crippling debts, have played A team and age group cricket. That in the longer term will ensure that there is a flow of new talent pressing for recognition. Where is Bermuda's next crop of players going to come from? It's a gulf in class between club and international cricket.

The infighting has already started, and there have been reports in the last week that Logie wants to make radical changes now, while selectors have been quoted as saying they will stick with the tried and tested players. Such disharmony will rumble on until after the World Cup; the virtual open warfare will start as soon as the side gets knocked out.

And politicians being politicians, they will start to demand to know exactly how their $11 million has been spent once the weakness of the national side is highlighted on an international stage. They have a point. On the evidence of 2006, the cash has been squandered rather than invested in the future.

It's too late to salvage anything in time for the World Cup. But that doesn't mean that tough decisions should be delayed any longer.
Martin Williamson

Martin Williamson is executive editor of ESPNcricinfo and managing editor of ESPN Digital Media in Europe, the Middle East and Africa

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Posted by Nick C on (January 11, 2007, 15:44 GMT)

I know very little about cricket in Bermuda, but if, as suggested, there is no schools programme in place despite a $11m grant, then someone is clearly negligent.

Posted by Triforce on (January 10, 2007, 18:44 GMT)

R Khan

While you are more than entitled to your opinion of the quality of the cricket team representing Bermuda, you point out some inaccuracies and treat Bermuda's culture as it relates to cricket with a tarred (and sweeping) brush. And if people who disgree with your opinions are labelled as "defensive", that is not an insult, just a fact.

To many, the biggest cricket event on the island is not "a picnic" as you quoted. People are as passionate about this encounter as any cricket match you'll find around the globe. The cricket itself is scrutinized by many analysts both armchair and in the commentary booths, to refute yet another argument you make. As for people revelling at the beach or elsewhere, after all it is an official holiday and people are entitled to enjoy it as they see fit. You can't expect everyone in the island to love cricket!

I won't discuss the payment issue as that has been changed as reported in Bermuda's newpapers.

Schools cricket, I will agree with you upon. In the 80s it was more prevalent. I'd like to see it return, although because we only have a small number of secondary schools so to speak, how effective would it be.

Televising international cricket matches is desirable of course, but usually not cost-effective. R Khan I'd like to know which territory in the Windies you are from and to know if Windies' cricket is televised there. I know for sure in Barbados the Pakistan tour was NOT televised. Costs are ever-increasing and getting sponsorship is difficult. Why would you expect a small non-Test-playing country to be able to televise an international match when Caribbean countries (which ought to be able to secure guaranteed sponsorship from Digicel) cannot?

Does Bermuda have the infrastructure? No, but neither did St. Lucia not too long ago. Much of the $11 million injection is to provide such infrastructure which will enable Bermuda to possibly host ODIs in the near future.

The talk about Americanization is moot as this is an occurrence happening in many nations, particularly those of the Caribbean. Kids still play cricket at lunchtime and after school. We'll be fine.

Comparing Bermuda, population 60,000, with Bangladesh, population somewhere over 200 Million, is a non-starter, I'd think. Of course they'd have the resources plus a ready-made set of rivals in India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Finally I'm disappointed that you see nothing but humiliation for Bermuda in the World Cup. You don't seem sincere in wishing the country the best, but that's just an opinion. I think that we'll perform admirably and the sport will thrive a bit more as a result not just here but around the globe.

Posted by LT on (January 9, 2007, 18:02 GMT)

"Pathetic state of mediocrity" - sounds a lot like the West Indies team which would make R. Khan an expert on the matter.

Posted by R. Khan on (December 19, 2006, 17:00 GMT)

Mr. Williams is understandably defensive of the Bermudian cricket team rationalizes their progress in the future. However, Mr. Williams should understand that not all criticism is unfavourable. If anything, it's with criticisms and remonstrations that change is often influenced. It is very easy for Mr. Williams to label me ignorant of the culture of cricket on this island because yes, I am a foreigner. Yet, I have been here long enough, have had direct contact with many cricketers and cricket enthusiasts alike, and have observed several games here to declare there are tremendous deficiencies with the system. While it is one thing to project that Bermuda will do well in the future (I too hope they do for the sake of cricket as a whole)as Bangladesh has done, it is another to expect success with a cricket culture that is self absorbed in the perception of "quality cricket". The Bermudian cricket team is maimed by a lack of international cricketing quality and this is grossly evident. This team is simply not good enough anymore, which is why the management and administration needs to urgently rethink its strategies for future development. I gain nothing from bashing this team, but in its own interest it is simply not good enough. It may have been playing well prior to earning its place in the World Cup, but at this moment, this team is no better than first division club teams in the Caribbean. Mr. Williams' resentment of my criticism and others is testimony to the extent of complaceny and parochialism that characterizes the system on this island. Once you are averse to criticism and change you continue to revolve aimlessly on the circle of inefficiency and even lethargy. I wish Bermudian cricket well in the future and it is my sincere hope that is becomes world class. But for now, it's in a pathetic state of mediocrity.

Posted by Dennis Williams on (December 19, 2006, 14:25 GMT)

Not able to compete with second string nations? What was our last score against Netherlands again?

Posted by Dennis Williams on (December 19, 2006, 14:10 GMT)

Once again someone's talking without historical perspective. In the 1982 ICC Trophy, Bermuda finished a creditible 2nd place being beaten by 5 wickets with a few overs to go in the final by Zimbabwe. What I'm saying is that if funding had been in place then as it is now for associate nations, Bermuda's cricket would be above all these other nations including Bangladesh, Kenya, Scotland, and Ireland. Do any of you know the scores between Bermuda and these countries back then? In addition, I submitted some comments earlier which where not posted. Maybe if they where you would understand my argument better. I did not expect for my latest comments to be posted either. My comments where directed toward M. Williamson who should be aware of my initial statements. Also, tell me which associate country won't get "stuffed" in the World Cup? I remember one being bowled out for 45 or something like that before. My comments are based on M. Williamson saying that we can't compete with the other Associates, not the elite eight, which none of the associates can compete with at the moment. I don't remember Bermuda "talking big"; but I do remember that in spite of all our limitations, we qualified. Get over it, because Scotland for all its size, infrastructure and ability are not much better then Bermuda at all. Once again I'll say make your comments after the Division One Series!

Martin Williamson replies Firstly, what happened 24 years ago is immaterial. We can all hypothesize about what might have happened had money been available, but it won’t help with the way things are now. What I actually said was that as things stand Bermuda cannot hold their own with the leading Associates, and the evidence of this year’s results supports that. You seem fixated on the top eight – it’s ten whether you or I like it, and in any case, Bermuda cannot beat Bangladesh or Zimbabwe either. And, yes, Scotland have problems as do the Canadians. But that is not too relevant either. The ICC is only interested in how good an Associate is and not if they are better than the others. The reality is that at the moment Bermuda are probably 15th or 16th in the world rankings. The danger is that if they slip too far then come 2009 they could find themselves outside the top six Associates, and in terms of finances and exposure, that would be catastrophic.

Posted by Mike J on (December 18, 2006, 22:27 GMT)

Bermuda should worry about its own problems and not Scotland's. The issue is that Bermuda has talked big for months and suddenly it is looking like it will be stuffed in the ICC World Cup.

As for the idea that Bermuda would have got Test status ahead of Bangladesh ... oh come off it. Bermuda is not even able to compete with the main second string countries in ODIs.

Posted by Dennis Williams on (December 18, 2006, 21:28 GMT)

R. Khan"s comments are obviously coming from someone who does not anything of the history of cricket on the Island. Not going to give a history lesson here. However, Where's the outcry over Scotland's recent heavy defeat to Bangladash? Why no damning article that they should bite the bullet? Why all this Bermuda Bashing? I'm glad the ICC is committed to GLOBAL CRICKET and not just the elight eight nations. If this had been the case; Bermuda would have had test status before Bangladash. In time all the associate nations will grow. In the mean time will take our licks. But in the end will be there too.

Posted by R. Khan on (December 17, 2006, 17:59 GMT)

Martin,

I am relatively new on this island but coming from the West Indies, I know what international cricket means and this island is not ready for that.They may have qualified for the World Cup but they are not an international team.

From what I have learnt and seen here, cricket is not seriously a part of the culture of the island.And once that is the case, this island would never be able to produce a quality team with high- calibre players.

There is Cup Match, which is a two day cricketing affair between the Eastern and Western part of the island, and that attracts the largest following of the game in Bermuda- not even the recent 20/20 Classic staged here attracted more spectators, and that competition involved former greats of various test playing nations. Why? Because Cup Match is nothing more than a picnic for most here. There is no serious analysis and critique of the cricketing aspects of the game as you are wont to find in full fledged cricketing regions. Prior to Cup Match, many Bermudians contemplate attires to match the occasion as one would do in preparation for a prom. Also, on this two- day holiday, many revel at the opportunity to camp out on the beaches or some other location.

If the biggest cricketing event on the island is nothing more than a picnic, then how can one expect the country to have a proper team? There is no cultural support for the game and as such young men and women gravitate toward football.

Further, many of the present players have been representing the country while straddling their full time jobs; they have been playing as part time cricketers. Can you imagine that? These guys were expected to compete internationally while getting a part- time fee? As evident, even the administrators are not as serious about the development of the sport. Yes, $11 million was pledged to the national team, but that was only after they qualified for the World Cup. What do we think of people that jump on the bandwagon?

To add, there is no schools' cricket competition as one would find in many full fledged cricketing territories. If a youngster wants to play, he has to have some predisposition to the game, after which he would get involved with one of the parish teams. There was and is no elemtary support system and this is is exemplified in the ages of the experienced players on the team. Many of those players have one leg on the retirement train and they are expected to compete with world class teams next year. The administrators, realising this,have rushed to involve and invest in certain young players. However, this system has not yielded any success and is not likely to because these youngsters have barely slipped the umbilical cord of parish cricket here or league cricket in England.

Finally, the public media has demonstrated little or no interest in televising international cricket on this island and that is also detrimental to the the development of the sport here. To see international cricket, one has to subscribe to a Jamaican cable company, Sportsmax. Otherwise, one remains as isolated from the cricketing mainland as the island itself is. How can young people learn of the sport and its excitement if they cannot see it elsewhere? This is another area where the administrators have exemplified their myopia. Bermuda, in my view, was suprised that it qualified for a major cricket tournament, and so had no real infrastructure in place prior to that. This is why, at the juncture of playing the World Cup and stepping into the international arena, the country has no choice but to send a bunch of aging men, who themselves are experiencing stage fright.

As the culture here catapults into homogeneity with America, the public, expecially the young public, grows increasingly apathetic to the cricket.And instead of of administrators beginning to address the concerns in an organized, stratified way, starting from primary schools upwards, they all grapple with ill- thought policies. The outcome is bedlam and increasing failure of the national team.

Bermuda will humiliate itself in the upcoming World Cup and international tournaments and that is regrettable. However, while many here expect that embarrassment, they are not concerned about the pain on their psyche and national identity. After all, cricket is nothing more than a past time, a picnic activity for most here. And for those Bermudians who do support the game religiously, their cause would be nothing more than a flicker.

Posted by James Whittaker on (December 11, 2006, 14:05 GMT)

I think you have to persist with the current crop at least until after the World Cup. They got the team to this stage and they deserve the chance. This was a bad tour for them and coming a week before the selection of the World Cup squad it was bad timing, indeed. But I don't think Bermuda can afford to throw away that experience at this stage. The older players have posted consistently better totals than the younger guys. Leverock, for example - for all the criticism of his weight, is averaging in the early 20s with the ball after 12 ODIs. And others – Romaine, Smith, Janeiro Tucker in particular – are capable of more than they produced on this tour. Borden and Pitcher would no doubt have been in Africa had they been available but as I said earlier there is a generation gap with few players in the mid-late 20s knocking on the door. The best guys coming through are in the 18-21 bracket but they need older heads around them. Gus Logie's policy has been one of cautious integration - a couple of younger guys on each tour. You could argue, given the age of the squad, that he should have been less cautious. And maybe he will have been emboldened by what he saw in Africa to include more youngsters. People will have different views on this, but my personal belief is that balance is the key. There are two-and-a-half years between the World Cup and the next ICC Trophy. There will be one-day-interntionals, Intercontinental Cup matches and hopefully opportunities against Test playing nations. There is time to steadily bring in a new generation - led by the players that are already being phased into the squad without making the kind of radical overhaul you're suggesting at this stage. Your view is that Bermuda are facing possible humiliation in the World Cup, now. My view is that with a team of young players it would be a certainty. The current guys are the best bet for that tournament and they deserve the chance to give it a go. This is the World Cup – you take your best team and give yourself the best chance of a positive result.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Martin Williamson
Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.

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