On Target
February 24, 2006

Bring back the crowd

by Neil Williams

Mr Stanford’s bounteous injection of funds into the region’s barren cricket coffers is the impetus needed for cricket development in SVG. Funds should be allocated to a “cricket performance plan” and incentives should be offered to players and teams in the domestic cricket competitions, which are in dire need of reshaping.

Cricket needs to sell itself and be more entertaining for the spectators. We need to bring back the crowd on a Saturday and Sunday afternoon. The Twenty20 format, given the right package, will go a long way towards achieving this.{{more}}

I agree with the concept of having the major cricket tournament (the present Premier League competition) comprising of Zonal or District squads. This will provide for better competition and more appealing cricket for players and spectators alike.

I believe that a major weakness in the domestic structure is the big divide that exists between the first class arena and the club structure. The present set-up fails to provide the opportunity for the most talented and ambitious cricketers to fulfil their potential. The format and standard of cricket played at this level does not even approximate to that of the first class game. The most ambitious and talented players should play with and against each other in high profile competitive matches played at grounds with the best possible facilities. The present make-up provides for far too much mediocrity. In my Windward Islands coach’s report of 2002, it was stated that “change is not an option” regarding the state of cricket here. Four years on,the standard of cricket is still below par and unappealing to the public. Better playing surfaces with “good carry” to the wicket keeper are needed. This will provide a better contest between bat and ball. I also stated that a bonus points system will provide for far more attractive cricket since teams are forced into a policy of playing negative cricket in which too much importance is attached to securing first innings points. This is partly the fault of the system. Captains, quite understandably, are reluctant to make declarations and innovative skills are sacrificed.

For the new two-day proposed format, in the first innings a team will bat for 45 overs to gain maximum bonus points. However the team may bat on for an extra ten overs; the bowling side however could then gain extra bowling points during these additional overs. Play will commence at 10am with a minimum of 90 overs to be bowled on each of the two days.

In order to be eligible for District first X1, a player will have to be between ages 15-35 years or a past national player less than 40 years of age. In other words you will have the best possible available players within that age range playing with and against players with experience and ambition to play at a higher level. Each district will also have a 2nd X1 and a 3rd X1. This will serve for a more competitive programme since players could be demoted due to lack of form, ill-discipline, lateness etc. and also be

promoted for good performances during a season. An under15 and an under13 development squad will also be in place. This will eradicate most of the problems relating to getting the right calibre of players representing SVG

players. A thirty man national training squad at all levels will be selected for training sessions at the Centre of Excellence. Each district will have a paid coach assigned to the development process. A 50 overs competition will follow the two day championship programme, culminating in a semi finals between the top four teams. The winners will play in a grand high profile final for the Independence Cup. The Women competition will mirror this programme.

The current Premier League and the first division teams will play in a high profile, competitive, Twenty20 sponsored tournament. This will take the form of a conference league (three conferences of six teams each – Conference A , Conference B, Conference C) with play-off for places. In the conference stage, teams play the 12 teams in the other two conferences. So teams in conference A are competing against each other but not playing each other.

This is fair competition because all teams in a conference will compete against the same 12 teams. At the end of the 12 match conference stage all teams are involved in the play-offs, playing the two teams in the other two conferences that finish in the equivalent position within their conferences on a round robin basis. The three teams finishing top of their conferences play-off against each other and the top two teams will play in the finals.

There will be a prize structure for the three competitions. A fixture list for the full schedule of matches will be available before the start of a season.

The way forward and the way to bring the crowd back are by making it more competitive, more appealing and more exciting. This in turn will lead to cricketers at all levels achieving the best possible results and providing the best possible entertainment for supporters.