Essequibians are indeed proud of Keemo Paul, the World Cup winning under-19 Vice-Captain who hails from Wakenaam, the small agricultural island which also produced former West Indies Captain Ramnaresh Sarwan. The sentiment is similar in relation to national fast bowler Ransford Beaton who will trade with Trinidad and Tobago’s Red Steel in this year’s CPL 20/20 tournament. This is evidence of the talent that continues to emerge from the county of Essequibo despite the many challenges that are currently plaguing the sport there. Special mention must also be given to Dinesh Joseph, Trenton Peters, Jaimini Singh, Rovendra Mandolall, John Floyd, Courtney Gonsalves, Rayon Thomas, Jeff Jones and Alfred Maycock, just to name a few. Fast bowlers Ransford Beaton and Rayon Thomas have also represented West Indies ‘A’ in the past.
I am convinced that most of these players, once they were judged on merit, would have graduated to wearing national colours. In fact their ability and that of numerous others was never in doubt; instead consistently poor representation from administrators as well as the absence of a strategic approach over the years stymied their development, resulting in the players’ erosion of confidence. Some have even quit the game in frustration.
I can still vividly recall Clain Williams dominating the national under-19 trials by amassing the most runs a few years ago. Devastatingly though, he couldn’t earn selection, not even in the development team that the WICB had experimented with at the time. I was told by a selector at the time that Williams was indeed selected but an executive intervention had prompted his omission. He became disillusioned and lost hope in the system. The same applies to Dinesh Joseph and Trenton Peters, two of the finest opening batsmen neither of whom was ever elevated, despite their consistent performances at the club and inter-county level. Fast-bowling giant Courtney Gonsalves was also denied national selection for most of his brilliant career as well as Fidel Cameron, who was among the best young fast bowlers during his reign.
Unfortunately, however, such talent cannot be successfully sustained with the current administration of the Essequibo Cricket Board (ECB). The inter-county under-19 tournament was held recently in Georgetown. Not surprisingly, the ECB was not prepared since the team was hastily assembled without any criteria of selection or any prior competition. The longer version of the game has been virtually traded for T20 tournaments. This phenomenon is beginning to detract from the young talents’ technical and physical competence when making the transition. In addition, much was expected from the Cricket Development Committee under the chairmanship of Mr Alvin Johnson whose considerable experience is yet to meaningfully create and enhance a structural concept for the ECB.
The hostel now has a tenant and not a caretaker, since the surrounding environment leaves much to be desired. This also means that the players cannot use the facility for its intended purpose. Additionally, the area committees are being virtually starved of financial, technical and coaching resources, resulting in many of them becoming dysfunctional. Central Essequibo Cricket Committee does not exist since no statutory meeting has been convened for the past six years. A similar situation exists within the Bartica Cricket Committee. I am of the firm conviction therefore that transformational changes are required to end the constitutional assault on committees while there is an immediate need to demand accountability and even question the competence of the ECB.
I am suggesting the following:
- Identify a cadre of coaches who should be trained to serve in the schools as well as within the eight area committees. Currently there is no evidence of any systematic coaching being done in the county. There are only two paid coaches who are assigned to the ECB. It seems as though their roles relate to coaching inter-county teams.
- Renovate, equip and operationalize the hostel. This facility is being underutilized and even neglected.
- Playing the longer version of the game must become a priority for the administration. This was not done for the past eight years and there seems to be no interest. Yet teams are being selected to compete at the inter-county level without experience or support from the Board.
- Most of the clubs within the county lack the organizational skills to sustain their existence and become model clubs. In this regard the ECB must become the institution of change by implementing programmes that will create a network of formal clubs which can benefit from the input of the Cricket Development Committee, once it is functioning.
- The ECB should seek to professionally recognize its cricketers through annual award ceremonies. What has the ECB done to reward Keemo Paul? Has the board ever officially acknowledged Kevin Boodie’s record of being the first and only batsman to date to score an inter-county double century in a 50 overs match? I was even told that Pomeroon has recently produced a national under-15 cricketer, perhaps the first to emanate from the riverain area. Would he be officially recognized by the ECB?
As a former senior inter-county captain, I am deeply saddened by the current state of affairs. Yet I am cautiously optimistic that a new era will be heralded under the stewardship of Ransford Beaton and Keemo Paul. The present scenario can no longer continue if Essequibo’s cricket is to advance beyond the tokenism and administrative callousness it has become accustomed to over the years. The absence of a strategic approach has become untenable and is to the detriment of Essequibo’s cricket.