Verdict from UAE: not good enough
Now that the dust has settled, a word on our Bermuda cricket team who returned home this week after a winless exercise at the ICC T20 World Cup Qualifier in the United Arab Emirates.
There is strong temptation to say that it was a failure — and the statistic of played six, lost six definitely supports such a view — but before the naysayers and armchair quarterbacks roll out the many reasons for not offering financial or psychological support just so that another of our national teams can take a pasting thousands of miles from home, what about a bit of a reality check.
We were not good enough.
We are not good enough.
Nigeria, the worst team to grace a tournament of this magnitude in the history of the ICC, were added to the 14-strong field at the last minute because Zimbabwe were suspended from international competition owing to government interference in the running of the sport in the southern African nation.
Otherwise, Zimbabwe would have been the top-rated of the teams and Bermuda would have taken Nigeria’s place at the bottom of the heap.
So from an expectation standpoint, there was little to recommend us, which is probably how coach Herbie Bascome liked it: Bermuda coming in as the underdogs to shock the world.
Having already twice jolted the very professionally run United States, who have a handful of players on yearly stipends approaching six figures, it could be said Bermuda were playing with house money once they emerged with Canada from the Americas regional qualifier.
And as superior as Canada were to Bermuda, here and in the UAE, even they failed to reach the play-offs — albeit they had it within their grasp right up until the final group B match against the host nation.
So, from a playing point of view, not reaching the business end of the tournament was not much of a disappointment; the paucity of some of Bermuda’s performances and their show of indiscipline on and off the field were.
Delray Rawlins and Kamau Leverock stood out as shining lights, and it was right for opposing teams to single them out as Bermuda’s greatest threats for as long as they were at the wicket or had the ball in their hands.
So, too, Janeiro Tucker, at 44 the oldest player at the tournament and a late addition to the squad who showed not so much that there is no substitute for experience, but that there is no substitute for basic ability and application.
But, aside from those three, there were too few signs to show that Bermuda were prepared to move on to a next level from what had been achieved on home soil a few months earlier — almost as though their work was already done and no one should expect anything more.
That was the greatest disappointment.
Stumbling from one defeat to the next, having a captain resign midway through, and a playing XI that was in a constant state of flux with no apparent sense of continuity or purpose, Bermuda seemed an outfit without a plan and, apart from some smart catches that were spread throughout the team, looked amateurish in every way except for when Rawlins, in particular, was putting all manner of fear into the opposition with his power hitting.
It was not until the televised final two matches that Leverock seriously came to the fore, showing not only the talent that he has, but also his sense for the occasion.
If only that could have been bottled up and distributed throughout the tournament.
But a closer look at how the all-rounder was used in the batting order — 5, 8, 7, 1, 7, 7 — and that there were four different opening partnerships in only six matches, underscores a weakness of conviction and that coach Bascome never really knew his best team.
Or look at Okera Bascome, who was the opening batsman throughout the regional qualifying tournament in Bermuda, but after the first three matches in Dubai found himself at Nos 8, 9 and 8.
Or look at Sinclair Smith, selected for the shortest format of the game as a specialist wicketkeeper batting no higher than No 10.
Who does that? No one at the highest echelons of international cricket and, specifically, no one else at this tournament.
The greatest sense that Bermuda were not at the races was when Terryn Fray, the most conventional of the recognised batsmen in the squad, but not a dasher by any stretch of the imagination, was preferred to Rawlins at No 3 in the Scotland match with the team already requiring in excess of ten runs an over.
It was a move that so confounded logic that even the commentators, Ian Bishop among them, were audibly scratching their heads — “Where’s Delray Rawlins?”
It was just as well Fray lasted only six balls — two overs being taken out of the innings — to pave the way for a pyrotechnic display from the Sussex left-hander that lit up Dubai International Cricket Stadium and gave the Scots pregnant pause for concern.
Rawlins’s 46, his highest score of the tournament, came from only 21 balls and included four fours and three sixes. That, and Leverock’s 43 not out from 24 balls later in the innings, was the highlight of the tournament for Bermuda and showed what was possible — but only from our gun players.
Fray is not a natural beater of the ball, more a stroke-playing accumulator, but the presence of such a player in any team is absolutely essential.
Think Virat Kohli for India, Steve Smith for Australia, Shai Hope for West Indies, Kane Williamson for New Zealand, Babar Azam for Pakistan, Joe Root for England — classical players who move seamlessly from Test cricket to one-day internationals to T20.
Each team that has been successful in the UAE showed an ability to overcome adversity throughout their innings, but in the case of Bermuda, one wicket usually led to four or five — especially in the powerplay overs to start the innings. It is no surprise, then, that Bascome’s side constantly found themselves looking down the barrel of a gun, having shown little capacity to adapt and learn on the fly. And those who do not learn from history are bound to repeat it.
It is not enough to bemoan a lack of experience after the fact, and especially when Bermuda had one of the oldest teams in the UAE, with only the host nation and Oman possessing more thirtysomethings in their squads.
The “lack of experience” that new captain Rodney Trott alluded to is of Bermuda’s own doing through players not committing to the national programme until it suited them or until, in keeping with a self-defeating populist culture, they got a coach more to their liking — five years lost for some who had not suited up for the country since the 2014 World Cricket League debacle in Malaysia that put paid to Allan Douglas Sr’s long-term aspirations as national coach.
This stop-start approach means the excuses after the UAE tour are no different than what came before — all while the standard at domestic level meanders along at a nadir that leaves future aspirants ill-equipped to succeed. Rinse and repeat.
And then we come to our black eye of the tournament, that moment of indiscipline that resulted in the one-match ban given to Deunte Darrell, a first for Bermuda at international competition.
Darrell did not like the decision for his leg-before dismissal against Namibia, which replays show was as straightforward as lbws come — hit low down right in front, batsman getting no stride in (meaning the ball didn’t have far to travel), and likely to hit off stump even if there was some turn. He then tossed his gloves away in anger, one each in the direction of both camps, and flung his bat into the advertising boards.
Jeff Crowe, the well-travelled ICC match referee and former captain of New Zealand, had an easy decision to make and could have come down harder on the Bermuda player for the Level 2 offence. The words he used in his explanatory brief were “conduct that brings the game into disrepute”.
But Albie Morkel, the Namibia coach, former South Africa all-rounder and older brother of fast-bowling legend Morné, had a more scathing take on a Bermudian behaving badly away from home.
On October 24, he wrote on Twitter: “Disappointing to witness the behaviour of some @CricketBermuda players yesterday during our game. Yes stakes are high, but threatening opposition players when you are out is not acceptable.”
Morkel tagged the ICC and the Bermuda Cricket Board in his tweet, so president Lloyd Smith et al would have been aware of his views, which made the decision of tour management to reinstate Darrell at the first time of asking after the suspension more than disappointing — tone-deaf, even.
It was not as though, with 24 runs in four innings as a one-point man before the ban, the man seen as a hero for hitting the winning runs that got Bermuda to Dubai had been pulling up any trees. And it was clear from television pictures showing an indignant-looking Darrell feigning a bad-boy persona during the Scotland match when Rawlins was in full flow that if there was any remorse for what went on the day before, it was short-lived at best, disingenuous at worst.
No one likes to read or hear of these inconvenient truths — “you should support your own” bellow those on social media and elsewhere with blinkers firmly fixed — so perhaps it is best reiterated through the lens of those who have no skin in the game, and who have been viewing Bermuda at close quarters through virgin eyes for the past fortnight.
Freelance cricket writer Barny Read covered Bermuda for this paper and, among other things, noted in summing up what he witnessed:
“Bermuda were an amateur team playing on an international stage, against professional set-ups. But there are things in sport that don’t require any kind of financial resource: being punctual, training hard, eating right, respecting yourself, your country, team-mates, opposition, officials, encouraging others, putting in every ounce of effort to improve both on and off the pitch, trying your absolute best, pushing yourself to your physical and mental limits, listening, learning.
“The Bermuda team will have a tough time providing evidence that they did all of that.”
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