FOR decades, cricketers born in the Caribbean have represented England and the trend has continued in recent years as three players born in Barbados have switched allegiance to England. How can Cricket West Indies (CWI), the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) and other stakeholders encourage the region’s talent to play for West Indies?
Jacob Bethell, who has English roots, is the latest cricketer to switch from Barbados to England.
Bethell is the vice-captain of the England Under-19 team for the 2022 International Cricket Council Under-19 World Cup, which will be held in the Caribbean from January 14-February 5.
Bethell, 18, has been living in England for the past few years after being offered a scholarship and is now a member of the Warwickshire Cricket Club, where legendary cricketer Brian Lara played.
Bethell, a former Barbados Under-13 and Under-15 cricketer, was recognised early in his life as an extraordinary talent.
Chris Jordan and Jofra Archer, both grew up playing cricket in Barbados, but are now integral members of the England senior team.
Jordan, 33, is known for his exploits in white-ball cricket since making his debut for England in 2013. He was born in Barbados, but his maternal grandparents are British citizens.
Archer, 26, has quickly become a key member for England in all three formats since making his debut in 2019.
Archer was born in Barbados to an English father.
Barbados has a strong connection with England with the former being dubbed “Little England.”
President of CWI Ricky Skerritt gave a brief comment to Newsday.
In a WhatsApp message, Skerritt said, “Teenage cricketers and their families will always be attracted to education systems and coaching facilities where they can both develop their talents and grow their careers.”
Skerritt said an atmosphere must be created to encourage players to stay in the region.
“The challenge is for all stakeholders to do a better job of creating quality learning environments for producing and keeping our future and rising stars.”
When Bethell was about 12 he was invited by Lara to play a charity match in Barataria, Trinidad.
Newsday covered the event and spoke with Bethell’s supportive and humble father Graham.
Bethell created a buzz as at that age he was already showing signs that he was a quality batsman.
Several players born in the Caribbean have represented England, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.
Gladstone Small (Barbados), Phillip De Freitas (Dominica), Devon Malcolm (Jamaica) and Chris Lewis (Guyana) were all born in the Caribbean. Small, De Freitas and Malcolm played for England in the 1980s and 1990s and Lewis featured in the 1990s.
Newly re-elected Barbados Cricket Association president Conde Riley said it is challenging to keep all cricketers in the region.
Riley, speaking about the trio of Archer, Jordan and Bethell, said, “It is one of those things you know you can’t stop them if they choose to go that route.”
Asked what he thinks CWI can do to keep players in the region, Riley said, “I am not sure what they can do.”
In Barbados, top junior cricketers play at the Centre of Excellence.
Riley said at that age you are not allowed to grant contracts.
“You can’t contract them because they are minors and their parents, most of them, keep their options open.”
In November 2018, the England and Wales Cricket Board changed their residency rules which allowed Archer to be eligible to play for England from March 2019.
Under the previous rules, Archer would have had to wait until 2022 to play for England after residing there for seven years.
The new eligibility rules came into effect on January 1, 2019.
They include having British citizenship, someone must be born in England or live in England for three years and did not play as a local player in professional international or domestic cricket in a full member country within the past three years.
Riley kept a positive mindset, saying when players leave the region others can get opportunities.
“When they go off it gives another youngster an opportunity,” he said.
Speaking about Bethell, Riley said, “He captained our Under-13 and Under-15 that won the regional trophies back-to-back – a very talented guy.”
Bethell was part of the Barbados Under-15 teams which won the regional Under-15 titles in 2017 and 2018.
Bethell comes from a cricketing family. His grandfather Arthur is a former Barbados cricketer who toured with the West Indies team in the 1960s and his father Graham is a former Barbados Under-19 cricketer.
Adrian Donovan, who has many hats in Barbados sport, also gave his views on the matter.
Donovan is a former Barbados youth cricket team manager, the president of football club Paradise FC and the acting assistant director of sports at the National Sports Council in Barbados.
Giving his thoughts on regional cricketers representing England, Donovan said, “This issue has been going on for a long time now.”
Donovan said it is tough to compete with England.
“We in the Caribbean cannot really compete by offering these young players a means of making a living…some of these players have British passports already so they are free to go and choose as they please.
“While we in the Caribbean will be jealous and ranting and raving…we should also appreciate at least we gave them the foundation and until we can match the English authorities or whoever else these players (interact with) then we simply just cannot compete.”
Donovan said he is elated for Archer, Jordan and Bethell but at the same time it would have been great if they stayed home.
“I am happy for them, although you have a hard feeling that when you help raise somebody and then when they get to a mature level you have to compete against them, you have that little sad feeling.”
Donovan said money is always the issue in the region as it is necessary to have programmes in place such as “full time” academies.