Bermuda cricket shows no signs of development
Whichever way you to want to slice it, the national cricket team's performance at last week's World Cricket League Division 3 championship was hugely disappointing.
Perhaps not to Bermuda Cricket Board, who tend to defend their own administration and whatever falls under their umbrella, and maybe not to the players, although hopefully several will realise their shortcomings on the international stage, but certainly to the game's ardent followers.
Thankfully, victory over USA avoided possible relegation to Division 4.
But before that, a crushing 114-run defeat at the hands of Uganda, a team the national side comfortably beat in the run-up to the World Cup in 2007, and 'powerhouses' Nepal, virtually ensured that promotion became out of reach.
One would have thought that by hosting the event, home field advantage would prove to be a significant factor in the outcome of the tournament. It wasn't.
Taking the scalps of Oman and Italy couldn't even be considered as a consolation. The majority of Italians wouldn't know one end of a cricket bat to the other, and in the tiny Arab state, football very much reigns supreme.
Of course, the BCB will no doubt trot out the usual excuses — 'we have only a small pool of players to pick from, they are all amateurs, and our development programme is a work in progress.' Other countries face the same obstacles.
But what the BCB probably won't mention is that in recent years they have received millions of dollars from both Government and the International Cricket Council (ICC) — most likely more than Uganda, Nepal and Italy combined.
What country would have handed $11 million to their cricketers, no questions asked? That was basically the case after the World Cup when Bermuda earned one-day status.
Five years later, the PLP Government decided that they would indeed ask a few questions. Predictably, they came to the conclusion the money had been spent wisely.
In another newspaper column this week, Lionel Cann argued that failure to earn promotion was a blessing in disguise. The players weren't ready to play at a higher level, he contended. Three or four years were needed to fully develop a strong national team.
But after six years and millions of dollars devoted to the cause, there's little to show from the development programme.
During his entire contract, national coach David Moore wasn't able to produce a team capable of beating the likes of Nepal of Uganda, try as he did.
The players can't shoulder all of the blame, although a lack discipline and commitment from some of those included in the various squads played its part.
They can't all be painted with the same brush, but enough have been culpable in the sport's disintegration.
Since the 2007 World Cup, there's been a steady decline. Last week might have provided a ray of hope. Maybe that much vaunted development programme was about to reap rewards. Alas, our players flattered to deceive.
Individually, there some were outstanding performances.
Malachi Jones was by far the best of the bowlers, taking three wickets in three occasions; Cann walloped 113 including 11 sixes against Italy; Chris Douglas excelled in the defeat of the USA with 89 off 75; and warhorse Janeiro Tucker provided stability in the middle order, attempting to repair the early calamities.
David Hemp gave the impression that, while always capable of steadying the ship, he's coming very close to international retirement, whether it proves it be forced or voluntary.
Collectively, the national team have shown time and again that they don't gel. Blending youth with experience just hasn't worked, although maybe the selectors and coaches haven't had much choice.
The talent is there but not the teamwork.
As Clay Smith pointed out in his column in this newspaper last week, Bermuda did themselves no favours.
Knowing local players that traditionally struggle against spin bowlers, they prepared pitches conducive to spin.
Had pacer Jones found the tracks to his liking, who knows what he might have achieved.
As it was, Uganda and Nepal thrived on the conditions offered. We played right into their hands.
The Ugandans pummelled the batsmen, and while Bermuda prevailed against Oman it has to be noted that the hosts were tottering at 143-8 before the tail wagged.
Bermuda were totally outclassed by Nepal, beaten by eight wickets in game which saw the local side collapse from 73-3 to 89-9.
Thanks to Cann, Bermuda cantered to a 60-run victory, but the Italians still put up their biggest score of the week, 224.
The highlight of the tournament for Bermuda was the emphatic five-wicket win over the USA whose own promotion hopes were scuppered by that result.
However, a day later in the meaningless third-fourth play-off match, the Americans exacted revenge, winning by 30 runs.
Dion Stovell snared four for 38 and Hemp added 44 to the total but by then few were interested.
Uganda and Nepal now join the likes of war-torn Afghanistan and seven others to decide which of the affiliate nations appear in the next World Cup.
Bermuda can only look on as they continue to wallow in the cricket backwater.
So much for development.
— ADRIAN ROBSON