Bermuda cricket at a crossroads
Josh Ball (Bermuda Royal Gazette)
The list of players that have made themselves unavailable for the majority of the MCC tour reads like a who's who of the Island's better cricketers.
Stephen Outerbridge, Rodney Trott, Lionel Cann, Chris Foggo, Malachi Jones, Delyone Borden, and Terryn Fray are all missing for one reason or another, and all, baring Fray, are senior members of the national squad. -Stefan Kelly meanwhile flew back from university in England last night and will at least play a part in the second half of the tour.
While work committents explain some absences the, ‘I don't feel like playing' attitude appears to be just as prevalent. Certainly that is the only conclusion that can be drawn from the uninjured squad members who opted not to play against MCC on Wednesday but still found the time to watch their country get badly beaten.
Bermuda head coach David Moore, and Gus Logie before him, have both had to deal with a lack of commitment and players picking and choosing when they feel like playing and not. Such is the problem at the moment that Bermuda might struggle to field two teams for what was supposed to be a triangular Twenty20 tournament against MCC tomorrow at the National Sports Centre.
Injuries to Kyle Hodsoll (back), Kamel Easton (hamstring), and Sammy Robinson and Dion Stovell (both elbow) aside, not being able to summon together 22 international-standard players from an Island which claims cricket as a national sport says plenty about how far the country has fallen in recent years.
'These guys are experienced talented cricketers so of course there are guys that you would like to get into the team,' said Moore.
'If players had been able to maintain a commitment to the team then we might be in a stronger position.'
Jones is a prime example. As Clay Smith says in his column on page 44 of today's sports section in talking about the 2007 side's win over MCC on Monday night: 'Malachi Jones and Kevin Hurdle opened the bowling with what was probably the best opening display seen in Bermuda for the last decade,' he writes. But when was the last time Jones bowled like that for Bermuda in a meaningful game at home or abroad before Monday night. Certainly not often during the decline of the past three years.
The picking and choosing also has a knock-on effect on the Island when it comes to international competition.
Tomorrow's matches are one of the last real opportunities Moore is going to get to see his players in action before the World Twenty20 Global Qualifiers in March.
'Players are going to be fighting for their places,' said Moore, 'how they perform will certainly factor into whether they are picked or not.'
What is Moore to do though if his ‘better' players chose to make themselves unavailable. The Under-19s are not ready to make the step up to the senior team, and Moore wouldn't want to throw them in straight away if they were.
'It's not like we have an all-conquering Under-19 side that we can slide in,' said Moore, 'Joshua Gilbert and Kamau Leverock are ready, but you want to be able to ease the rest in, not throw them straight into it.'
While the tournament in March is the next main international test for Bermuda, it is not the most important. That comes in 2013 when Bermuda must try and get out of Division Three, a task the current side does not seem equipped to achieve.
This MCC side are good, but a similarly talented one were beaten by Hong Kong Cricket Club, not the Hong Kong national team who replaced Bermuda in Division Two, in April.
The need to win at all costs in 2013 might force the Board to discard their policy of picking players who are committed to training and simply pick those who are deemed most talented. That though would not solve the problem of commitment and maybe it would be better to -discard entirely those who -cannot be bothered and focus on a goal of achieving Division One status by 2018/2020.
Even if that does mean several more years of painful results and negative headlines.
All these factors will be moot however if the issue of indiscipline and poor cricket at club level is not tackled first.
The basics are still not being done right and the number of times a Bermuda batsman has built an innings in any form of the game during the past three years can be counted on the -fingers of one hand.
'International cricket is different,' said Moore. 'Bowlers don't send down many bad balls, there are more than two good bowlers in a team and batsmen will punish any bowling that is not spot on.
'I can't comment on what goes on in clubs because I'm not in the dressing room, but clubs are where you learn your cricket.