April 11, 2009

Bermuda's blown chance

Their four-year stint at Associate level has come to an end and they don't look likely to be bouncing back anytime soon

So Bermuda's four-year flirtation with cricket's big time has ended, and perhaps fittingly, they departed the scene not with all guns blazing so much as with a parp, a shrug, and one eye on where that night's party was at.

Given much of what has happened since the ICC Trophy in 2005, few were surprised that Bermuda failed to retain their ODI status at the ICC World Cup Qualifiers. They managed one win, against Denmark, and never really looked able to keep up with the Associates big boys.

In fairness to Bermuda, they were a very small country punching above their weight. But great things were expected from the team when they made it to the big time. The local media went overboard at the prospect of Bermuda taking part in the Caribbean's World Cup in 2007, and the government pledged millions of dollars to help build up the national side.

But almost immediately, things started to go wrong. Players treated the qualification as a destination rather than a launching pad into the big time. Stories began to circulate about poor discipline and a lack of fitness.

At the World Cricket League in Nairobi a month before the World Cup, Bermuda were a shambles, and reporters were appalled at their general attitude to a high-profile warm-up event. At the World Cup itself, Bermuda looked little more than a pub side playing against professionals. The only real impact they made was with the image of 20-stone Dwayne Leverock's celebratory jig after taking a slip catch against India.

Thereafter, Bermuda lurched from one self-inflicted disaster to another. Attempts to set up a national two-day league failed because players simply didn't turn up. Gus Logie, the long-suffering national coach, was more often than not found lamenting his charges' failure to attend training. Allegations of drug abuse surfaced, and there were instances of infighting, both physical and verbal.

The Bermuda Cricket Board hardly covered itself in glory either. It failed to ensure there was a semi-decent playing surface on the island. For most of their four years as an ODI country, the team had to play away, as the ICC would not approve the national ground.

The board repeatedly clashed with its own players, often operated behind closed doors, and at the World Cup many of its members seemed preoccupied with ensuring they got tickets and hospitality rather than worrying about what was happening on the field.

The board is likely to implode in a sea of recrimination, and heads simply have to roll for allowing such a shambles to rumble on for so long when the warning signs were so clear to see

There were glimmers of hope in the last year, but they were too little and far too late. When they lost to Afghanistan, a result that almost sealed their fate, one senior player, rather than vowing to battle on and bounce back, shrugged and simply said: "Hey man, these things happen."

Given how they royally blew it when they had a chance, it is hard to envisage Bermuda bouncing back. The board is likely to implode in a sea of recrimination, and heads simply have to roll for allowing such a shambles to rumble on for so long when the warning signs were so clear to see.

Senior players will probably drift into retirement, and with ICC funding being reduced to a trickle, the incentives and infrastructure will undoubtedly suffer. If the prospect of playing against the best cricketers in the world in front of a global audience running into billions wasn't enough to galvanise the players, then it's hard to see how games against the USA and Cayman Islands will do much.

And so Bermuda head home, and few will miss them. If proof were needed that money was not the be-all and end-all, then here is a wonderful example.

Bermuda's one enduring memory from four years at Associate cricket's top table is that of an overweight man jiggling round an outfield after taking a catch. Sadly, the top tiers of the Associate game will not miss them, and whoever replaces them - and UAE have to be in the driving seat - can hardly fail to bring more to the party than Bermuda did.

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

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