The 'Cup' needs an overhaul Orin Davidson's Eye on Sport
Stabroek News
January 13, 2002

Guyanese cricket fans would remember the 2001 Busta Cup series with bitter sweet memories. The record breaking batting feats of captain Carl Hooper and the general allround brilliance of the national team were accomplishments to celebrate.

However, if being edged out for the title in both the Busta Cup and Busta Shield competitions were disappointments, the manner in which Guyana was denied any silverware, was difficult for many fans to take.

If the rule interpretations which went against Guyana were determined the way the Guyana Cricket Board did, this country could have been double champions.

But in the end the WICB adjudged Barbados Busta Cup champions over Guyana after both teams ended on identical points and similarly the board ruled in favour of Jamaica hosting the Shield final which gave them the decided home advantage to take first innings points and win the competition.

However, had Guyana been more positive in their approach to the games last year, we could have been entering this year's competition as defending champions.

Instead of merely settling for first innings points in some games as opposed to playing harder for outright results, Guyana might have bettered Barbados who won more matches, and Jamaica, whose league record was identical to Guyana's, but won home advantage based on a superior run rate.

The experience should have been a lesson for our team to work harder for outright results in future tournaments, but alas, a minor adjustment to the rules this year does the opposite.

Instead of maintaining, that outright results be the main criteria to determine superiority in the tiebreak system, we now find results of head to head games taking precedence, of which a first innings win could be enough.

This change surely, would not pressure teams enough into playing positive cricket in every game, for the eventual good of the competition and its players.

In staging tournaments one would have thought the West Indies Cricket Board could have been more sensitive to the needs of the consumer, in this case the followers of the games, by making the sport more interesting and attractive.

Cricket followers, like fans of all sports disciplines are hardly ever satisfied with stalemates. They desire results to create the excitement they pay for, and which would also attract new followers to the sport. Every year it stages competitions the WICB should be endeavouring to make its competitions more desirable. But in 2002 it has taken a step backward with its rule adjustment which unwittingly hints to teams that it is okay to enact painstaking episodes, the likes of which Guyana perpetrated at Albion against Jamaica on the final day last year, that caused the ire of spectators who were forced to hurl abuse on their own players.

Even for the world's most popular sport - football, the governing body FIFA constantly takes steps to make the game more appealing to the fans. The changed points system from two for a draw to one and three for a win, which applies to all competitions under FIFA's jurisdiction, was done to promote more positive results through attacking play. Likewise the adjusted off side rule makes it easier for goal scoring.

Proposed adjustment for larger goals and kick-ins instead of throw-ins were also under consideration to produce a more exciting and faster game.

Such critical reviews should be applied to cricket and moreso the game in West Indies instead. Flagging interest in the region is reaching alarming proportions caused not only by the many distractions from other sports and entertainment sources to which our youngsters are exposed, but also by the disastrous results of the West Indies team in overseas competition.

As a result investment in the sport has reached an all time low as the regional Under-19 and Under-15 competitions are without sponsors while none has as yet been acquired for the senior one-day tournament. Also fans had to endure no electronic media coverage for the first time ever in a series during the recent Sri Lanka tour, because of a lack of sponsorship.

Thus if ever West Indies cricket needs a shot in the arm to boost interest, it is now.

The WICB can start by rigging changes for a result oriented competition. Allocating four days for the final has proved inadequate in the past for outright victories. Too often finals have degenerated into dull draws after a first innings lead has been attained by one team, many of whom choose the easy way out to win the competition.

Five days would be ideal as it would provide more time for outright results as teams would be forced to play hard down to the last day. It is a great pity we face another such grim prospect for the 2002 competition.