Manchester Tragedy Fuels Friendship & Triumph

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published May 29, 2017

Ariana Grande
© Getty Images

A week ago, 23-year-old American pop singer and actress, Ariana Grande had just ended her concert performance in the packed out Manchester Arena in England. The patrons, many of them children, were heading for the exits, still in costume, with bunny ears attached to their heads. Several of their parents were outside awaiting them to bring them home. High school boyfriends and girlfriends held hands as they headed to the doors. Friends, filled with excitement – chuckled and laughed – still amazed that they had witnessed their idol in concert. Numerous parents, who had accompanied their kids to the concert, held their children’s hands – in a protective fashion – as they guided them through the crowded maze, thinking only of getting home and getting home quickly.

In one quick expansive bang, the left side of the Arena erupted in chaos, as Salman Abedi, a Libyan expat, had detonated an improvised explosive device, more commonly known as an IED. The explosion killed 22 individuals, several of them children and parents who attended the concert. Also killed in the blast were parents who came to pick up their kids to take them safely home. Ironically, Abedi, the alleged bomber, was only 22 years old.

“Skin, blood and faeces were everywhere”

Kiera Dawber told CNN, “There were just bodies scattered about everywhere … it was just chaos.”

A man being helped from the concert hall
(Photo credit: Unknown)

Abby Mullen, who attended the concert, wrote on her Facebook profile, “As we were leaving a bomb or explosion went off metres in front of me. People’s skin, blood and faeces were everywhere including in my hair”

Two nights later, Manchester United Football Club was due to tackle Ajax in the Europa League finals at the Friends Arena in Stockholm, Sweden. Manchester United and Manchester City football clubs are bitter rivals and are both coached by two coaches, Jose Mourinho and Pep Guardiola, who have had many battles over the years coaching other clubs, including Chelsea, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich. For the most part, they are the antithesis of each other in football philosophy and approach and like oil and water, they are often immiscible. Mourinho, the frequently pragmatic coach, builds his teams on strong defence while Pep, the idealistic coach, builds his team on great offence, thinking the best defence is a strong offence.

Jose Mourinho (r) and Pep Guardiola have been rival coaches in the Champions League, Spanish La Liga and now city-rivals in the English Premier League.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

However, despite the adversarial relationship between the fans and the polarising philosophy of the coaches, last Wednesday, several Manchester City fans were supporting and cheering on their arch-rival Manchester United against Ajax in the Europa final.  In the depths of tragedy, sworn enemies can emerge as friends.

During the match, one Manchester United fan raised a poster over his head which read, “Come on United, do it for Manchester.” The Manchester the fan was referring to was not Manchester United the club. The objective of the night was not winning another cup or title, adding to their prestigious lot, in order to indulge in bragging rights against their city rivals. No! The Manchester the fan was referring to was the city of Manchester, which was broken and desperately in need of a triumph and a ray of happiness, to bring them together after a Monday of mourning.

A Manchester United fan beckons his team to win the final for the citizens of Manchester
(Photo: Rex Features)

Manchester City and Manchester United have donated a combined £1 million to a ‘We Love Manchester Emergency Fund’, set up for the victims of the Manchester bomb attack.

According to ESPNFC, City chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak said: “We have all been humbled by the strength and solidarity shown by the people of Manchester in the days since the attack.

“The hope of both our clubs is that our donation will go some small way to alleviate the daunting challenges faced by those directly affected and that our acting together will serve as a symbol to the world of the unbreakable strength of the spirit of Manchester.”

Since the retirement of long-time coach Alex Ferguson in 2013, Manchester United have not tasted League or European success. In four years since, they are on their third manager, having disposed of David Moyes and Louis van Gaal in short order. This was United’s first opportunity to taste European success, albeit in the less-favoured Europa League, and end a practically lost season in the Premier League, which saw them finish sixth and out of a top-4 Champions League spot. United’s only hope of Champions League qualification lied in them beating Ajax in this final. Nevertheless, the hearts and minds of the United players and coach were on the people of their fellow city, Manchester.

Before the match commenced, Manchester United players were all donned in black armbands and the moment of silence at the beginning of the match, in memory of those killed or injured in the catastrophic attack on Monday, eventually became a moment of applause and was indicative of resulting triumph.

Manchester United (pictured) and Ajax linked arms before the game as a minute’s silence swiftly turned into a rousing applause.
(Photo credit: Michael Sohn/AP/Press Association Images)

Manchester United beat Ajax in the final 2-0 on the back of goals from last summer’s signings, Paul Pogba, the most expensive footballer in the world, and Henrikh Mkhitaryan, another luxurious signing.

With the people of Manchester in mind, Mourinho declared after the match, “If we could, we would obviously change the people’s lives for this cup, immediately. We wouldn’t think twice. Does this cup make the city of Manchester a little bit happier? Maybe. But we just came to do our job.

Jose Mourinho celebrates Europa League success.
(Photo: REUTERS)

“We came without happiness we should bring with us because when you come for these big matches you come happy, you come proud(ly). And we didn’t. We just came to do our job.”

Pogba was on the pitch two years ago in a match against Germany when Paris suffered one of Europe’s deadliest terrorist attacks, which resulted in 130 persons being killed. After the Europa League final and in reference to terrorist bombings, Pogba remarked to BT Sport, “These things are terrible all over the world, in London and in Paris. We went out focused [on winning] and we won for Manchester and the country”. He added, “We played for the people who died [in Manchester].”

“We played for the people who died.” – Paul Pogba

In moments of unspeakable tragedy, persons often divided by race; gender; religion; philosophy; political views; and even football clubs, can find commonality, can cheer for each other’s success and can share each other’s pain. These moments when what separates us are minuscule to those things than bind us, marks the hallmark of the human spirit. A spirit, always triumphant.

#ACityUnited

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning opinion journalist, blogger and author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics.

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on May 29, 2017.

Australia’s Cricket pay dispute turning ugly

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published May 22, 2017

Cricket Australia CEO James Sutherland said, “In the absence of a new MoU, CA is not contemplating alternative contracting arrangements to pay players beyond 30 June if their contracts have expired.”
© Getty Images

Cricket in Australia and Australians playing international cricket might come to halt after June 30 if issues regarding an ugly pay dispute are not resolved between the Board, Cricket Australia (CA), and the players’ association, Australian Cricketers’ Association (ACA).

The stump of contention for both parties, the CA and the ACA, lies in a wrangle over the current fixed-revenue-percentage model that has been in place for 20 years. Simply put, the CA wants to replace it while the ACA wants to retain it. This revenue-sharing model or Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between both parties is due to expire on June 30 of this year.

 

Australian Cricketer’s Association CEO Alistair Nicholson says he is “disappointed that CA is threatening the players” and what he called CA’s attempt to “drive a wedge in Australian cricket”.
© Dominic Lorrimer

The ACA wants to keep the current revenue-sharing model and make only slight modernised tweaks to it as according to them the current model “allows players to share in the ups and downs of the games and its revenue.”

On the contrary, CA believes the current model is antiquated and that a new model which incorporates greater equality in salaries between the genders and which focuses also on grassroots cricket and the future of the game is primary and urgent. According to the CA, the current plan “denies female cricketers the opportunity to share in the game’s revenue.” In addition, an unapologetic CA believes that its proposed plan would “secure [Australia] cricket’s sustainable future” and address the “urgent need to invest more in the grassroots of the game, particularly junior cricket.”

West Indies cricket is not foreign to pay disputes and strikes. 
© Getty Images

As the looming June 30 deadline approaches for negotiations to conclude, parallels are being drawn to the Major League Baseball (MLB) strike of 23 years ago that saw no baseball being played for 232 days. The fallout from that strike saw a huge drop in revenue, attendance and ratings for baseball and the MLB, much of which is just being recouped to pre-1994 levels. Interestingly, the cow bells are being rung by the Australian players and the administrators of CA and ACA, which would indicate that with daggers drawn by all parties, a work stoppage is ominous and ineluctable.

Unsurprisingly, West Indies cricket has had much experience in work stoppages and strikes with the latest being in October 2014. The ramifications of which are still being apparently seen or felt in the selection of teams for the different formats of the game and in the relationships and agreements between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and other boards.

Table 1.  Most Popular Sports in Australia

Rank Most Searched Most Attended Most Participants
1 AFL Australian Rules Football Aerobics
2 Cricket Horse Racing Golf
3 Football Rugby League Tennis
4 NRL Motor Sports Lawn Bowls
5 Golf Soccer (outdoor) Netball
6 Rugby Cricket (outdoor) Swimming
7 Soccer Rugby Union Cricket (outdoor)
8 Tennis Harness Racing Martial Arts
9 Basketball Tennis (indoor and outdoor) Basketball
10 Rugby League Dog racing Tenpin Bowling

Source: Topend Sports (2011)

Cricket is one of the most popular sports in Australia according to Topend Sports, ranking in the top-7 among sports searched for online (2nd), watched by spectators (6th) and played by athletes (7th). Internationally, Australia is one of the ‘Big Three’ countries in cricket revenue generation along with India and England. Thus, both the international body and full member boards rely on Australia’s visiting teams to generate much-needed revenue, especially through television rights demand. Therefore, the implications and causata of such a stoppage for Australian cricket and international cricket are troubling. In fact, any stoppage, for any period, could have spiralling effects both locally and internationally for the overall popularity and viability of the game.

The Ashes, which is the premier contest and revenue generator between the oldest foes, Australia and England, in the oldest format, Test cricket, is already being threatened. Additionally, the Women’s World Cup which is to be held this June/July might also be affected if Australia women players pull out before or midway.

© ESPNcricinfo Ltd

According to the CA’s proposed model, all players would see an increase in their salaries. The average pay for female players would increase by over 125 percent with international women players’ salaries increasing from $79,000 to $179,000. Furthermore, domestic male players would see their salaries increase from 199,000 last year to 235,000 by 2021-22, with the minimum and average hourly wages the same for domestic men and women cricketers. Also, international men cricketers would see their average central contracts rise to $816,000 by 2021-22, with match fees up to an average of $1.45 million from $1.16 million in 2016-17. With all this additional money, you wonder why all parties cannot come to some agreement before June 30. The answer lies in mistrust and how Daniel Brettig’s article titles the stand-off as a “long build-up of bad faith.”

Cricket Australia’s chief executive, James Sutherland declared that in the absence of a new MoU, “CA is not contemplating alternative contracting arrangements to pay players beyond 30 June if their contracts have expired.” Henceforth, “players with contracts expiring in 2016-17 will not have contracts for 2017-18,” Sutherland scribed, in a letter.

James Sutherland believes the CA’s pay proposal will secure the future of grassroots cricket in Australia for years to come.
(Photo credit: Getty Images)

Despite the more-money-for-all proposal by the CA, the staunch stance by their CEO Sutherland has had a predictable response from the players and the ACA. Alistair Nicholson, the ACA chief executive, declared last week, “The point lost on CA is that the players will not respond to threats, whilst broadcasters and sponsors need certainty. That’s why we state again, for the good of the game, that it is time to sit down in mediation rather than make unnecessary threats and create such uncertainty.”

Australian vice-captain David Warner, remarked last week in The Age, “If it gets to the extreme, they might not have a team for the Ashes.” A chilling thought for world cricket and the fledgeling format of Test cricket. Warner went on to declare, “I really hope they can come to an agreement… we don’t really want to see this panning out like that where we don’t have a team, we don’t have cricket in the Australian summer. It is up to CA to deal with the ACA.”

David Warner and other Australian players hope that a resolution to the pay dispute can be reached. 
(Photo credit: PA)

This rhetoric from all parties have parallels to pay disputes in West Indies cricket which saw the likes of Clive Lloyd, Brian Lara and even Dwayne Bravo giving up or being relieved of the captaincy. We have seen West Indian players walk off tours or venture to other tours or forms of cricket like the World Series of Cricket and T20 cricket. I guess it is Australia’s turn.

For Australia and world cricket’s sake, let’s hope that ample amounts of antiseptic can be applied to this toxic stand-off so that healthy and productive negotiations can stave off an unnecessary stoppage and damage to cricket.

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning opinion journalist, blogger and author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics.

In the middle of a match, Zaheer’s father once asked him to name West Indies’ current strike bowler. Zaheer named the West Indian opening bowler. His father said, “Based on how he is bowling, he must be on strike.”

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on May 22, 2017.

I’ve got 99 problems and a century is one

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published May 8, 2017

For most batsmen, the build-up to scoring a century is easy. The issues begin when they get into the nineties, and worse on 99. 

Pakistan’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq smiles as he leaves the field in a Test match between West Indies and Pakistan. Misbah was left unbeaten on 99 not out in the first innings.
Photo credit: Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images

In cricket, the dream of every batsman when he walks to the crease is to make a century for his team, irrespective of whether he’s an opening batsman or a tailender. A century of runs in an innings is a remarkable feat and if it is a double, triple or quadruple century, the more distinguished and memorable it is.

As players approach this milestone in their innings, for many, their demeanour change drastically. Runs that flowed from their bats like water down the Niagara Falls, often abate similar to the closing of a floodgate. Several players, commentators and fans often call this spate of attrition for batsmen as the ‘nervous nineties’. An almost heartbreaking act is when a batsman gets out or is left not out in the nineties but none more heartrending than when the batsman is on 99.

Clem Hill, probably the first great left-handed batsman in Test history, held the world record for the most Test runs for 22 years. He was the first batsman to get out on 99. He followed that innings with 98 and 97.
© Getty Images

There have been 137 occasions in international cricket where a batsman’s innings ended with him out or not out on 99: ninety (90) times in Test, 45 times in One-Day Internationals (ODI) and twice in Twenty20 Internationals (T20I). In the current series between West Indies and Pakistan, Pakistan’s captain Misbah-ul-Haq saw two of his innings end with him on 99, on one occasion 99 out and the other 99 not out. Misbah became the first batsman to suffer this misfortune thrice in Test.

The first batsman to suffer this inglorious feat and define the ‘nervous nineties’ was Australian Clem Hill. Hill was the first batsman to score 1000 Test runs in a calendar year in Test cricket and he did so in 1902. Actually, Hill began the year 1902 very torridly. On January 2, 1902, he walked to the crease in a match against England and made 99. He followed up that innings in the following Test match with 98 and 97 – gutting performances – when added to his 96 in an innings from little over four years earlier. His 96 in 1897 was the first time in Test cricket’s first 20 years that a batsman got out within four runs of a century. He became the first batsman out in Test cricket on 96, 97, 98 and 99. Maybe the nervous nineties should be renamed the ‘nervous Clem Hills’.

Tudor came into bat as England’s nightwatchman in only his third Test match and scored 99 not out.
© Getty Images

Of the 90 Test batsmen to see their innings end one short of a century, 84 of them lost their wicket while six had the contretemps of being left stranded on 99 not out. Steve Waugh, Misbah-ul-Haq, Andrew Hall, Shaun Pollock, Alex Tudor and Geoffrey Boycott are the ‘salt’ six. Tudor and Boycott were luckless to have this occur in the fourth and final innings of a Test and even more, ill-fated Tudor’s 99 not out turned out to be his career-best knock. The only reprieve for Tudor was that his team won the game and he had hit the winning shot. Another player whose career-best turned out to be 99 was Asim Kamal who actually achieved this in his first match and never again did he climb to those heights.

Sachin Tendulkar is the most productive batsman in cricket, playing 664 international matches – Tests, ODIs and T20Is combined – scoring over 34,000 runs including 100 centuries. However, Tendulkar also has the distinction of being out the most times on 99, thrice, all in One-Day cricket and all occurring in 2007.

Adam Gilchrist was unluckily run out on 99 off a brilliant throw by Chaminda Vaas during a super six game of the 2003 World Cup. Gilchrist was left reeling after being robbed of a deserved ton.
© Getty Images

The World Cup is the highest stage for One Day cricket and a century in the World Cup is normally ranked high among personal achievements. ODI cricket’s most destructive wicketkeeper-batsman, Adam Gilchrist, became the first batsman to experience the affliction of getting out on 99 during a World Cup match, in 2003. It is often said, misery loves company. South Africans JP Duminy and AB de Villiers have joined Gilchrist in that distressing feat.

Apart from a batsman’s personal goal of scoring a century, his primary goal is to contribute significantly to his team winning the match. If he can achieve both, then all objectives have been achieved. West Indian Richie Richardson has the distinction of the first batsman to be left unbeaten on 99 in a successful chase in any form of cricket. He saw this occur in an ODI match in 1985 against Pakistan. To soothe the wound of missing out on the century with his partner Gus Logie at the other end, the adjudicators named Richardson man-of-the-match.

Luke Wright’s 99 not out helped his team progress to the super eights of the 2012 T20 World Cup.
(Photo credit: Gareth Copley/AFP/Getty Images)

Centuries in T20I cricket are rare. In 610 matches and over 9800 innings, only 25 centuries have been scored and only one match has seen two players score a century. On the other hand, Alex Hales and Luke Wright are the only two batsmen to see their innings end on 99 during a T20I game. Hales sadly lost his wicket with an over to spare in a match against West Indies. Wright, on the contrary, missed out on a century against Afghanistan during the 2012 T20 World Cup. With a ball to go in his team’s innings and him on 97, Wright couldn’t find the boundary against the Afghans and was only able to scamper two runs and remain unbeaten on 99.

Getting a century in cricket is a rewarding feeling, which often is celebrated exuberantly by the batsman and his teammates when achieved. The main problem is when the batsman gets to 99 and starts to think about the century milestone because unfortunately there is no guarantee he’ll be able to find that one run solution.

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning opinion journalist, blogger and author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics.

He has 99 problems and his wife thinks he is one. 

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on May 8, 2017.

An Ode to Sabina’s 50: perfect balance, breathtaking results & spectacular feats

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published April 24, 2017

Sabina Park hosts its 50th Test match. Over the years, it has delivered perfect balance, breathtaking results and spectacular feats. 

West Indies fast bowler Courtney Walsh celebrates after taking his 435th wicket at Sabina Park to break Kapil Dev’s then-world record of 434 Test wickets. (March 27, 2000)
© Getty Images

Interestingly, the Earth’s axis is tilted 23 degrees towards the ecliptic of the Sun. Psalms 23, undoubtedly, is the most famous and most quoted of all the Psalms or chapters of the Bible. William Shakespeare, the greatest writer of the English language and the greatest dramatist of all time, saw his life rise and set on the 23rd day of the same month, April. And unsurprisingly, the greatest basketball player of all time, Michael Jordan, wore number 23. The above-mentioned connections to number 23 all point to balance, results and spectacular feats. Henceforth, it was no surprise that Sabina Park was the 23rd ground to host Test cricket.

From inception, Sabina Park was the exception. One hundred and ninety-two (192) Test matches were played before the first ball was bowled at Sabina Park. However, unlike the others, none had seen a batsman score a triple century in Test cricket. Sabina Park, or ‘Sabina’,  as it is often called, was not the place of West Indies’ first Test or its first Test victory. Nevertheless, it was the place where its first lion roared, and roared loudly. In response to Andy Sandham’s world record-breaking 325 and a target of 836 runs, George Headley, who later became the first black West Indian to spin the toss as captain in a Test match, responded with 223 runs, his first double century at the time. In a match spanning nine days, Headley’s innings was enough, along with the last two days of rain, to preserve a draw and stave off a series defeat to our colonial masters.

George Headley (left) scored two double centuries at Sabina Park, the most by any batsman. He has the best average of all batsmen at Sabina Park (min. 3 Tests)
© ESPNCricinfo Ltd

This past weekend marked the 50th time a Test match has been played at Sabina and unsurprisingly, in the Caribbean, it is known to be the pitch to offer the greatest balance between bat and ball. In 49 Test matches before this one, batsmen averaged 30.71 runs while bowlers averaged 32.07, a difference of minus 1.33, the best among the traditional Test match grounds in the Caribbean. Additionally, it is also the ground in the Caribbean which has seen the highest percentage of its matches ending in a result, 71%  (35 of 49) and for which West Indies has its highest win percentage at home, 47% (23 of 49).

Sabina has seen its dark days. Its darkest day most certainly was in January 1998 when it hosted its 33rd Test match, a match between England and West Indies. Steve Bucknor, who has stood in nine of the 50 matches at the ground – second only to Douglas Sang Hue at 10 – and Srinivas Venkataraghavan were the umpires who had to call off the Test match after “62 bone-crushing deliveries” because of a perilous pitch.

The pitch at Sabina Park after the abandonment of the first Test, West Indies v England, 1st Test, Jamaica, January 29, 1998.
© Getty Images

Its brightest day has to be March 1, 1958, when Garfield Sobers scored a ‘monumental innings’, according to Wisden, of 365 not out, his first Test match century, and a then-world record. The jubilant spectators were beside themselves that Saturday as they invaded the field, trampled the pitch, and ended play abruptly, 55 minutes before close of play.

In that match, Sobers, along with Sir Conrad Hunte, who scored a career-best 260, recorded the highest partnership ever at Sabina Park, 446 runs, which is still the highest partnership by a West Indian pair in Test match history.

Garfield Sobers set a world record of 365 not out and brought up his 8000th Test run at Sabina Park, 16 years apart. He has scored the most runs, 1354 runs, and the joint-most centuries, 5,  at Sabina Park.
© Getty Images

Sabina has seen other spectacular innings, including Lawrence Rowe’s 214 and 100 not out on debut. Other spectacular innings include career bests from Headley, 270 not out; Dennis Amiss, 262 not out; Ramnaresh Sarwan, 261 not out and Steve Waugh’s series and era-changing 200 in 1995, which handed West Indies its first Test series defeat since their visit to New Zealand in 1980.

Four years later in 1999, West Indies was on the cusp of tragedy, having been bowled out for 51 in the previous match in Trinidad against the Aussies and now crawling at 34 runs for 4 wickets at Sabina. A young West Indian captain, Brian Charles Lara produced – according to him – his best Test innings, 213 runs. At the time, Lara was fully engrossed by the book, ‘For the Love of the Game: My Story’, by Mr Number 23, Michael Jordan. According to Wisden, Lara defied odds and circumstances which would have crushed most men on his way past 5000 Test runs. “Lara seduced the people of a bankrupt nation, resurrected his career as a batsman of rare gifts and reignited cricket throughout the Caribbean, on that Sabina pitch.

Brian Lara pulls his West Indies team from the gutters against Australia during the second Test at Sabina Park with a knock of 213 runs, March 14, 1999. Lara has scored the second-most runs at Sabina Park, 1112.
© Getty Images

Other batsmen have brought up personal milestones on that Sabina pitch. Sobers, the first batsman to score 8000 runs in Test cricket scored his 8000th run at Sabina Park. So too did Sachin Tendulkar and Viv Richards, two blasting masters of the game. Similarly, Rahul Dravid and Allan Border, two of the grittiest to don the whites, scored their 9000th Test run at Sabina Park.

Jamaicans have always been treated by their hometown boys, especially Headley, Rowe and Jimmy Adams, who top the batting averages at Sabina at 130, 113 and 109 runs per dismissals respectively (minimum 3 Test matches). However, it is the Barbadians, Sobers and Clyde Walcott who have scored the most centuries on the ground, five each.

Lawrence Rowe scored a double century and a century on debut at Sabina Park. He has the second-best average among batsmen at Sabina Park, 113 (min. 3 Tests). 
© Getty Images

In the bowling department, another local boy, Courtney Walsh broke Kapil Dev’s then-world record of 434 Test wickets with his 435th Test wicket at Sabina Park. Of all bowlers, Walsh has also taken the most wickets at Sabina, 48, with Barbadians Wes Hall and Malcolm Marshall rounding up the top-3 with 35 and 31 respectively. Corey Collymore, Jerome Taylor and Hall have the best bowling averages on the ground, mindboggling numbers of 12.55, 13.58 and 15.25 runs per wicket respectively (minimum 3 Test matches). However, Steve Harmison has the best bowling figures in an innings, seven wickets for 12 runs, while Collymore has the best bowling figures in a match at Sabina Park, 11 wickets for 134 runs respectively.

Jeffrey Dujon leads all wicketkeepers with 24 catches, with Ridley Jacobs and Denesh Ramdin having 23 catches a piece. Of non-wicketkeeping fielders, Lara’s 23 catches is a distant record, with Gordon Greenidge and Chris Gayle snatching 13 and 11 catches respectively.

Jeffrey Dujon has the most dismissals of any wicketkeeper or fielder at Sabina, 25 (24 catches and 1 stumping).
(Photo source: Unknown)

In 87 years, Sabina Park has given us perfect balance between bat and ball, breathtaking results for and against West Indies and spectacular team and individual feats. Cheers on your 50th Test match, Sabina. You are number one in my book.

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning opinion journalist, blogger and author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics.

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke

This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on April 24, 2017.

Petersfield, building a strong legacy, but needs help

By Zaheer E. Clarke

Published April 10, 2017

Petersfield High School sports program has been on the rise in recent years. The dream is to build a strong legacy and a bright future for their student-athletes. However, they desperately need assistance.

Petersfield High School’s ultimate dream is to seriously challenge the top schools for the boys’ and girls’ titles at the annual ISSA Boys and Girls Championships in Jamaica. 
(Photo credit: Team Jamaica)

Last year after Boys and Girls Championships, all the discussion was about the Christopher Taylor versus Akeem Bloomfield showdown in the event’s finale, the 4 x 400m relay. Three days after the Championships, I stood beside a soup shop on a university college campus in Western Jamaica discussing the beleaguered anchor leg by Bloomfield with students and passersby. The discussions centred around whether Bloomfield utilised the correct strategy. Interestingly, among the crowd, an inadvertent participant joined the discussion. That individual was Petersfield’s High School Track and Field head coach, Machell Woolery.

“We don’t have shoes, spikes or jerseys to run in…”

– Machell Woolery

In recent years, barring St. Elizabeth Technical High School, Petersfield High School has been the beacon of the westerly parishes in sports generally, but especially in the area of track and field. In previous years, Manning’s School was the gold-standard in Westmoreland but like with life’s only constant, there has been a change.

Machell Woolery, track and field coach of Petersfield High School.
(Photo credit: Paul Reid/Jamaica Observer)

Petersfield High has advanced to the quarterfinals stage in the last three editions of the Dacosta Cup. More surprisingly, at Boys and Girls Championships, or Champs for short, they have finished in the top-10 on the boys’ side every year since 2012 and in the top-20 on the girls’ side in three of the last four editions. They have finished 7th, 6th and 7th on the boys’ side in the last three editions, with them scoring 71 points exactly at the last two Championships. This year on the girls’ side, they attained their highest finish of 11th with them scoring 32 points.

Table 1. Petersfield High points and ranking at the Boys and Girls Championships 2011-2017

 

Boys

Girls

Year

Points Rank Points Rank
2011 8 22nd 2

31st

2012

29 10th 13 21st
2013 34 9th 8

24th

2014

31 10th 14 16th
2015 50 7th 10

24th

2016

71 6th 23 15th
2017 71 7th 32

11th

After Coach Woolery revealed his identity, and after the polarising views of the congregants at the soup shop regarding the Taylor-Bloomfield showdown cooled off, I spoke with Coach Woolery about the entire sports program at Petersfield High and the resources at their disposal.

“The resources are very minimalist. The whole burden is on the school. We would love to get some form of corporate sponsors on board, whether it’s from Westmoreland, Montego Bay or Jamaica at large. We just want the backing to help us get the students out through the scholarship medium or  [to help] those who can represent the country in the long run,” he said.

Woolery is a graduate of GC Foster College and is a certified IAAF Level I and Level II coach. He said that his time at GC Foster, the IAAF training received along with being a part of the Digicel/MVP Grassroots program for a number of years have all contributed to his life experiences as a coach.

Former Petersfield High standout Waynee Hyman of Jamaica runs the 2nd leg during the 1st round of the medley relay on day four of the IAAF World Youth Championships at the Bressanone Sports Complex on July 11, 2009, in Brixone Bressanone, Italy.
(July 11, 2009 – Source: Michael Steele/Getty Images Europe)

With limited resources, coaching can identify individual talent and hone it. However, to truly challenge schools like Kingston College and Calabar on the boys’ side or Edwin Allen and Hydel on the girls’ side at Champs, which is coach Woolery’s dream, Petersfield would require serious support from the past students’ association, corporate sponsors and possibly governmental agencies.

While speaking last year, Woolery remarked, “We need equipment, hurdles, a gym, and starting blocks. We don’t have a school bus. So, transportation is a heavy burden on us. We don’t have a shoe sponsor or a gears sponsor. So, we don’t have shoes, spikes or jerseys to run in, nor a nutrition program or supplements for the students. In every area we are in need of great help.

Daniel Cope practising his discus throws.
” I will never stop trying until I get it right.”
(Source: Facebook)

“We want to be in the top-5 at Champs. We know that it is hard to win the Championships. However, if we can get that financial backing we know we can challenge the top schools. To challenge any school at Champs, once your field events are strong and you can maintain in other areas, you can show dominance. [2016] we won the field events section at champs. We outscored KC, JC, Calabar, and all the name brand schools. We won gold medals in three out of five field throws. So that sets a precedence. All we need from here is some financial backing and we can do great things and make the West proud.”

Though the team-centred Coach Woolery is very hesitant to individualise members of the Petersfield setup, in the past few years, student-athletes like Kevin Nedrick, Daniel Cope and Antonio Watson have stood out on the track and in the field, and there are several more.

Petersfield’s Kevin Nedrick won a gold medal for Jamaica at the 2015 Commonwealth Youth Games on September 9, 2015, in Apia, Samoa.
(Sept. 8, 2015 – Source: Mark Kolbe/Getty Images AsiaPac)

In December last year, just before the start of the current track season, I once again caught up with Coach Woolery, who had just returned from El Salvador where he went to do the IAAF Level II certification. He said that despite the success of Petersfield he was saddened that they were not getting the financial support they expected to get as a non-traditional and a deep rural school that is performing so well at Champs.

“I will never stop trying until I get it right.”

– Daniel Cope

Woolery and Petersfield High want a bright future for their student-athletes and recognise that for several of them, their prowess in sports is their vehicle to greater opportunities and success in life.

“I want everybody to know that [Petersfield High] is not just track and field. We have been a decent sports program. Where we try our best to get our students to get scholarships to go abroad. We have a few students who have moved on to universities abroad to study. So this is a vehicle for them. It is the only opportunity for their parents to help them to go to [college or university and it] is to get the scholarships,” Woolery declared.

Check out this cool video. Click on link below.

Antonio Watson of Petersfield WINS Class 3 (U-13) Boys 200M FINAL in 22.61 out of LANE 8 at CHAMPS 2016

That was a cool video.

In spite of the dearth situation, last year Woolery said that Petersfield was planning strategically for the future and are looking to create shockwaves even higher than at the Boys and Girls Championship level, but at the world level.

In Woolery’s own words, “Petersfield has been a rising success and a rising institution when it comes on to track and field. We are not only a local brand but a global brand. We have had persons on the national team from 2009 and we want to continue to do that. We are paving the way for the future generation and we want to maintain the [Petersfield] legacy, and we hope someone can come on board and start to build on the legacy with Petersfield. The legacy is already there!”

For the first time in school history, a team of 16 track and field athletes from Petersfield High School competed at the 2016 Penn Relays Carnival in the United States.
(Source: Petersfield High Website)

I, for one, hope that Westmoreland residents, western Jamaica and corporate Jamaica lend their support to the Petersfield High sports program. On merit alone, they deserve it, and without a question, they need it.

Until next time…

© Zaheer Clarke

Zaheer E. Clarke is an award-winning opinion journalist, blogger and author of the award-winning blog, Zaheer’s Facts, Lies and Statistics.

He can be reached at zaheer.clarke@gmail.com. Follow him on Facebook at Zaheer Facts, Lies & Statistics, or on Twitter at @zaheerclarke.

This blog article was republished in the Western Mirror on April 10, 2017.