November 28, 2021

How can the Cayman Islands take cricket to the next level?

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October and November 2021 have focused cricket fans’ attention on the Men’s T20 World Cup, which is being held across various venues in the UAE. One of the notable features of this year’s competition has been the chance it has given some less established cricketing nations to enjoy a little time in the spotlight.

In the earliest stages of the competition, countries that are not normally associated with the sport, including the likes of Namibia, Oman and Papua New Guinea, were involved. This has proved to be especially interesting to fans not just of cricket but of sports betting too, as they’ve relished the chance of placing wagers on some surprising results at very favourable odds. It also provided the novelty of being able to bet on some true “dark horses” of the cricketing world.

The presence of some of these lesser names has also led some to wonder whether, one day, the Cayman Islands might be able to compete at this level. After all, there is a strong heritage of the sport in the islands, as well as a local determination to continue on an upward trajectory. But first, a little about the history of cricket in the region.

The sport started to be played here in the 1940s and, in the early days, the pitches were rather makeshift and often little more than mud strips. Nevertheless, the game continued to develop and by the 1970s matches were frequently arranged to coincide with visits from Royal Navy ships whose crews provided a fresh set of opponents.

By 1973, a league featuring five teams was established. From there, the popularity of the sport continued to expand and, in 1997, Affiliate Membership of the International Cricket Council was granted. In 2002 this was transformed into Associate Membership, one step below Full Membership.

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This came soon after Cayman Island cricket’s greatest ever success when we won the ICC Americas Affiliate Tournament that took place in Jamaica in 2001. Another notable event a few years later was being included in the Stanford T20 competition, although perhaps the less said about the man who organised it the better.

Today, enthusiasm about cricket is higher than it has ever been. However, the question is how to translate this into results. The answer may lie in trying to emulate football in the islands. This sport is very popular at the grassroots level, but also has greater ambitions to feature on the world stage.

This is one of the reasons why the English football coach Ben Pugh has been established at Academy Sports Club to share some of the expertise that he gained while at Ipswich Town FC back in the UK. Despite some setbacks, including a very unfortunate 11-0 demolition by Canada back in March, he has injected a new sense of purpose and determination into the national team.

So perhaps what cricket needs is a coach with similar experience. With any number of ex-players in the West Indies who might relish the challenge, this could well be the way forward. For cricket lovers and players in the Islands, it could also be just the impetus that they need to make that all-important step up onto the international level.

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