Now that South Africa, Australia, and West Indies have completed the first leg of the Bellr Cup tri-nation series of matches at Providence it is safe to say that International Cricket Council-sanctioned cricket is back on track in Guyana.
Hopefully, local fans would no longer be deprived of the privilege of watching top tier international teams perform in their own backyard – so to speak – and not just on TV, because of the shenanigans of the local cricket authorities, government and the West Indies Cricket Board.
But though some of the finest purveyors of limited overs cricket in the world were on hand for the matches, like Quinton de Kock, Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers of South Africa, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, and World Cup T20 hero Carlos Brathwaite, and Aussies David Warner, Aaron Finch, and Stephen Smith, the crowds were not exactly entertained with vintage batsmanship for their money simply because the low slow pitches of uneven bounce and pace were not batter-friendly.
In each of the three matches bowlers held sway and the plethora of spinners dominated the contests with Sunil Narine on his return to international competition from suspension for suspect action after rehabilitation turning in the best figures of the tournament so far with 6 for 27 in the West Indies win over South Africa. Australia’s left-arm spinner Adam Zampa and right-arm off-spinner Nathan Lyon – 3 for 16 and 3 for 39 respectively also exploited the conditions as they dismissed the West Indies for 116 in just 32.3 overs to take that contest handily.
For South Africa, Imran Tahir, Aaron Phangiso and debutant unorthodox left-arm spinner Tabraiz Shamsi were impressive in setting back the Aussies in match number three, but their star performer was undoubtedly 21-year-old pacer Kagiso Rabada who grabbed 3 for 13 in seven overs as they rebounded from their loss to West Indies in the opening match. As evidence of the difficult nature of the Providence pitches, 31 of the 49 dismissals in the three matches played went either bowled or via the leg before wicket route. So the Providence stadium has in its brief history already developed the dubious reputation of being the most difficult pitch on the West Indies circuit and one that is not conducive to enterprising cricket that is much the order of the day.
With the long overdue return of high level international cricket to Guyana it is critical that the authorities consider summoning the curators of this otherwise excellent facility outstanding for its efficient drainage, in the off season or during perhaps a lengthy hiatus to examine the better pitches on the international circuit with a view to re-laying the pitches in the middle as well as the practice strips in the nursery at Providence with soil either from Guyana if available or abroad if necessary. It is imperative that there be considerable investment and a concerted effort in pitch improvement made here sooner rather than later.
It will not only ensure that Providence be always in consideration as a viable venue for all formats of the game of cricket including day/night Test matches, but it will ensure the development of local players nurtured on good pitches be better prepared for West Indies and other duties abroad. It is small wonder that since the retirement of the seasoned campaigner Shivnarine Chanderpaul, that consistently there have been no Guyanese on the West Indies team or on the international circuit. Players brought up in good conditions with proper coaching develop good technique and proper temperament and are better prepared for advancement.
Meanwhile it is worthy of note that during the third and final match of the recently concluded first leg of the Tri-nation series on Tuesday, commentator Fazeer Mohammed observed with some measure of consternation that the stands at the Providence stadium are not adorned even with the names of any of the Guyanese cricket icons Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, and Lance Gibbs that were prominently displayed on stands at the erstwhile storied test venue, GCC Bourda. There were those who thought at the time while that venue was still active as part of the international test circuit, that the names Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Alvin Kallicharan, and Roy Fredericks should have been mounted on other stands or gates there as well.
Some would recall that in this column on August 19, 2014 under the caption “Take the legends to the Bank”, it was advocated that the Providence stadium, which in my view now stands bare, if beautiful but lacking character much like say Miss Guyana without make-up, be enhanced with the pantheon on display.
It is time that this national stadium now nine years old, much like its counterparts around the Caribbean, like the Queen’s Park Oval with its Brian Lara Pavillion, Kensington Oval in Barbados with its Sir Garfield Sobers Pavillion, in an elaborate official ceremony attach the names of the aforementioned Guyanese greats – Fredericks posthumously, but with all of the others present and to now include Chanderpaul, on stands and gates around the ground and to unveil a portrait or an appropriate photograph of the late Tony Cozier in the press box.