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November 6, 2017

No sense to last-minute venue change

It never ceases to amaze me how ignorance can exist so strongly as to trump common sense in a decision-making process. It leaves me bewildered!  I’m addressing here the reasons for the change of venue for the Cricket West Indies (CWI) four-day regional Professional League.

In the five home matches for the Trinidad and Tobago team, which were all carded for the Queen’s Park Oval, the three most vital ones against Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana were shifted to the Brian Lara Cricket Academy (BLCA).

Let me state clearly from the outset, I’m not against the move but the reasons given for it. That is the part that makes no sense to me! In the past, Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre was a regular venue for first-class cricket and there was a time when the annual North/South match (a first-class fixture at the time) after playing alternately at the Oval in Port of Spain and Guaracara Park for many years was moved permanently to the south in the 1980s.

However, it is unbelievable that after the fixtures were completed and the venues assigned, suddenly, within less than two weeks of the first match the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) requests from CWI a change in venue for three of their home matches.

I didn’t have to wait long for the answers which left me flabbergasted! I quote Suruj Ragoonath, the CEO of the TTCB, in the Daily Express of October 20: “The Red Force (the T&T national team) has not had a very good record at the Queen’s Park Oval. We would have lost 9 of our last 10 at the Oval and that’s where we’ve played our home games. On the road we have done better, so we think that a change of venue is something that will help our players, given the statistics at the Oval in recent times.”

For the record; in the last three years the national team played 15 matches at home of which they won 2, drew 2 and lost 11.  Five of them were played at the National Cricket Centre (NCC) in Balmain, Couva.  T&T won one in Balmain and one at the Oval. I don’t have the figures at hand but we have done no better ‘on the road’.

How could the TTCB’s CEO even think that we’re doing better anywhere when the national team has not won the regional four-day tournament since 2006 and before that 1985? If he thinks the Red Force is so blighted at the Oval also at the NCC, then he might have to consider giving up home advantage and play all national fixtures ‘on the road’!

What will happen if they lose at BLCA? Would they be looking for other grounds to play on? They did play against Jamaica at the University of the West Indies ground, St Augustine approximately ten years ago and lost a vital match on first innings in a drawn fixture.

Ragoonath could explore other venues like the University of Trinidad & Tobago ground, and there’s always Gilbert Park, Couva where the touring Indians in 1962 played a two-day match against a T&T Colts team. In the meantime, it might be a good idea to pray that the Red Force wins at the BLCA as options are few!

Rumour has it that the trigger that stirred up the panic to change the venue from the Oval to BLCA was the Hurricane Relief t20 match for the people of Dominica which took place on October 14 at the Oval between a Caribbean eleven and the national team. Both sides scored over 200 runs in their innings. It was remarkable that the ball ran so smoothly over the surface and the pitch so favoured the batsmen as it was in the middle of a very wet rainy season and the worst was expected. The match was well supported as Trinidadians and Tobagonians are wont to do in charity circumstances.

Before the game, Ian Bishop, one of the television commentators on the night, did a pitch report and remarked on the amount of grass on the wicket; he was informed that it would hold no fears for the batsmen and would be more likely to assist them as the extra grass would make for a faster wicket.  Bishop had his doubts, also commenting that it would be two-paced, and afterwards admitting that he did not know too much about the subject of pitches and how they would play.

The rumour persisted that the national team coach believed that T&T would be at a disadvantage on grassy pitches, and requested the change from the Oval fearing the wickets! This sounds more credible if not Ragoonath would have made his request more than a month ago when the fixtures were first announced.

Good luck to the national team. When nonsense prevails luck is the only option to look forward to for decision-making!