Unwise decision making, a lack of vision and self-driven ambitions continue to undermine Bermuda's World Cup preparations, one of the Island's former top cricketers has argued.
And if measures are not put in place soon to stop the rot, then it could take the Island another 30 years to re-qualify for cricket's premier showpiece, former Flatts, Warwick, Western Stars, Somerset Cup Match and Bermuda Masters opening batsman/wicketkeeper Treadwell Gibbons contends.
In recent weeks the national cricket team has come under heavy criticism for a string of unfavourable results on the African continent, results that have now raised the sobering question: Are we really ready to take the next step?
Speaking to The Royal Gazette yesterday, Gibbons spoke candidly on some of the thorny issues and challenges now facing the national team just three months shy of it's biggest commitment ever - the 2007 World Cup in the West Indies.
'The $11 million Government invested into the Bermuda Cricket Board (BCB) is specifically for development. And when you are talking about development you are talking about the future,' Gibbons said.
'But when I look at the team I see nine guys that's not going to be there for the next ICC Trophy when we need to qualify for the World Cup again. It should have been the opposite way around.'
Bermuda's seasoned cricketers have come under heavy criticism on the world stage with some observers having gone as far as to describe the Island's representatives as 'slow' and 'unfit', while only last week a clearly frustrated national coach Gus Logie warned that he would be looking to bring in new and younger players when the squad return to Bermuda at the end of their five-week African tour.
Yet Gibbons insists that the Board should have gone with a younger nucleus of players in the first instance and also formed a second national or A team. This, he claimed, might have encouraged those currently in the national team to perform more consistently at a higher level for fear of losing their spot in the team.
'We should have at least seven to eight players in the squad for the next ICC Trophy that would have a little bit of World Cup experience under their belt,' Gibbons maintained. 'And I definitely think we should have an A team that would have put pressure on the present players to perform. When there's no pressure on you it's easy to fail. But if you have constant pressure on you, then you are going to perform. You have to either step up or step on the side."
'It's almost as though this pool of 16 players have already been told they are going to the World Cup. And this is not good because the end result could see us take another 30 years to qualify again for the World Cup. The players we now have are all going to take their World Cup experience out of the game because they aren't going to play after the World Cup. So this whole thing is really useless unless these guys are willing to go into the schools and pass on their knowledge once they retire. That's the only way it's going to be profitable. But if they just pack up their bags and say ‘I'm not playing any more' then their experience is gone down the drain, while the money we have spent on them is wasted.'
Gibbons also addressed one of the national cricket team's most highlighted shortcomings, a lack of capable opening batsmen to open the innings.
'I think we are back to square one when it comes to the opening batting position because before Logie arrived we were faced with this same issue. We have given a few players chances at the top of the order, and I don't think they really failed,' Gibbons said.
'And nobody really knows how far some of these players might have progressed had the Board stuck with them. But all I keep hearing about is we have a pool of 20 to 30 players to pick from, which might be true. But we also have some quality young players in that pool which they (Board) fail to recognise.'
Over the past year national team selectors have tried various combinations at the top of the order in an effort to nip the problem in the bud, but with little success as statistics prove.
'Now we are back to square one with Dean (Minors) and Clay (Smith) opening up. Dean has been scoring runs for us in the middle order to help get us to the World Cup,' Gibbons said. 'But now we are sacrificing him as an opening bat which is a waste of time. What happened to Hemp (David)? I thought we were bringing Hemp in to strengthen the top order. But here he is batting at number six.'
Gibbons insists it is those responsible for selecting the team who must also be held accountable for recent failures on tour.
'In the real world whenever a selection committee fails they all get fired. The coach can only deal with what the selectors give him. But I don't think the Board is doing the right thing,' Gibbons argued.
'I don't know if it's too late, but I think an inquiry should be held or even a new selection committee appointed because it seems to me as though we are struggling, due to selfish mentalities.
'First you hear Logie talking about changes will be made to the team and then a day later you hear the chairman of selectors (Arnold Manders) saying no changes are going to be made. It sounds to me as though the coach doesn't have any say. My feeling is that Logie has allowed these guys (selectors) to do what they felt was right. Now he's saying ‘I've given you guys the opportunity to do and give me what you wanted to give me, but now I want to do what I want to do because what you have done is not working'.'
Following Bermuda's sixth straight ODI loss to Canada last week in South Africa, coach Logie publicly lambasted his players.
'Logie was vexed in that article when he said there's going to be some changes made. But then Arnold (Manders) comes right behind him and says that no changes are going to be made. There's just got to be a conflict here. The results (losses) that we are getting . . . we might as well get them with the youth so they will gain experience for the future. These guys are supposed to be our best players but they are embarrassing us.'
Gibbons also called for team captain Clay Smith, who has been plagued by a bothersome knee injury over the past two years, to resign. 'I think Clay should do the honourable thing and step down because when a horse is lame you put it to rest. He just has to be man enough to admit he can't give 110 percent as he would like to. He needs to step down and give someone else a chance,' Gibbons added.
As for the possible recall of veteran batsman Charlie Marshall and fast bowler George O'Brien Jr, Gibbons said: 'I'm not hating on Charlie and I love him to death, but we have to look to the future.
'I think Charlie should just forget about it. He's had a good innings and might still be able to do a good thing. But this thing is all about the future. And even if we were to bring George (O'Brien) back at this stage I don't think he'll be ready. But we also cannot forget about George because he's the best thing we've got for the future right now. But it's all now up to him to bounce back, and this is something I would love to see him achieve.'