Will Luke is assistant editor of Cricinfo
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Bermuda's coach, Gus Logie, has attacked the lack of desire and professionalism with certain individuals, 48 hours after the country lost their ODI status and failed to qualify for the 2011 World Cup. Logie's four-year contract expires in September and he gave the strongest indication yet that there would need to be widespread changes for him to even consider renewing it.
"We, the board, have put a lot of things in place. We have had professional people come in from all walks of life to come and work in Bermuda, such as Mike Young, one of the best fielding coaches there is," he told Cricinfo in Johannesburg. "And [ex] players come to Bermuda to offer their expertise. But the general interest has been so low, that these guys aren't interested in coming back. No one seemed to really care that much.
"But when you lose ODI status, it has hit home to everyone just how important it is. The government has put a lot of money [US$11m] into development of the sport on the island, and therefore they deserve to have some sort of success out of it. You can put as much as money as you want into it, but it comes down to the individuals and how much they desire, how much they want it. We plan as much as possible but if the desire of the players isn't as high as it should be, then obviously it makes it very difficult."
Losing ODI status cuts off a vital financial artery from the ICC, but the downgraded standing has a greater impact: potential demotion to the ranks of an Affiliate nation. A team of bursars and baggage-handlers such as the UAE - a side of cobbled-together amateurs who forsake their jobs and cherished annual holiday just to play for their country - are, on paper, a side less equipped than Bermuda but who, like an untapped Sharjah oil reservoir, are bubbling rich with talent and desire, sufficiently so to qualify for the Super Eights of the World Cup Qualifiers.
Bermuda, on the other hand, are a group of semi-professional cricketers with the backing of its government, one who invested $11m in the sport, but whose only consistent facet is failure. It isn't too outlandish to suggest that Bermuda have been a four-year eye-sore of ICC's attempt to laud and publicise its Associates.
Their consistent lack of success is nevertheless a surprise given the investment they have had, and it may raise many eyebrows to learn that Bermudans' interest in cricket, as a past-time, is greater than most other Associate nations. The sport is discussed by locals in cafes and bars. Their cricketers - in particular Dwayne Leverock - have reached a level of fame that the likes of the Irish, Scots and Kenyans can only dream about.
"It annoys me, yes, that all the hard work and commitment, not just from myself but from many people, [has been wasted]. The board have tried to put guidelines in place - not just internationally but locally - and opportunities were given to players," said Logie. "But over the past two weeks, we really haven't shown that level of commitment, or hunger, or desire or focus from the individuals. Because that's what it boils down to: on the field of play. We felt we let ourselves down tremendously, under tremendous expectations, and it hasn't really and truly happened."
The reasons for their slip from grace are inexplicably numerous. As an indicator of the flat-lining development programme in place, their women's team were last year bowled out for a comedic nadir of 13 . They lost in four balls. But Logie has another explanation, one which is far more deep-rooted.
"We have had a lot of local problems. We talk about some of the individuals who would rather play County Cup instead of representing their country, which has never been in the forefront [of their minds]," he says. "We try to galvanise these individuals into playing for their country, but that has not always been the case [that they wanted to]. So we have always suffered in not having the best players available for our internationals.
"We've not been able to play ODIs at home, that's something else. We need the grounds to develop properly the batsmen and the bowlers, better pitches to play on and that hasn't materialised over the years. There are a lot of things conspiring against us to make it very difficult. We're always fighting against the odds.We have tried to sort it out as much as possible with what we've had, but we were always up against it. It made it even more difficult when we'd play teams who were much more professional in their approach and attitude, and their motiviation was different from Bermuda."
But perhaps the most telling indicator of a possible apathetic attitude was their captain's reaction to the loss to Afghanistan. Irvine Romaine, calling upon all his hours of media training, attempted to shrug off the loss as a one-off on April 2. Unfortunately, his cheerful demeanour and perma-grin only added to the feeling that being totally outplayed by eleven refugees didn't really matter. Nevermind, eh? There's always tomorrow. Except that this time, there isn't a tomorrow.
Their future as a cricketing nation is hazy. Last year saw numerous controversies poke their head above the parapet - allegations of drug-use, players and umpires failing (or forgetting) to turn up for local matches and so on - which gave rise to the sense of hopelessness which has pervaded their international performances.
"Allthough the board have tried to professionalise the squad, Bermuda is a unique little island because the living standard is a lot higher than most places. Young people don't see cricket as a viable option, or as a future.
"It has to take an effort from everyone. It's not going to happen just through one or two individuals in charge of the board. It has to be a country-wide effort where cricket is seen as being important. Youngsters must see the game as a viable [career] option. Not just as a past-time. They can make careers out of it. They juts don't see it as being viable so you're fighting against a tide of what we really want as opposed to what you actually get."
Worst of all, they are almost certainly going to lose a passionate coach who once believed his side had what it took to beat the best. The next four years will determine whether Bermuda rise again, or continue to yawn lazily at the prospect of the hard graft required.