Cleveland coach calls for Counties changes
Cleveland County coach Grant Smith has called the Eastern Counties qualification rules “outdated, archaic and counter-productive”.
The Eastern Counties is the second oldest cricket competition — two years younger than Cup Match — and changes to the rules governing the competition are seen as difficult to make.
Presently a player not born inside the Eastern Counties boundaries must play for one of the four clubs for three years before becoming eligible in that third season.
Cleveland have two players from their league team, Jason Anderson and Treadwell Gibbons, who won’t be eligible to play in the matches for another season. And if those players leave that club they are no longer eligible to play in the Eastern Counties and would have to qualify again.
“That was one of the proposals that was on the table over the Eastern Counties winter session when, under the new president Stephen Douglas, they were looking at the rules, regulations and constitution and by-laws,” said Smith, a former Cleveland player.
“That was one of the things they had on their agenda but I don’t think they actually got around to taking a look at it. There were a couple of ideas being banded about like if you play for a club for two years then you are eligible in that second year. Another idea being looked at is if you qualify through playing for the club in domestic competition then if you went and played for another club you would possibly have to re-qualify for another two or three years.
“Those sorts of things are looked at as being a detriment to developing the competition. It’s a drawback if you want to attract players to your programme.”
Cleveland are enjoying some early success in the league this season with their biggest win coming last Sunday when they beat Eastern Counties rivals Bailey’s Bay in an exciting match at Sea Breeze Oval. Three of their players, including Chris Douglas who has already played for St. David’s, are not eligible to play for them in the Counties this season.
“It’s outdated, archaic and counter-productive and it doesn’t help the clubs that are trying to attract players to their programme,” said Smith.
The Eastern Counties prides itself as Bermuda’s most exciting Counties competition, and with the toughest qualification rules.
“It’s one of incentives for players to come to an Eastern Counties club, so that they can play for that club in the Eastern Counties,” said Smith. “Sometimes you have to hold a carrot out there. If you want to catch fish you have to use bait. If you join a club’s programme it makes that club a bit stronger and it makes the Eastern Conties competition a bit more interesting by bringing in better players.
“I think three years is a bit long to wait, but if a guy has been loyal to you for two years straight I think the club should have that option to play him.”
Ryan Steede of Bailey’s Bay became eligible to play for the champions this year after serving his qualification. His former St. George’s clubmate Kyle Hodsoll became eligible for Bay last year.
“Another idea that was thrown around a few years ago by Cleveland was to change the boundary system for the four clubs . . . it actually hinders one or two clubs from selecting players,” said Smith. “The idea Cleveland put out was that the Eastern Counties create one boundary that encompasses all four clubs and then anyone born or who lives in that one large boundary could play for any of the four clubs.
“The way it is now the boundaries aren’t drawn up equally where they benefit all four clubs. That proposal was turned away by the association. Stephen is open to new ideas that can grow the competition and he’s very proactive. I know he’s put a couple of committees in place to look at various aspects of the structure of the Eastern Counties and he’s willing to give something a go if it has merit.”
Cleveland are hoping their win over Bay on Sunday will give them a major boost ahead of their first round match with the champions in three weeks time.
“It has perked up a few people and we’ve gained insights into a few strategies we can use in the match so the interest is growing and Cleveland’s plans are being put into place.”
The competition requires the teams to play 118 overs during the day with the team batting first allowed to bat for a maximum 70 overs. Some have called for that rule to be changed and switched to an overs competition, but the change has been resisted.
“It’s a whole different format, a different type of cricket with that format and one that is difficult to win,” Smith acknowledges. “‘A lot of people are calling for change, including the players, because the overs, the way they are structured, are quite disproportionate, particularly if the club holders are playing at home. You know they are going to take the pitch and make it quite placid.
“People want to see change, the competition is well over 100 years and the association has to start looking to a new clientele. They are not dealing with the clientele they had 100 years ago.”