By Zaheer E. Clarke
Published February 20, 2017
In an interview with ZFLS, Philip Service, the West Indies Cricket Board’s (WICB) Territorial Development Officer for Jamaica, stated that weaknesses at the parish and club levels, along with a paucity of resources and funding, have been the determining factors in the poor transition of Jamaican youngsters to first-class and international cricket.
According to Service, stronger and more consistent structures at the club and the parish level could provide a portion of the additional support needed in the development of youngsters from high school cricket to first-class cricket.
“What you find in most cases is that they (the youngsters) do very well in school and … at Headley Cup, but the transition to building them and honing them into good club players and ultimately good first-class players is not as consistent as it ought to be,” Service stated. “So, some people come through that process because they may be lucky to get into a more organised club.”
Service, who is in his second stint as the WICB’s Territorial Development Officer for Jamaica, revealed that the WICB has been providing resources for the kiddy cricket programs, grassroots cricket programs and the development of cricket coaches. However, he highlighted the dire need for greater intervention and partnerships. These, according to Service, would include the sponsorship and support of cricket outside of local and regional competitions in order to bolster youth development programs, as the WICB alone cannot provide all the resources.
“There is a need for sponsors and other support in the area of developing programs like mini-academies,” Service remarked, “and it doesn’t have to be a central academy, although one like that would be good. You could have mini-academies in each parish. So that a youngster out of William Knibb (Memorial High School) who is talented, doesn’t have to go to Kingston to hone his talent.”
“Unfortunately, in Jamaica, we have a lot of money spent in competitions, and the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) struggle for resources to be able to do additional development work outside of preparing teams for regional competition,” Service declared, “and that is a weakness in our current development process.”
When the lack of cricket gears or their high cost, which youngsters often bear, was put forward as a possible reason why youngsters are not able to transition to first-class and international cricket, in comparison to other sports like track and field, Service pointed to greater government assistance as a solution.
“Quite frankly, the government has to find a way to support the reduction in cost. I know the government themselves are under severe pressure in terms of their own ability to provide services. However, at the end of the day, we have to find a way through the Sports Development Foundation or any other such organisation to reduce the cost of the gears,” he stated.
Another problem plaguing the transition of youngsters to first-class and international cricket, according to Service, is the deterioration of the quality of club cricket. He attributes this to fewer professional and former international cricketers returning to play club cricket.
“When I was growing up, I use to play with past (and current) West Indies players. However, given the amount of cricket that is being played internationally now, there is hardly any time they are able to play at the club level. Therefore, youngsters don’t get a lot of those opportunities nowadays to rub shoulders with professionals as a 16-year-old.”
Understanding the need for professionals and international cricketers to earn outside of club cricket, and the need for youngsters to keep developing outside of rubbing shoulders with more experienced players, Service said, “We just have to adjust. That is why we need more resources to be found to assist in the development. That’s how we have to do it.”
Territorial Development officers have to report to the WICB monthly on the kiddy cricket programs (for boys and girls 12 and under), grassroots cricket programs (for boys and girls 17 years and under) and the coaching education programs for adults supervising the youngsters in their respective territories.
© Zaheer Clarke
Zaheer E. Clarke is a multi-award-winning freelance sportswriter, whose high school cricket coach, mathematics and physics teacher was Philip Service. Interestingly, at no fault of Service, Clarke turned out to be a better writer than a wicketkeeper.
This blog article was also published in the Western Mirror on February 20, 2017.