Coach, his name is Delray – please give him a call
Herbie Bascome is a happy man, having been named Bermuda cricket coach, and he is entitled to be. So, too, Lloyd Smith, the president of the Bermuda Cricket Board. Happy and relieved that they managed to survive a shambles of a press conference last Thursday that never ever addressed the elephant in the room.
Among the first words Bascome ushered when given the microphone was that he wanted to get the best players on the pitch representing Bermuda.
With that said, and given that the next assignment Bermuda will engage is a home tournament that is two steps away on the pathway to the T20 World Cup in Australia in 2020, how can it be that the name “Delray Rawlins” was not mentioned even once over the course of what was essentially a 21½-minute armchair ride?
Not by Bascome. Not by Smith. And not by those asking the questions, when in reality the urgency in ensuring the availability of a cricketer who would be the best player on show from any of the four countries — including Canada, United States and Cayman Islands — is crucially essential.
And needs to be done pronto because in the professional world of cricket ahead of an English summer, preseason is already well under way — even if restricted to indoor nets — and the 2019 fixture list has been out for at least four months.
From what we already know now, the best player in the ICC Americas region is scheduled to be involved in five Vitality Blast Twenty20 matches for Sussex Sharks in the period that he would be expected to be on Bermuda duty between August 15 and 25.
That is what Bascome should have been talking about instead of being prompted to wax lyrical over whether it would have been nice to coach the national cricket team at the same time that older brother Andrew was in charge of our footballers.
Rawlins missed out on the World Cricket League Division Four tournament, which was regrettable, but that tournament has since been ruled null and void by the International Cricket Council — the world governing body announcing last October that qualification for the 2023 World Cup is to be restructured, starting with countries in divisions three through five.
So Bermuda have been given a mulligan in that regard, but the BCB president has let it be known privately that he has reservations over whether the country could afford it, preferring to place the majority of his eggs in the T20 basket as the easier pathway to a global tournament.
That said, and with the shortest format precisely the one that gained Rawlins such acclaim last year during the Vitality Blast, where he and Sussex finished runners-up, Bascome and Smith should be falling over themselves to get our best player on board.
Seeing is believing. And for those who had been indifferent to the many overseas successes of Flora Duffy — triathlon being a sport for “whites and expats”, and all that — seeing the world’s best female triathlete strut her stuff in the flesh in 2018 was transformative.
The scenes that greeted Duffy during MS Amlin World Triathlon Bermuda last April were those of a country united for a single purpose — cheering on a Bermudian who, having months earlier become Commonwealth champion, got to perform in front of her own people and show an international field a clean pair of heels.
Imagine the parallels for Rawlins were he to return on home soil for an international event.
He has not played a cricket match of note in Bermuda since the 2014 Cup Match in Somerset when he was a colt, scoring fifty and taking a few wickets. In the five years since, he has starred on an England Under-19 tour to India, signed professional terms with Sussex County Cricket Club and won plaudits from commentators who know a thing or two about cricket as former England captains — Michael Atherton and Nasser Hussain.
His ambition is to play Test cricket for England, but until national selector Ed Smith and right-hand man James Taylor start looking in his direction — and recent evidence suggests they are a distance from doing so — the BCB should keep the 21-year-old batting all-rounder on its radar.
A much improved Rawlins would be an asset to any team under Bascome’s charge. And we have yet to mention properly Kamau Leverock — the other “elephant in the room”, if you will, whose name also did not get a mention on Thursday.
But, despite his falling-out with the BCB over disciplinary action taken against him at the aforementioned tournament in Malaysia, he is highly thought of enough to be drafted by ultimate champions Vancouver Knights in the inaugural Global T20 Canada last summer and to land a club cricket gig in Australia this winter as an overseas professional.
If we are serious about being one of two teams to emerge from a tournament we are hosting to join 12 others in the final qualifier in October — six from that will reach the T20 World Cup 12 months later — both these young men need to be on Bascome’s and Smith’s speed dials.
The prospects of success without them are not worth entertaining, no matter Bascome’s rallying call.
What also needs to be determined is the new head coach’s stance on substance abuse in sport — another notable item overlooked on Thursday.
It is an open secret that predecessor Clay Smith had his hands tied, as the BCB’s zero-tolerance policy on drugs, appropriate though it is, resulted in an even smaller player pool to select from.
How in a matter of months does Bascome propose to turn around this particular form of societal decay?
And, while we’re at it, are we to deduce from his claims to be willing to accept all players into his programme, no matter their “race, colour and creed”, that he has evolved from previous and rather publicly outspoken misgivings of foreigners taking opportunities away from Bermudians?
If he truly has, there are a couple of expatriate players knocking around in the Evening League who qualify through residency, who play much more T20 cricket than the tried, tested and found wanting, and who would be worth a look-see.
Otherwise, apart from the stunningly naive admission that the new head coach sees himself more as a motivator these days than as a coach, and the trivia buff’s nugget that he will be the first Bermuda coach to have a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire as an assistant, Thursday’s love-in was an exercise in nothingness.
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