While we were sleeping ...
Looking out for our interests abroad is meant to be one of the tenets of the Bermuda Cricket Board, but time and again the governing body for the national sport in this country is caught with its pants down, in reactionary mode having been dumped on by those who do not see us — or, if they do, see us as a bit of a soft touch.
Much of this we have brought on ourselves by being utterly abject on and off the field for ten years or more, Bermuda’s positioning in World Cricket League Division Four appearing light years from the glory days when victory over Zimbabwe would have meant participation in the World Cup as far back as 1983.
That the historic distinction did not occur until nigh on a quarter-century later had as much to do with cricket becoming significantly more globalised by 2007, the International Cricket Council giving smaller nations greater opportunity to claim a seat at the table.
However, almost immediately after the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean, Bermuda cricket descended at a rate of knots, leaving us in the position where we are now an afterthought — passed over, dismissed out of hand, given little consideration ... whichever way you wish to couch it.
There have been many instances of Associate Members not being given a fair rub of the green by the ICC, but the buck should have stopped for Bermuda after the asinine ruling by the world governing body that someone born in this country to Bermudian parents, but who was not living on the island, was not “Bermudian enough” to fulfil eligibility requirements.
Utterly ridiculous. And instead of our board growing a set and challenging the ICC for its intransigence, while possessing the wherewithal to go as far as to threaten a tournament boycott, we blinked first and sacrificed Okera Bascome on the altar of expedience.
How much of that had to do with the youngster having been earmarked as a back-up wicketkeeper at best, making his absence potentially less painful to the squad on the whole, is irrelevant. The BCB failed in its duty of care for one of its own, making the rather belated victory in having eligibility regulations amended a few months ago more of the pyrrhic variety.
Yet another case of after the Lord Mayor’s show — and here we are again in the drowsy position of having to react to news that the United States will replace ICC Americas in the regional one-day tournament starting in the West Indies at the end of the month.
The relevance to Bermuda is that last year this time, Kamau Leverock and Delray Rawlins were selected to represent ICC Americas at the Regional Super50, having performed commendably in Los Angeles at the WCL Division Four tournament. Rawlins was unavailable because of his commitments with England Under-19 in India, but Leverock, a bowling all-rounder who by now had been reinvented as a hard-hitting opening batsman, excelled.
The left-hander was ICC Americas’ leading scorer, possessed the highest average, was a clear second on scoring rate (runs per 100 balls) and his knock of 75 against Jamaica — one of two fifties in eight innings, 55 against Combined Campuses and Colleges being the other — was the composite team’s second-highest individual score.
So it can be gleaned that not only did he not let the team down, but he was one of the star performers.
However, in 2018, the opportunity for Leverock — or any Bermuda cricketer — to build on those performances in Barbados has been lost, either because we have been asleep at the wheel or because we have accepted our lot as second-class citizens in the Americas region.
No sooner had the ink dried on the end-of-tournament statistics that were published by ESPNcricinfo, United States were plotting to go it alone in the tournament for the first time since 2000, during its previous life as the Red Stripe Bowl and when Bermuda were regular entrants. And with Canada preparing for WCL Division Two in Namibia next month, effectively ruling out their best players, the Americans got their wish.
This is the same group whose previous administration had so fallen foul of the ICC over the years that it had to be suspended, reinstatement coming in 2015. But America is a much larger market than Bermuda, and if nothing else in attempts to grow its brand, the world governing body has been known to follow the money.
You would have thought the BCB with its finger on the pulse would catch wind of this, or be given a steer, and then stand its ground on the advancement of its finest cricketers. But, no, there has been nothing other than news of a prequalifying competition in which Bermuda will share a cricket ground with the likes of Surinam, Cayman Islands and Argentina.
Hardly the who’s who of international cricket. For where our stock has fallen, especially on the domestic front, this new-found backwater status is deserved. So there is little sense in crying foul.
But could more have been done to give our better players greater exposure against the best that can be found in the Caribbean? And against the likes of English county clubs Hampshire and Kent, who are invited in 2018 as part of their build-up towards the County Championship?
How might that have prepared our select few for the inevitable rigours of the Division Four tournament in Malaysia in April?
Bermuda and the host nation will be joined by favourites Uganda, Denmark, Vanuatu and a Jersey team who have previous with us after the unseemly mankading incident that left a reputational blight on our involvement two years ago in Los Angeles.
While we were sleeping, there has been a change of leadership and apparently every cricketer with a pulse has been drafted for the Americas Twenty20 subregional qualifier in Argentina at the end of next month and then WCL Division Four.
New president Lloyd Smith can hardly be seen to be culpable, but what excuses are there to be had for his predecessor, Lloyd Fray, and longstanding chief executive Neil Speight?
There can be none; not when we fall farther and farther behind those whose introduction to the world game has not come until this millennium, but who — Oman being the most recent example, joining Nepal and Afghanistan — are within touching distance of the elite.
It matters when opportunities are allowed to slip from our grasp, however small they may be.
It matters more when there is no sign of a fight. No fight off the field invariably translates to no fight on it.
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