I take full responsibility, says Smith
National cricket coach Clay Smith has accepted full responsibility for a “shocking” performance yesterday that has left Bermuda on the verge of relegation from ICC World Cricket League Division Four.
Having shown little by way of penetration in an eight-wicket defeat by Denmark in their opening match in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, a 189-run humiliation by Uganda plumbed the depths of ineptitude as Bermuda were spun out for a score that the opposition opener sauntered past on his own.
Capped by the profanity-laced outburst that led to star player Kamau Leverock being sidelined for a second successive match and almost sent home, reportedly, this is a tour that is very quickly spiralling out of control.
As it stands, 60 all out inside 22 overs is a record low for Bermuda at this level of ICC competition — and the lowest in 50-over cricket since the 78 recorded against Sri Lanka at the 2007 World Cup.
“Today's performance was shocking, to say the least,” Smith told The Royal Gazette. “I never saw it coming. As coach, I take full responsibility because in hindsight I should have stuck to what we do best — and that is bat first and put teams under scoreboard pressure.”
A grateful Uganda scored 249 for five after captain Terryn Fray called right at the toss and sent them in, and then let loose their spinners on batsmen who enhanced the stereotype that Bermuda cannot play slow bowling.
Smith added: “The wicket looked good to bat on, but you can see that it had cracks in it and in some places very big cracks, which throughout the day were always going to get worse.
“However, the forecast for the afternoon was 50 to 60 per cent chance of rain, and with the Duckworth-Lewis system in place, which favours the team batting second, we didn't want to get caught batting first, the rainfall and we are at a disadvantage.
“It was a big gamble that backfired. However, I was very disappointed that I didn't see the fight, the determination and the mental toughness from my players to battle through a tough situation, especially knowing the importance of this game.”
Uganda's three spinners took all but one wicket between them, with the East African nation's seam bowler snaring the other with only the fourth ball of pace that Bermuda had to encounter.
Lower middle-order batsman Charles Trott, with 17, and vice-captain Dion Stovell, who made ten, were the only batsmen to reach double figures.
“They opened with two spinners and in some cases they were unplayable, as the wicket turned big,” the head coach added. “We had two outs that were no fault of the batsmen, as Tre Manders went back to a short ball that rolled ankle-height and bowled him, and Janeiro [Tucker] had a very similar thing, where he went back to a short ball to pull and it hit him very low after shooting out of one of the many cracks.”
The fissures in the Bermuda campaign have been widened by the controversy over Leverock, who came into the tournament as the island's greatest batting threat at the top of the order. Yet his conduct in a public training-ground spat on Saturday not only has consigned him to the sidelines, but, according to an ESPNcricinfo source, has also resulted in tour management inquiring into the possibility of summoning a replacement for reasons not related to injury.
The request was denied by tournament organisers, and Smith, without elaborating on the player's conduct, confirmed Leverock's name will be part of the selection conversation for the must-win clash with Jersey tomorrow.
Relegation to the lowest level of the ICC pyramid would not be guaranteed with another defeat, depending on results elsewhere, but the margins of the first two reversals have made it highly improbable that Bermuda can pull off the same escape via net run-rate that it did in Los Angeles two years ago.
At least then, Bermuda had in Leverock and Delray Rawlins two players who were worth their place in any team, but much has changed since.
Leverock has apparently self-destructed while Rawlins has made himself unavailable — inexplicable when one considers that Jonty Jenner, his Second XI team-mate at Sussex, is a mainstay for Jersey in Malaysia.
The head coach repeated that he has no regrets that the BCB could not persuade Rawlins to represent the land of his birth for perhaps the last time at this level. The 20-year-old has aspirations of playing Test cricket for England, but has yet to make a first XI appearance this season for Sussex in the second division of the County Championship.
“Obviously, we would love to have him with us, but he is fulfilling a dream of his,” Smith said. “He is still in the team chat group and very supportive of the team, day in and day out. I don't know why the press keep bringing up Delray's name when it comes to this team. Delray was asked, but due to his current position, he didn't want to risk losing out on an opportunity of a lifetime. We support him and wish him well in his endeavours.”
Smith added that the focus now will be on picking up the team's spirits and avoiding relegation.
“We still have three tough games to come and we will not deter from our game plan, taking one game at a time,” he said. “The players know what is at stake and I keep stressing to them it is time to reward ourselves for all the hours of hard work they put into training over the last few months.
“I have no doubt the players will put their best foot forward and give everything they have to turn this around.“