Lessons from Bridgetown

Tony Becca

17 March

Ever since the abandoned first Test at Sabina Park, cricket fans and administrators around the region have been bad talking Jamaica's cricket and accusing its administrators of incompetence.

During the second, third and fourth Test matches in Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana, the questions were always the same - what is happening to cricket in Jamaica, can't you guys even prepare a pitch, and who was responsible for what, like many Jamaicans, they all described as a disgrace and an embarrassment to West Indies cricket.

In Barbados, before and during the fifth Test, the questions were almost the same. The difference was that unlike Trinidadians and Guyanese, Bajans went further to suggest that the Jamaica Cricket Board of Control send a few of its members, especially those responsible for the preparation of the pitch at Sabina Park, to Barbados to see how people prepare a pitch.

``Look at it,'' said a member of the groundstaff pointing to the Kensington pitch on the eve of the fifth Test. ``That is a pitch, man. You notice how it is level and firm. It's going to be runs galore. No joke, man. Whoever wins the toss won't even have to think about batting first - or last for that matter.''

``They (the experts) wanted to come in here and tell us what to do,'' said Richard ``Prof'' Edwards - the former Barbados and West Indies fast bowler who is responsible for the pitch at Kensington. ``I told them that they could come and look about the outfield but leave the pitch to me.''

The Kensington pitch was a beauty - no question about that, and based on the pitch prepared at Sabina Park in recent years, may be the Jamaicans should really go to Bridgetown and sit at the feet of ``Prof'' and his team.

The pitch at Sabina Park is not, however, the only problem in Jamaica's cricket. The lack of money is also one, and if those members of the JCBC who are responsible for the revenue side of Jamaica's cricket go to Bridgetown, they could also learn a lot from the Barbados Cricket Association which, apart from the instant money game, is running a raffle with a Mercedes Benz as the first prize and has put together a successful souvenir shop.

The JCBC did put on a raffle some time ago, and it does have a souvenir shop at Sabina Park.

Unlike the BCA's prize however, and for which tickets are selling like hot bread, the prize for the JCBC's raffle was an unattractive motor-bike, and unlike the BCA's souvenir shop which is well stocked with attractive items, including precious collectors items, and which is so positioned that patrons cannot miss it, the JCBC's is like an after thought.

The JCBC's shop is not only stocked to the minimum, it is also hidden in the bowels of the George Headley Stand. It is so badly positioned that many fans, Jamaicans and foreigners, do not even know it exists and have never visited it.

Jamaica's cricket administrators are not the only ones who could learn from a visit to Bridgetown. So too could the Jamaica Tourist Board.

Barbados, like Jamaica, is a tourist destination, in Barbados, as it is in Jamaica, cricket is a big sport, and Barbados, like Jamaica, hosts Test matches. Unlike Jamaica however, Barbados is using cricket to attract tourists.

Every winter, representatives of Barbados Tourist Board, including Sir Garfield Sobers, travel to the United Kingdom to encourage its people, including clubs, to visit Barbados especially for Test matches. And they come, first to see England, and then, having enjoyed themselves, they come again cricket or no cricket, England or no England.

Cricket is so important to Barbados tourism, that the government of Barbados called in the BCA last year, discussed the level of accommodation at Kensington Oval, and then granted them an interest free loan of 12 million US dollars to put in more and better stands.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 17 Mar1998 - 18:31