Smith refuses to fall on his sword
Bermuda head coach Clay Smith has refused to throw in the towel after relegation to the hinterlands of international cricket was confirmed yesterday amid the most bizarre of circumstances.
“I have considered my position and it’s plain and simple,” he told The Royal Gazette after an 89-run defeat by Malaysia consigned Bermuda to last place in the six-team tournament. “Quitters never win and winners never quit. Anybody that knows me knows that I am a winner; I am a fighter; I don’t give up.
“However, at the end of the day the [Bermuda Cricket] Board is the one to decide my fate; not me. I coach because I love the game and if they see fit to make a change, then fine, I wish them the best.
“I will always coach cricket because I love what I do; it is my passion and I, like everybody else, just want to see Bermuda successful again.”
Needing to overcome Malaysia’s 257 for eight inside 40 overs, Bermuda literally limped to 168 for nine, but in doing so made themselves heroes in the eyes of Denmark, who clinched the second promotion place behind champions Uganda.
The East Africa nation had earlier overcome Jersey by seven runs in a low-scoring game, and when Malaysia had reduced an injury-stricken Bermuda to 37 for six, the host nation appeared odds-on to book an instant return to Division Three.
But they did not account for cramping Janeiro Tucker and Kamau Leverock, who was forced to bat no higher than No 7 because of time spent off the field nursing an ankle injury suffered the day before.
The pair put on 97 runs, exuding a spirit that has strengthened Smith’s resolve to carry on — if he is allowed.
“It’s a sad day for Bermuda cricket, but all is not lost,” he said. “We just have to regroup and make sure that next time our preparation and planning are a lot better. Oman came from Division Five to Division Two in a matter of two years. There is not much separating teams from Division Two to Four; the question is how bad do we want it and what are we willing to sacrifice to get it.”
Allan Douglas, as an interim coach the last time Bermuda played in Malaysia four years ago, was summarily turfed out of the Bermuda Cricket Board executive upon his return. After the shenanigans that led to Leverock serving a two-game suspension, Smith is bearing an air of defiance.
“If you think losing a couple of games is going to make me quit, that would never happen,” he said. If anything, it is going to make me hungrier for success, hungrier to put it right.”
Smith recalled that confidence was low when he took over, which is why such a fuss was made over winning the ICC Americas T20 Sub Regional in Argentina, where the opponents were lowly ranked.
“You cannot form a winning team in a year,” said Smith, who has been head coach in at least a part-time capacity since December 2015. “It was always going to be a two to four-year process. First, I had to change the players’ mentality, as they were so used to losing that they didn’t know what it felt like to be a winner — until two months ago when they won that small tournament.
“Then we had to change the culture of how way we play the game and find a brand of cricket that could be sustainable at this level.
“These things take time. Just this year we introduced six new players to the national team who are still adapting to how we play the game. We had no middle practice in Bermuda with them to go over game scenarios to help them prepare and understand our philosophy of how we want to play the matches. So they came into a major tournament like this relatively raw and uncooked, but they did their best and I am proud of them.”
Smith closed by paying homage to Leverock and Tucker for putting their bodies on the line yesterday in making 61 and 55 respectively; in particular the older man, whose playing days at international level are all but over.
“Kamau and Janeiro put on a good partnership, but it was strange to say the least,” Smith said. “Both players were suffering from injury and singles were out of the question unless the ball went into the outfield. They hobbled from end to end, hitting the odd boundary here and there.
“It wasn’t until the Uganda team showed up to watch the ending and they start cheering on the Bermuda team that both players went into overdrive and accelerated the scoring.
“One would have to see the agony that both players were in to appreciate the value of the partnership.”
Tucker, 43, began his international career in Malaysia in 1997 and now has surely come to the end of the road.
“It would have been nice to send Janeiro off on a winning note, but he has done Bermuda proud over the years,” Smith said.
“He is a warrior. Today he had his knee heavily strapped as he limped about, but still he dived about the field, bowled well and batted masterfully, which in the end helped him to claim the game’s MVP.
“Fitting for a person of such class. I want to personally thank him for his years of service to Bermuda. He helped put us on the map and was part of the World Cup team. Bermuda will definitely miss you.”
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