Best of friends, worst of enemies
In 1983, Noel Gibbons and Jeff Richardson were members of Clevie Wade's victorious St George's team that defeated Somerset by three wickets in a low-scoring match at Somerset Cricket Club.
Now some 31 years later, Richardson and Gibbons find themselves on opposite sides of the fence as coaches of the respective clubs.
The two men were fierce competitors as players in their heyday and their will to succeed has not diminished in the least in their present roles as Cup Match coaches.
“Noel and I have been serious competitors against each other for many years as a result of Western Stars and Bailey's Bay clashes,” said Richardson, who is in his second stint as Somerset coach. “We were good friends off the field but that friendship was pushed aside when it came time to compete against each other and I am sure it will be the same way come Cup Match.
“Noel is the coach of St George's and I am the coach of Somerset, and I will be doing everything possible to win and I am sure he will be doing the same as well.
“I am confident we can keep the cup. If my players play to their potential, then I do not see them being beaten. I honestly cannot see it unless something drastic happens.”
Gibbons also recalls past battles with Richardson as a player and is looking forward to the coaching duel with his former St George's and Bermuda team-mate.
“I am quite sure that on a few occasions Jeff has knocked me out of the ground,” Gibbons said with a smile. “And, unfortunately, I could never return the favour because he never bowled.
“We were both fierce competitors during our cricket days and now we are both coaches of Cup Match teams, so I will be using my experience to try to get the best of him and I am quite sure he is going to try to do the same against me. Somerset have a brilliant team but I feel I have a brilliant team, too.
“It is quite a pleasure to be working with Jeff and against him, and I am going to enjoy these two days because we were close team-mates back in the day.”
Despite Richardson scoring a century in a Cup Match trial and St George's hastily arranging late-afternoon trials so that he could meet the old stipulation for first-timers of having played in five, he was chosen as a reserve, while Western Stars team-mate Roger Leverock went in as a colt to great effect.
“I thought that was going to be my time to make the team, but it did not happen,” Richardson said. “I got a foot in the door being chosen as a reserve and it was a win for St George's that year.
“It was a great experience and, obviously, the experience between being a reserve and an actual player is somewhat different. But you got a taste of what winning Cup Match was really like.”
Gibbons, who produced match figures of six for 70 in that St George's victory, described Richardson as a quality batsman.
“I thought Jeff was a brilliant batsman and at the time he made the hundred in the Cup Match trial match and did not make the team, it was really unfortunate. But at that time St George's team was stacked with some of Bermuda's best players.”
Richardson eventually broke into Cup Match for Somerset in 1992 at age 32 and resides among an exclusive group to have won Cup Match both as a player and a coach.
“I had been touring with Bermuda a few years before I actually made a Cup Match team and I found that somewhat ironic,” Richardson said. “Someone said to me, ‘You are playing for Bermuda and cannot make St George's team. You need to make a decision.'
“So I made the decision to go to Somerset and made it my first try and I have been loyal to Somerset ever since.”