Jamaica Franchise’s wretched campaign in the inaugural Professional Cricket League (PCL) continued after they were beaten by hosts Guyana Jaguars at Providence over the weekend.
The defeat was Jamaica’s fourth thumping in a row in the revamped regional tournament, keeping them in fourth place on 65 points, while rampaging Guyana now lead the six-team pack with 123 points.
The Tamar Lambert-led Jamaica team has been outstandingly successful in the first-class game over the last decade, claiming six title-winning four-day trophies.
During the successful seasons, the batting has been hardly overwhelming, especially when the elite players are on West Indies duty. But the last three campaigns have exposed a particularly brittle top order in the relatively new-look side which has often left the lower order and the bowlers with too much to do.
There have been calamitous collapses throughout the batting line-up, most recently against Guyana when Jamaica slumped in their first innings from 230-4 to be dismissed for 258.
Such a fall from grace is expectedly accompanied by unofficial inquests. Lambert told the Jamaica Observer recently that some of the batsmen, including himself, were severely short on confidence.
Over recent seasons, widely considered underachieving top order players such as Donovan Pagon, Brenton Parchment, Danza Hyatt and left-hander Simon Jackson have, for one reason or another, been sidelined from four-day cricket.
Very promising younger batsmen have since seen more playing time.
Nkrumah Bonner, who has represented West Indies at the senior level, is in poor form and was dropped. Horace Miller, also a capable wicketkeeper, got opportunities but failed and was left out. Cassius Burton, known more for his wrist-spin bowling as a schoolboy player, failed on debut against Trinidad & Tobago Red Force weeks ago, but held his place in the squad against Guyana. Shacaya Thomas, who played earlier in the tournament before being dropped, was brought back in, but he fell for scores of one and zero versus Guyana.
Lambert, losing four straight for the first time in his decorated career as captain, suggested that the transition has not been the smoothest.
“If you look at the make-up of the team, we’ve lost players who have done it over a number of years in terms of taking the shine off the new ball,” he said after the loss to Trinidad & Tobago at Sabina Park.
“A lot of these [younger] players have just started their careers and some of the senior batters have not come forward. We’ve tried numerous things when it comes on to the opening slots and we continue to try different things. We can only continue to try to get the best composition and the best persons for the batting spots,” Lambert lamented.
Wayne Lewis, a member of Jamaica’s five-man selection committee, conceded the batting was a major worry. However, he defended the move to replace some of the experienced players with their younger counterparts.
“Jamaica’s batting has been struggling for a long time, not only since these young players came in. We just need the senior players like Tamar Lambert, the captain, and David Bernard to step up. Everybody is struggling, so I don’t want to hear the argument about the younger players this and that. If the senior players and the younger players are scoring the same 20s and 30s, who will be selected?” Lewis charged.
“The senior men in the team are not in form and therefore it’s difficult for the younger members. These [younger] guys have been given games to prove themselves because they are young, talented players and we want to expose the talent. And the younger players have more to offer to the future of West Indies cricket,” added the former national batsman.
The Jamaica selection committee, chaired by former West Indies batsman Wavell Hinds, includes ex-Jamaica players Robert Haynes, Delroy Morgan and Cleveland Davidson. The committee is in its second season of selecting squads for the national senior set-up.