AT last the TT Cricket Board (TTCB) is revamping a traditional game that bred so many reliable and sound cricketers in the past. In the recent past, as I have mentioned over and over again, our cricket has been floundering. It is the responsibility of the local board to provide talented, efficient players to represent our twin-island Republic. This would assist development of West Indies (WI) cricket as the territories are the feeding ground for Cricket West Indies (CWI).
TTCB has decided to return to the annual North Trinidad vs South Trinidad game that began as the Decle Cup in 1907. When the North team won for three consecutive years they kept the Cup according to the rules at the time.
In 1926, a South African Test cricketer, Rolland Beaumont, working in Trinidad as manager of an oil company, donated the Beaumont Cup (BC) for the annual game. The North/South rivalry grew intense and became the highlight of the season as it showed off the best cricket talent on the island.
The BC afforded a guide to the local selectors as to the ability of the cricketers participating to perform in certain given situations. This match was born with the singular idea to improve the quality of cricket in order that players would be able to compete at a higher standard. It certainly played a part, albeit small, in the eventual acceptance of West Indies (WI) as a Test-playing unit in 1928.
In 1959, it was recognised by the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) as worthy of being a first-class fixture. This brought it on par with inter-colonial cricket in the WI, county cricket in England etc. Unfortunately, this honour was revoked in 1984 when the MCC found that the standard had fallen considerably.
In 1987, the local Trintoc Oil Company, having taken over the oil refinery in Pointe-a-Pierre, decided to sponsor the annual game, hence the alternate north and south venues used in the past were changed to all games being played in the south at Guaracara Park, the playing field of Trintoc Sports Club.
The fixture was then removed from the middle of the season, where it was usually fixed around and on the Easter weekend, to early January. There were two main reasons for this; local players were becoming professional thus were unavailable at that time and secondly, it was a better opportunity to use as a determinant for selection; the new date placing the match before the start of the regional season. At this time the game evolved into four days to parallel regional matches.
Trintoc eventually became Petrotrin and the sponsorship was lost. In 1996 the Queen’s Park Cricket Club was approached and accepted to underwrite the cost of staging the game whereupon the game was played at the Queen’s Park Oval only, from 1997. QPCC then re-christened it the Gerry Gomez classic in memory of their beloved president, the former Test cricketer, who had died in August of 1996.
During this period, regrettably, the game was becoming a farce, for the main reason that the administration allowed the prominence of a high-profile contest to deteriorate into a trial match.
The national selectors were authorised to choose both teams, then began fiddling with their choices, issuing instructions to captains on batting orders, bowling decisions and even changing players mid-stream! It became ludicrous and defeated the purpose of a desirable, intense and powerfully passionate game into a circus. The cricketers were short-changed. The contest was mercifully abandoned in 2011 and our national first-class cricket is yet to recover.
There should be separate selection committees for North and South teams. Let the competition be fierce, allow the competitors to be aware and alert of their differences. Make it a battle for supremacy! A ‘may the best team win’ scenario if only for bragging rights. It will improve the cricket plus the mindset, thus player improvement for cricket competition.
The other successful developer of talent was the under-21 club tournament. That was also stopped around the same time as the North/South classic.
Azim Bassarath, the president of TTCB, is right when he says there is a vacuum that needs to be filled. Many cricketers emerged from the under-21 competition that started in 2002, cricketers like Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Ravi Rampaul, Denesh Ramdin plus the Bravo brothers, Dwayne & Darren, Devon Smith the Grenadian, and more, much more. It would be more beneficial though, if played by Clubs rather than zones.
However, better late than never!