Jamaica Gleaner / It has always been accepted that the more cricket, or any sport, one plays, the better he, or she becomes, all things being equal.
The newly introduced Super League cricket tournament, therefore, can be described as a good move, especially in the face of Jamaica’s present standard of play.
The Super League is well packaged. The teams are uniform, and each team is blessed with a chairman, manager, and coach at every match.
It can be said, however, all things considered, that the Super League is a waste of time and money, especially where the development of Jamaica’s cricket is concerned, and even more so, at the time it is being, or not being, played.
The Super League is a league consisting of six teams. It is said that 120 of the best players form the teams, and each team gets a little more than $2 million to finance it for a competition, which was scheduled, at the start, to last for some 10 weeks.
With the selection of the national team also promised to be dependent on performance in the competition, and with the competition scheduled to take place around the time of the regional competition, the competition may seem to be good, very good, and as such, deserves rounds of applause.
It seems something that Jamaica’s cricket really wanted, a long time ago, a league that brought the best players together, and with good coaching, to play with and against each other, to play on different pitches and in different conditions, and in a competitive atmosphere.
The question is, however, is the Super League the answer?
Unfortunately, it is not, or at least it does not appear so.
The Super League is called a franchise, but in reality it is not; not when a franchise is basically a moneymaking business made up of money-seeking businessmen; and not when the Super League “franchise” teams are made up and named, financed, and controlled by one source.
In such a situation, there cannot be any serious competition, not the sort of competition that leads to development, and not when it is seen, or can be seen, as nothing but a public relations and vote-catching exercise.
On top of that, handing each team 20 of the supposedly best players at the start seems to be a waste of time. For a start, the competition is too short for the teams to provide each player with an opportunity to play regularly enough to show his worth, that is, if the competition is to be a real competition capable of separating the strong from the weak.
And the coaching, which can only last for a few weeks, will not be good enough to get results. Coaching, good coaching, calls for knowledge, consistency, and regularity.
Is the Super League another competition. Is it a sister competition of the Senior Cup, or was it originally intended to replace the Senior Cup competition?
There is no doubt that even if it is not now the intention to replace the Senior Cup, the Super League was originally intended to replace the Senior Cup.
ENGINE OF DEVELOPMENT
The Senior Cup, however, has been on the road since 1897. It has covered the entire country since 1990. The system under which it was formed, and played, was the club system, and the club system has survived the test of time. It has been the engine of development like almost every other sport anywhere in the world.
The club is a like a second home. It is the place where one thing is dominant, and it is sport, and in this case, cricket.
It is the place also where coaching is, or should be, important. It should be regular and consistent.
Clubs have been the heart of cricket, of sports, they will continue to be, and they will continue to be so because if run properly, they provide for cricket at all times.
The best cricketers from all over the country went to them, or rather, are going to them, because of what others cannot, or do not offer, and because of what the clubs offer.
Whether the players from the clubs are shuffled around in a grand merry-go-round, whether they are borrowed or not, the good cricketers, most of them, will always migrate to the clubs, to the better-run clubs, even if they are encouraged not to.
For some 50 years, Jamaica’s cricket has been chasing its tail.
Since the 1970s, the JCA has tried many strategies to lift the standard of the country’s cricket, and all have failed, including the one in which it divided the country into four zones, with the best players gathered and ushered to each of the zones for a few matches a season.
Nothing has changed, except the name “franchise”, but what is good for Tom, is not necessarily good for Harry, especially if Harry cannot afford it and is apparently simply attempting to follow others.
Some teams, some clubs, would obviously fall by the wayside at the start; some people would obviously lose status in their communities. The money may have been better spent on a competition in which the Senior Cup competition was limited to eight or so top teams across the country, where the best players are free to play for any one of the clubs.
Fifteen million dollars could have been spent to help the clubs and parishes provide better conditions, coaches, properly prepared pitches, proper covers, and rollers to develop good cricketers, with the best of them representing the country.
The JCA has attempted to sell the Super League with the promise of better opportunities for more players, better spectator support because of stronger teams, the selection of the national team based simply on performance, and better cricket, and that is good.
Apart from teams struggling to pass 200 runs per innings, and some teams falling for scores such as 97, it is not as easy as that, however.
The Super League cannot develop players. The “best’ players will need to come from somewhere to play in it, and the selection of a cricket team, for example, cannot be based entirely on performance.
Selection of a team is not easy. It involves many things other than straight performance, on who makes what, and on who takes what. It is something very complex.
Apart from Jamaica already having contracted 15 players in June or July, if a Jamaica team was selected purely on performance, the selectors would be useless, or they would end up selecting a few people who were simply not good enough, and that would be because of performances against weak teams in meaningless competitions.
The competition is on during the rainy season; most of the pitches have not been up to scratch; the standard of play has been no better than before; most of the players have no base from which to train; and the matches that I have seen have attracted, as usual, only a few spectators.