Free Header by Alvin Corneal

The two major sports in the Caribbean were very much in focus over the past three months. Cricket lit the caribbean flame with the series against Australia where Brian Lara changed the rugged terrain which the West Indies team seemed to have stumbled upon in South Africa in late 1998, early 1999. After threats of dismissal as captain from many experts, Lara produced the level of brilliance which only someone withhis ability can do and the W.I. drew both series.

This caused many fans, like myself to travel to England for the World Cup cricket, hoping to see the continuation of this upward trend. It did not materialise. The reason was nothing more than the fact that we do not have the quality at this time, and the youngsters are not quite ready for this intensive
type of cricket. Sherwin Campbell and Stuart Williams were incapable of adjusting to the slightly slower wickets and the extra movement of the ball in England at the time of year. Hendy Bryan, Mervyn Dillon and Rion King, bowled well, but gave away too many wides, no balls, because of

Ambrose and Walsh were excellent as usual, but they had only twenty overs between them. Simmonds was disappointing with the bat, especially under conditions to which he should have been accustomed.

However, his bowling was good. Jimmy Adams struggled with the batting conditions, and tried as he might have done, he found the going tough. He has limitations as a batsman and it showed. Brian Lara, to my mind, was still suffering from the injury with which he left the caribbean. He played, but could not take his place in the slips where he excells. When he batted, there was clear evidence of his injury as he played most of his strokes using the bottom hand and in so doing, gave simple catches.

Jacobs was the star of the team. He kept wickets well, batted extraordinarily well and seemed capable of rising to any occasion. His performance demonstrates the inability of our cricket selectors to analyse the talent of our players. The end result was that we were on our way home after the first round. The only consolation for the West Indies was the announcement of Brian Lara being chosen as International Cricketer of the year, no doubt because of his three remarkable centuries against Australia earlier this year.

If Trinis needed a buffer to their pain, they could have digested Dwight Yorke's Manchester United
and their triple crown. Yorke was a super star in the process and Trinidad and Tobago citizens have risen their chins a few centimetres higher when they walk the streets. Bertille St. Clair was more than
pleased for two reasons. He was Dwight's first coach and secondly, he took a team of players, minus the Latapy's, Yorkes, Nakhids, Hislops etc. and won the Copa caribe. I happened to see some matches in that tournament and was very disappointed in the quality of soccer.

Trinidad and Tobago was not severely tested and maybe fortunately so. There were too many players in that team who were short on International quality. Apart from Ince, the keeper, Elcock, Dwarika, Trotman,Marvin Andrews, Angus Eve, and Stern John, the others were substandard. St. Clair has to go in search of some new blood before Gold Cup time. Luckily, he has the talent if he wants them. Apart from the overseas pros, he can use the services of players like Brent Rahim, Darin Lewis, Kelvin Jack, Avery John, Marvin Raeburn, Evans Wise, Shaun Garcia and Craig Demming, all of whom have been playing well in very competitive settings in the US.

With each country getting half a million US dollars per year for the next four years, there should be no excuse for shortage of funds and the preparation for the gold cup should be better than ever. Returning to Copa Caribe, fans were disappointed with the performances of the Brasilians U-20 team which participated. But on checking on the players in that team, and realising that Brasil had their U-20 team playing in the Torneo du Toulon tournament, it would seem that the samba boys were not the first line U-20 players.

As to Jamaica, Their performances remain very mysterious. They were very short of their world cup quality of last year and unless their coaching staff extend their working hours to well over twenty four hours per day, the Gold cup may not bring them the joy it did two years ago. And now, the local professional league gets into its second round. So far, the crowds have been abysmal, the quality, moderate and the atmosphere has not risen the blood pressure of the country. Now that I have returned to my home in the USA, I am reading about David Nakhid's frank and open comments about the state of football in Trinidad and his way to correct it. Maybe, I will do some eaves dropping and add my two bits about it next month.