Much to applaud in Busta cricket series

Across The Board
Stabroek News
February 26, 2001

PEOPLE are sometimes suspicious of change and this was somewhat the case late last year when information regarding the West Indies Cricket Board's (WICB) new format for this year's Busta Cricket Series began filtering into the public domain.

Now, a few months later, it's clear that this innovative two-tiered tournament - with the historic inclusion of an international team and a developmental West Indies "B" side - has rekindled a lot of interest and excitement in regional cricket.

A mystery writer could hardly have scripted a more dramatic climax to the Busta Cup, with the identity of the regional champions not being known before the last day of the last of seven rounds of competition.

Guyana could have won. The Leeward Islands could have won. Barbados could have won or Jamaica could have won. In the end, Barbados - shrugging off an indifferent start to the competition - romped to their 17th regional title with 57 points; edging out Guyana who earned the same number of points but who had one less victory. The fact that four semifinalists for the Busta International Shield were to be determined at the same time added to the intrigue during the final stages of the Busta Cup.

In the assessment of the WICB's Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Shillingford, the enthusiastic response to the competition thus far has justified the novel changes.

"I think what has happened this year has vindicated our decision to have a two-in-one competition and to increase the number of teams involved by inviting England "A" and West Indies "B" to participate.

"The new format of the Busta Cricket Series has certainly stirred the kind of excitement and debate that we have been accustomed to in Caribbean cricket. Competition for the Busta Cup was very keen...There was also a lot of intrigue regarding the four semifinal places for the Busta International Shield and fans were paying attention to different games to find out what was happening," he said in a press statement.

For some players, this year will be quite memorable as their performances featured among the Busta Cup highlights. These included:
* Carl Hooper's record-breaking batting which up to the Busta International Shield semifinals has yielded 798 runs at an average of 99.75 from ten innings, including four centuries. The Guyanese captain's efforts have eclipsed those of Barbadian middle-order batsman, Floyd Reifer, who scored 756 runs in 1997.
* The unbroken record partnership of 425 for the first wicket in regional competition between Jamaican openers, Chris Gayle and Leon Garrick. * The 15-wicket match haul by Barbadian Ryan Hinds.
* The five five-wicket hauls and one ten-wicket by Trinidadian spinner, Dinanath Ramnarine. He is the leading bowler this season with 41 wickets.
Also of note was the fact that Trinidad and Tobago and the Leeward Islands took advantage of the tournament incentive offered to regional teams for their matches against England "A". By leading the visitors on first innings points, these two teams earned US$2 500 for themselves and US$5 000 for their territorial board.

Speaking of incentives, Hooper and Gayle, still have a realistic opportunity of getting the WICB's US$50 000 bonus for the first Caribbean batsman to reach the 1000-run landmark this season. At the start of the Busta International Shield semifinals, Hooper needed another 202 runs and Gayle another 279 runs.

It has been a captivating two months and now, as we enter the second stage of this tournament, we look forward to the prospect of more stellar achievements before the final act of crowning the Busta International Shield champions.

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