Bermuda June 6, 2007

Another Caribbean crisis

Associates cricket is on something of a high at the moment

Associates cricket is on something of a high at the moment. Ireland did the second-tier countries proud at the World Cup, there are a number of full ODIs set to take place involving Associates and Full Members, and the World Cricket League Division Three, which finished in Darwin at the weekend, showed that the game does have strength in depth. In 2009, extra funding resulting from the ICC's media deal with ESPN should also kick in giving a further fillip. But while the leading Associates press on with ambitious plans to try to bridge the divide between them and most Full Members, there is one country where the profile of the game is heading in the wrong direction - Bermuda .

A year or so ago, Bermudan cricket looked to be heading for great things. Despite the restrictions of a tiny population, the game, which has strong roots on the island, was thriving.

On the strength of the country qualifying for the 2007 World Cup, the government agreed to donate US$11 million to the Bermuda Cricket Board over five years. On top of that the BCB received more than US$250,000 from its participation in the Stanford 20-20, and then there were ICC grants totalling more than US$200,000 a year. Bermuda 's direct rivals, the other five Associates which qualified for the World Cup, only had ICC funding and local sponsorships to build on. It should have given them a huge advantage.

But the ink had hardly dried on the government's investment than things started to go wrong. The national side spluttered, wobbled and then fell apart, and by the end of 2006 there were too many stories regarding their lack of fitness and dubious approach to matches to ignore. They played three games in Mombasa in November and several independent eyewitnesses raised concerns about many aspects of their performances.

Gus Logie, the coach, who played 52 Tests for West Indies when they were at their peak, started to sound increasingly frustrated. In December, Richard Done, the ICC's High erformance Manager, also expressed his concerns over the players' fitness in public.

Despite all the financial advantages and the boost to the game's profile that came from the World Cup, there is every reason to argue that things now are worse than they were 12 months ago
By the time the side arrived in Nairobi in February for the World Cricket League Division One - the premier event for Associates - even the Bermuda government was being asked to justify its investment. Under the spotlight to perform, Bermuda looked a shambles. "They were smiling and laughing as they walked off the field after being thumped," one eyewitness told Cricinfo after they lost their opening game by ten wickets. "They seemed to lack fight and any willingness to battle." Things got no better. One senior administrator from another Associate said: "Five sides came here with a professional attitude. Bermuda came as if it was an all-expenses-paid jolly." Few expected any better at the World Cup, and so it turned out. Aside from Dwayne Leverock's headline-grabbing and earth-shattering catch against India, it was forgettable and dismal. They lost by margins of 243 runs, 253 runs and seven wickets, and stories of their off-field activities abounded.

Since then, things have continued to slide. Last week it emerged that almost no players had deemed it necessary for them to attend training sessions which resumed at the start of May. And a new two-day league introduced by the BCB has started amid chaos. Two sides have already pulled out, a third only fielded seven players and another match was scrapped because the pitch had not been prepared.

A fortnight ago an exasperated Done reported that the country could not stage any full ODIs because the square at the National Sports Centre was not fit to be considered for such matches. In the year since he first inspected, nothing had changed. At that time Andy Atkinson, the ICC's pitch expert, said the pitches were "only suitable for growing carrots".

So despite all the financial advantages and the boost to the game's profile that came from the World Cup, there is every reason to argue that things now are worse than they were 12 months ago.

Time is against the board. In 2009, Bermuda has to re-qualify for its current status and also battle for a place at the 2011 World Cup, and there are some sides out there who are already snapping at their heels. Failure to secure both goals will quite possibly be the end of the dream for Bermuda, and it is hard to see any way back if they do slip.

Things can still be turned round. The board and selectors need to come down hard on those players who will not toe the line - and indiscipline, at club and national level, has been a constant issue - and if that means those who want to play are picked, and not necessarily the best players, so be it. A clear message has to be sent out that the players are expected to behave as conscientiously as those from other Associates.

The BCB has to invest time and money in getting pitches sorted, and establishing a workable club structure. It was apparent from some time ago that the two-day competition was unsustainable.

There is also encouragement to be had among the up-and-coming players. Participation in the Under-10 league has more than doubled since the World Cup. The Under-19s have impressed with their commitment and ability. James Whittaker of the Bermuda Sun said that anyone who had watched them play "has found it refreshing to see a team in Bermuda colours looking fit and sharp in the field".

What cannot be allowed is another year of stagnation and a strategy of hoping everything will come good. It won't. In a professional world, it's time for some professionalism.

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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • testli5504537 on June 26, 2007, 23:51 GMT

    I've read all the comment about the Bermuda player not taking game serious,well let me tell you something some don't know I know they try their best and their best was not good enough one thing people have to realize is this we are not professional. the high cost of living in Bermuda, player have to work long hour to make a good paycheck to take care of their familes with children and then they have to train three day a week and some time play Saturdays and Sundays. Player with wive and children don't get time with family together and that not good for family life.BCB need to pick 20 to 24 player and pay them just to train and play cricket only and that way they can focus more in develop player,and take them away alot to play other county from time to time and they will get better and better every time they play different team or they can play in Caribbean or England and do train camps.just being around different player giving them advise on how to go about improving their game. PS give support

  • testli5504537 on June 14, 2007, 17:20 GMT

    In reply to Mr Beans comments..."Bermuda was not deserving entry in the first place"..."reflection of ICC policy"... I have to comment on this part of the post as I admit I didn't even bother to read the rest of it.

    Am I to believe from these comments that you give BDA players NO CREDIT for qualifying? Did they play against teams that didn't want to make the World Cup?

    Before the ICC 2005 tournament in Ireland started we were placed in the group of death with UAE, Denmark, Ireland and USA (the more deserving teams I hear talked about that should have made the world cup). We were pegged to maybe beat Uganda. In short our chances were not good.

    The ICC rules now allowed 5 teams to go to the world cup from this tournament so this policy change you speak of meant we had to finish in the top 2 of our group to avoid the 5th place match against the 3rd place team in the other group.

    BDA start by losing by 97 runs to favorites IRELAND and then BEAT UAE, DENMARK, had a rain out against whipping boys Uganda to finally beat USA to EARN our day in History by finishing 4th. Not bad for a country with only 200 cricketeers to pick from and realitically only about 30 that can play at a that high level.

    You also realise that BDA were placed in a group that contained all test playing teams while the other associate members had a fellow associates to play against to try and claim that world cup win.

    Are INDIA and SRI LANKA 243 and 253 runs better than BERMUDA - on that day yes - However, they are also that much better than a lot of teams that DIDN'T make the World Cup. You'll never see those matches because they do not have ODI status.

    The time has come to support the team and build on the hard work started by the "old" crop of players.

    Lets talk about the first time wins against Holland and ICC champions Scotland, the first Americas trophy win, the U15, U19 national teams and the booming U10 league. Our jouney back is a long one so lets support and move forward together.

  • testli5504537 on June 11, 2007, 17:41 GMT

    While it would appear from Mr. Williamson's article that the decline of Bermuda's cricket was effected in the past 12 months and thus since the Island's qualification into the World Cup, nothing could be further from the truth. Alas, Bermuda cricket has been in steep decline for several years and, with Bermuda's qualification for the World Cup more a reflection of ICC policy, in its institution of diminished standards for entry - increasing the number of countries emerging via the ICC Trophy competition - than any on-field improvement.

    In short, Bermuda was not deserving of entry into the World Cup in the first place, something borne out by the results table.

    As such, it would appear that Bermuda cricket was/is equally undeserving of the boatload of money infusing its coffers...not so.

    A cash influx has long been needed by this neglected franchise, one which has produced many leading persons in the business, political, educational and community fields, many of whom emerged from the grassroots level. And it is this grassroots level where much funding is necessary to create a foundation for the future, in that the present debacle be erased.

    Many in the media have - and many will continue - to create clamour regarding the money being given to the sport, however I suggest this to be more a matter of placing personalities over principles, because the battle cry previously had been that not enough money was being made available to develop sports - particularly our national sports - as a viable outlet for the country's youth, one which can be used to aid in the positive growth of young people.

    It may well be that the present crop of national team players are old and fat, and unwilling to change, and the simple solution is to get rid of them now and move on with those that are willing, those that will respond to instruction and change.

    The World Cup is gone, what better time to start afresh.

  • testli5504537 on June 9, 2007, 8:46 GMT

    I'm very sad to hear of Bermuda's cricket slump, having visited the island in 1973 for the Bacardi double-wicket festival featuring Test cricketers from several countries. It seemed then that cricket had an assured future, but this now seems doubtful. Why doesn't the ICC devote some of its huge financial surplus to lifting the game at that charming venue? And, by the way, your feature - like so many in the UK newspapers during the recent World Cup - used the word "Bermudan". The correct word is "Bermudian".

  • testli5504537 on June 8, 2007, 19:33 GMT

    What it seems the daily wants to do is get the Bermuda public worked up about the amount of money invested into cricket. Whenever information from an ICC tournament was released, the amount of money was always put in the press release, but it was never printed in the daily, it seems that the reporters always wanted to publish a story about other issues in cricket. Now that things are calming down it seems that they would like to start new controversy by highlighting money.

    There are some things in the article that are clearly misleading. The daily could have clarified a few items. For example the Editor took comments from an article in the daily that said, “Only three senior members of the World Cup squad have been training”. The daily could have clarified and highlighted that more than 3 people were training but only 3 Senior members were amongst those that were training. The original story quoted the coach as saying that there are twenty players training and he did not know why the senior members of the National Squad had not attended training.

    The author in the Cricinfo article suggested that at the World Cricket League. “Five teams showed up with a professional attitude, Bermuda came as if it was an all-expenses-paid jolly.” It went on to say that the Bermuda team were "smiling and laughing as they walked off the field after being thumped". The comment was made by the same person who neglected to sing praises for Bermuda’s win over Scotland. Is it implying that the professionals (Scotland) were beaten by the Jokers?

    From an arm-chair, clearly people choose to pick out only certain things for print. One can only wonder why when Cricinfo recently gave the Bermuda National Women’s Cricket a write up about winning a match; the local daily did not even acknowledge it.

    Editorial comment

  • Bermuda did beat Scotland in the last round-robin match when Scotland were preparing for the final.

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