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Cann critical of the state of local game

Lionel Cann: The former Bermuda iternational says the standard of cricket desperately needs improving (Photograph by Lawrence Trott)

Lionel Cann has slammed the standard of cricket on the island, saying it is the worst he has seen in the last three decades.

The St David’s batsman, one of the island’s most senior players at age 46, also took issue with the decision by the Bermuda Cricket Board to scrap open cricket this season, while putting a greater emphasis this month on the Twenty20 competition in preparation of the ICC Twenty20 Americas Qualification Tournament in August.

Open cricket last season was used by clubs to develop younger players, which Cann thought was a good idea.

“My suggestion is we develop cricket because from what I’ve seen cricket is at its lowest point in the 33 senior years that I’ve been playing,” Cann said. “Cricket is dying a slow death and we need to develop our youngsters.

“With the way the points system is set up there is no development for our young people. We started off the season with four 50-over matches, in which teams are finding their feet and are always going to play their best teams.

“Then we go right into Twenty20 cricket which can’t be used for developing young players.

“They need the longer version of the game to develop, but then we take away open cricket which is what the young players need.

“Then we’re playing Twenty20 games leading up to county games and Cup Match, so we’re going into Cup Match without playing the longer version of the game.

“Three weeks later we have an international Twenty20 tournament and then we go back to playing 50 overs which makes absolutely no sense, the way the scheduling has been done.

“We can’t even get our scheduling right to make sure the game is growing. I’ve always believed you should start with the longer version of the game to get players in good nick and to get the youngsters involved, which was what they did last year.

“Then you play 50-overs cricket up to county cup and Cup Match and then Twenty20 cricket at the end because once Cup Match is finished players stop showing up and you get defaults.

“That’s when you should be playing Twenty20. Then, by the second week in August your promising youngsters are going back to school, so you should keep the young people involved up until Cup Match.”

Cann added: “Just this week we heard the captain of the Bermuda national team, Terryn Fray of Bailey’s Bay, say their goal this year was to play our youngsters in the Twenty20, but they found themselves winning a few games and now their goal has changed.

“They’re not playing the youngsters, they’re now trying to win the tournament.”

Cann, who returned to St David’s this season after a stint at St George’s, still tries to be a good example for younger players, teaching them the same way he learnt from senior players when he first broke into the St David’s team in 1986.

“I can tell you from my own experiencce, cricket is dying a slow death, whether it be the conduct of the players, the way they dress and carry themselves, the sportsmanship of the players and even the way clubs train,” he said. “The standard of cricket is the lowest I’ve ever seen, by far!

“Cricket has been on the demise for awhile, but now it is at its worst.

“We need to make sure we give the young people an avenue, because we have a generation of cricketers right now who are on their way out.

My generation is finished but we have the next generation, 33 or 34 now, who are on their way out. What’s after them?

Cann was a part of the 2005 Bermuda team that achieved history in Ireland by qualifying for the 2007 World Cup in the Caribbean. Only a few players from those two tournaments, like Cann, Janeiro Tucker, OJ Pitcher and Delyone Borden, are still playing.

This season a couple of clubs have had to resort to picking players well in their Fifties, and past their prime, in order to make up the numbers.

“Look at the team St George’s put out the other day, Dexter Smith coming back to play speaks volumes,” Cann said. “The sport is dying and we have to do some serious soul-searching to save it.

“It’s hard to play now, but it is still my happy place. I’m still motivated, so I’m not giving a time when I’ll stop. When I feel unhappy crossing that rope, that’s when I’ll call time.

“Cricket needs us senior players to hang around. Cricket needs me more than I need it. I’m still trying to give back to St David’s because they are no different from any other club.

“Every club has issues, it’s a sign of our social fabric. But I can’t give up on it, cricket and St David’s gave me everything, so I’m going to give back while I can.”