What cannot be unseen from Cup Match 2019
Today should be a day for lauding the Bermuda cricket team’s perfect start yesterday to the ICC T20 World Cup Americas Qualifier, for patting ourselves on the back for banging on that Delray Rawlins should be representing his homeland, and for praising coach Herbie Bascome for what was done behind the scenes to prise the talent from Sussex for a week.
But, no, to borrow a line from Marc Antony’s “I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him”, that will have to wait. At the risk of dampening the national feel-good factor, not another day can pass without due acknowledgement of an historic occasion that is most notable for its infamy.
For the first time since the Bermuda Friendly Societies Association launched the Sportsmanship Award at Cup Match 15 years ago, no suitable recipient could be found from among 22 players!
“Unfortunately this year, the umpires couldn’t pinpoint an incident or example where the true meaning of sportsmanship was displayed on the field,” senior umpire Emmerson Carrington told the audience at Manchester Unity Hall last Thursday. “We had some who were near, but the final decision was made that no award will be given this year.”
There could be no greater indictment of today’s cricketer than those words — and they need to marinate, then be laid on a platter for the Cup Match clubs’ disciplinary bodies to dine on in decisive fashion.
But therein lies the rub.
Cup Match 2019 has been in the books for more than a fortnight, yet there has been nothing forthcoming to give closure to some scenes that brought the game into great disrepute.
For Carrington and fellow umpire Alex Knight to make a sportsmanship submission to the friendly societies, their match report has to have been submitted.
So what gives? Why the delay? The lack of transparency by those in authority? The lack of accountability to the game and to the paying public?
What is most confusing for cricket fans is that Allan Douglas Jr, the most grievous offender at Wellington Oval on August 1 and 2, took his place in the Bermuda team for the uplifting and shock win over the United States, a team we needed to beat at least once to hold any chance of being among the top two to reach the final qualifier in Dubai in October and November.
Canada, the overwhelming favourites, and Cayman Islands, projected as the whipping boys in the double round-robin event, are the other teams on display.
Fans’ last sighting of the St David’s all-rounder, who can be accurately said to be talented and temperamental in equal measure, was of him reacting poorly to being given out leg-before by Carrington on the second day of the annual classic.
What would be most frustrating for the St George’s hierarchy, embarrassingly so for those closest to Douglas, is that he thought twice before knocking a stump out of the ground — shaping up initially as though he were about to smash all three into the next stratosphere.
That he ultimately sent only a solitary stump a few feet from its base, despite having given himself a brief “Serenity Now” moment, speaks to a blatant disregard for the Spirit of Cricket, a case of putting self before team, and sticking two fingers up to authority and the watching public at home and abroad.
How many? Thousands at the ground and several thousand more via television and live-streaming.
If ever there was an incident that screamed out “Level 2 offence” from the rooftops, that was it — signed, sealed and delivered on a 4¼-inch postage stamp, with plenty of video evidence to boot.
However much has happened in the interim — two enthralling Eastern Counties games and Rawlins smashing 63 off 53 balls, complemented by a wicket and a match-turning catch of stunning proportion — that was a sight that cannot be unseen.
A Level 2 offence is generally punishable by a fine of 50 per cent to 100 per cent of a player’s match fee and a suspension of indeterminate length. When the England batsman Jason Roy hotly disputed his caught-behind dismissal in the World Cup semi-final against Australia, not only was a fine definitely on the cards but there was an off chance he could be suspended for the final as well, given the nature of his verbal assault on Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena.
But Roy escaped with a 30 per cent fine and points added to his disciplinary record after pleading guilty to a Level 1 charge of dissent.
Where the parallels exist between Roy and Douglas is that both might have been given out erroneously — definitely so in the case of the England man, thanks to technology — England had no more reviews — but less so for Douglas, whose argument that he was struck outside the line was confirmed on video evidence. But it could be also argued the batsman played no shot, making the umpire correct in his assessment, as the ball was going on to hit the stumps.
However, the overarching factor is that both men were guilty of showing dissent, with Douglas’s the stronger charge of serious dissent because he knocked a stump out of the ground.
The other difference is that while Roy was dealt with immediately after the match, it is now 17 days since Cup Match ended.
Again, the optics would not have been great for those seeing Douglas in action for the first time since that incident, and he did not disappoint detractors after he picked out mid-wicket yesterday to end his 11-ball cameo on 14, mouthing an obscenity as he left that was so audible that not even the musical interludes that were as annoyingly ill-timed as they had been at Cup Match and Eastern Counties could drown it out.
It is for this reason that St George’s and Somerset should heed the call to turn over disciplinary matters arising out of Cup Match to an independent third party — the obvious candidate being the organisation that the world governing body recognises as the arbiter for all cricket in Bermuda.
That body is the Bermuda Cricket Board. We posit that the same gusto that was exhibited when the BCB and Eastern Counties Cricket Association established a new memorandum of understanding this summer should be employed to carve out an agreement with the Cup Match clubs.
Those clubs have enough on their plates with all the planning that goes into hosting the island’s greatest show every other year without having to contend with issues that give birth to accusations of self-interest — even when handled expeditiously.
Most times, as is the case again now, it is to do with determining who should be the most valuable player.
If St George’s could attempt to make a case for 2018 century-maker Onias Bascome to be MVP in a match where they were beaten by the length of the Causeway, how vehemently would they and Somerset argue the toss for their own man after a drawn match?
Add the unresolved disciplinary issues to the equation — you cannot look into a number of Level 1 situations without first dealing with Douglas — and it is too much to leave to the clubs to sort through in a timely manner without it coming across as unethical.
We must not only do better, but we must do so sooner so that a page can be turned and so that the spotlight can be shone where it deserves to be:
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