FIFTY years ago TT won the West Indies Cricket Board regional series for the first time. It was on March 22, 1970, that the local team bowled out Jamaica in their second innings at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of-Spain, for 113, achieving victory by 219 runs. It was the fourth year of the relatively new competition which was sponsored by the Shell Oil Company.
Since the beginning of domestic first-class cricket in the West Indies in 1865, the opponents invited each other to play a couple of matches and that was it. As it progressed, the various cricket authorities in the islands and British Guiana (BG, as it was then known) began staging triangular and quadrangular series with the participating colonies competing against one another in one territory. Visiting teams from England in the early days, before Test acceptance in 1928, also gave the local teams vital cricket experience at the highest level; but mostly they battled one another for cricket supremacy in the region.
It was not until 1964 that the territorial teams of TT, Barbados, BG and Jamaica, attempted to formulate a league competition among themselves to be played in the different territories, the brainchild of the former West Indian captain and cricketer Jeffrey Stollmeyer. He was convinced that this was the only way forward and he managed to persuade the others thus the experimental tournament was born. Because of the separation that exists geographically in the WI, it was quite costly for these tiny territories to finance such a series so that a sponsor had to be found. Again Stollmeyer already had that in mind and won over the Shell Oil Company which very kindly agreed to sponsor the entire competition on an annual basis.
Consequently, in 1966, a structured territorial first-class cricket tournament was in place which proved to be very successful for the development of cricketers plus for the public relations of the Shell company. In 1968 the organisers were preoccupied with the visit of the England Test team so, no competition. In ’66 and ’67 Barbados were champions and in ’69 the victors were Jamaica.
This brings us to 1970. TT lost their first game to Barbados after a generous declaration by skipper Joey Carew leaving them just over two and a half hours to score 190 to win which was accomplished quite easily for the loss of five wickets.
However, TT went on to whip the Combined Islands (Windward & Leeward combined), Guyana and Jamaica outright, to register their first lien on the trophy in its fourth year. Carew was a one-man show and easily the Man-of-the-Series, with his fantastic contribution to his team’s efforts both in batting and bowling. His batting average was a whopping 87.16 from a total of 523 runs in four matches. He scored three centuries in six innings. In 67.1 overs he removed 13 batsmen for 92 runs for an incredible average of 7.07 runs per wicket. A great performance. The bowling of Willie Rodriguez and Wes Hall (who represented TT for a few years) were the main contributions to the success with excellent figures of 17 wickets at an average of 15.4 and 15 wickets at 22.46 respectively.
TT repeated the following year making it twice in the first five years of the Shell Shield competition. Nevertheless, we have only won three times since then. In 1976, Prince Bartholomew was captain when we shared the trophy with Barbados. Yet it was not a satisfying triumph. One of the Barbados players who had played cricket in apartheid South Africa, was denied entry to Guyana for their game, forcing the Barbados side to pull out of the fixture. Hence, having one game less, they finished level with TT. This is not to take anything away from TT players but it lacked the glory that champions earn.
Rangy Nanan was the skipper in 1985 when he took the team from placing last the previous year to first. Then, the suffering T&T cricket supporter had to wait another 21 years for Daren Ganga to lead his team into winners’ row in 2006. And T&T have not won since! Twice in the first five years, T&T were the honourable victors and only three times in the next 49 years!!
First-class cricket breeds the strong accomplished cricketer who can adjust to all formats from that foundation, so it is of vital importance to ensure that he has that solid base.
And winning is imperative!!
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