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Triathlete, cyclists, cricketers — who’s best?

Tyler Butterfield’s performance at the World Ironman Championships in Hawaii and female cyclists Nicole Mitchell and Zoenique Williams’s accomplishments at the recent Caribbean Championships might rate as two of the best showings by Bermuda athletes in the last year. But can they be compared to the ‘monumental’ achievements by our national cricket team in recent years?

According to Bermuda Cricket Board CEO Neil Speight they can.

Some might think that’s absurd. But Mr Speight is deadly serious.

Continuing to complain about various Royal Gazette cricket stories over the last few months, the BCB’s top man fired off an e-mail to this writer, copied to various parties, insisting our national sport should be proud of its record.

Bermuda are ranked 24th in the world, according to the International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body. We’re listed 14th among the 96 Associate and Affiliate countries.

It’s to difficult to assess how many countries are actually active in the international arena but it’s safe to assume an awful lot aren’t.

Mr Speight’s e-mail comments followed a recent Friday Forum when I pointed out that the success our individual athletes is rarely replicated by those in a team sport.

And I explained that nations about compete in the World Twenty20 competition have bigger populations but many of them with fewer cricketers. That may not be entirely true. I should have said native cricketers. A large portion of those playing international matches originate from the subcontinent or the Caribbean.

So technically he’s right.

But he still compares Bermuda’s world ranking to the success of Butterfield, Mitchell and Williams.

“ ... The recent performances of the two young cyclists are a very long way off providing them a with a ranking in the top 25,” he says.

“These two fine athletes are in no way close to any world ranking system let alone be ranked in the top 25 in the world.”

And he continues ... “Even Tyler Butterfield’s laudable 34th position in the 2012 Olympics is well below the national (cricket) team’s ranking.”

He fails to acknowledge that just last month Butterfield finished seventh in the World Ironman Championships which had 2,100 entrants all whom had to qualify.

Wouldn’t he be considered one of the 25 Ironmen in the world?

Talk about comparing apples with oranges!

Butterfield competes among the world’s elite triathletes. Williams and Mitchell — they collected three medals between them — are among the best in the Caribbean.

Take half a dozen of the islands in the Caribbean, would Bermuda’s cricketers seriously give them a game, let alone beat them?

Luckily the likes of Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua, St Kitts and others combine to make a formidable West Indies team.

Were they to be rated individually, Bermuda’s world ranking would plunge.

In a Caribbean tournament would Bermuda win silver and bronze?

The fact is that cricket is our national sport. The game’s played in every school. The BCB have proudly proclaimed that they support an Under-14, Under-17 and Under-19 squad. They even have Pee Wee programme catering for four to seven year-olds. (What happens when all of these players progress to the senior level is another matter).

We have a national women’s team. Besides the Premier Division, we have a thriving Evening League and up until this year, we also had a Commercial League.

Take into account the various charity matches that take place — the annual Old Boys game, for example — then Bermuda boasts fair amount of players. At some point in their life most males have held a cricket bat in their hands.

Aside the 10 Test nations, can that be said of other countries?

We also have Cup Match. How many of those nations who anything that can compare with the summer classic? Cricket is very much a part of Bermuda’s heritage.

Importantly, Mr Speight fails to mention that millions of taxpayers’ money has been invested in local cricket. Some might question whether this was a wise investment. How many countries above Bermuda in the rankings have received such donations? Wouldn’t it have been better to spend a fraction of that money on our various individual athletes?

The insinuation is that our cricketers are better than our triathletes and cyclists.

The local lads should be commended for their thrilling victory over Canada this week. But they were also beaten by Italy, a country not renowned for its cricket accomplishments. Prior to that Bermuda lost three warm-up matches to the USA.

Earlier this year on home soil, Bermuda narrowly escaped relegation to the World League Division Four after suffering an eight-wicket defeat to Nepal and a 114-run defeat to Uganda.

Also in 2013, Bermuda were beaten by Suriname.

There have been some impressive results in-between and duly recognised by this newspaper.

Success in the World Cup Twenty20 Qualifiers, which begins today with a match against Scotland, might go some way to change the perception that Bermuda is failing to to meet expectations.

But whatever they achieve, it won’t be enough to surpass the global accomplishments of our top individual athletes.