By Wayne Hamilton
Guyana Chronicle
March 24, 2002

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GUYANA and Jamaica clash in a repeat of last year’s Busta Shield final at Sabina Park from 4th-7th April. Their journeys to the top have contrasted rather sharply, however.

Guyana struggling to get there after inconsistent performances, culminating in the intervention of rain that caused their semi-final match against the Leeward Islands to end inconclusively.

The Guyanese advanced to the final however, because of their innings and 43 runs victory in the preliminary stages of the competition against the same opponents.

Jamaica, on the other hand, found it pretty plain sailing despite dropping first innings points to the Windward Islands in their first match.

Astutely led by former West Indies opener Robert Samuels, the Busta Shield champions marched impressively to the finals, copping the prestigious Busta Cup in the process.

The WICB said that Kenya had accepted an invitation to participate in the tournament this year, at the conclusion of the 2001 competition and were hopeful that either the `A’ teams from Australia or South Africa would have filled the other place thereby increasing the quantity of matches in the domestic season. Unfortunately this did not materialise and instead Bangladesh `A’ was asked to fill one of the vacant spots.

Despite the presence of a few Test players in their squad, the Bangladeshis found the going tough and performed unsatisfactorily though the experience gained would certainly be helpful to them futuristically.

The West Indies `B’ found themselves at the bottom of the ladder, but generally speaking their performance was encouraging. Former Barbados and West Indies middle-order batsman Roland Holder was burdened with the task of captaining the team and did a pretty good job of motivating the youngsters with the skilful assistance of Augustine Logie in the latter stages as coach.

Krishna Arjune, Shane Jeffers, Anderson Sealy and Chaka Hodge performed creditably, and there was a fine debut first-class century for the Jamaican Donovan Pagon against Guyana, one of the outstanding innings of the tournament.

The Windward Islands picked themselves from the proverbial canvas to place sixth in the competition. The young and promising Devon Smith batted magnificently to score 750 runs and the pugnacious Junior Murray was once again reliable as ever with 642 runs, including four centuries.

As usual, the bowling was demanding, but after a promising start, the Islanders flattered to deceive and found themselves ever so often ‘against the ropes’ as the tournament progressed.

Barbados’ policy of exposing as many youngsters as possible is moving rather slowly as their poor showing in the competition revealed.

In Ryan Hinds, the most recent addition to the West Indian Test list, they have a player with the potential to join the illustrious band of Barbadian players who have represented this region with distinction. The tall and lanky left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn is another player who must have demanded the attention of the selectors.

Despite a superlative batting performance by Stuart Williams, who amassed 974 runs in the tournament and outstanding bowling accomplishments by Adam Sanford and Keery Jeremy with 41 and 40 wickets respectively, the Leewards was again inconsistent, although they came mightily close to upsetting Guyana.

The absence of Brian Lara has contributed significantly to Trinidad and Tobago’s not converting sound positions into victory. Well led by Richard Smith, the Trinidadians almost upset the new Busta Cup champions Jamaica when they led them on first innings in last week’s semifinal, but once again succumbed to the pressure created by Robert Samuels and his confident bunch of players.

The tournament produced lots of runs and wickets but again the preparation of the pitches was poor and not the type to groom world-class players on.

Unless the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) can devise a system to improve our pitches, our cricket will plunge into deeper crisis.