By Zaheer Mohamed
Former President of the Essequibo Cricket Board (ECB), Sheik Ahmad told Kaieteur Sport recently, that he is surprised at the omission of Guyanese All-rounder Keemo Paul from the Windies World Cup squad.
Ahmad, who served a treasurer on the Guyana Cricket Board and as alternate director on the West Indies Cricket Board, now Cricket West Indies, blasted the three-man selection panel, stating that Paul has merited his selection on any regional side. “What I am appalled about is the selection process with the senior team. No where in the world, as we approach a major tournament, you would find an interim committee selecting a team for such tournament. As you would have seen in the English series, there were a lot of individual performances that merited selection, however the key issue here is the omission of Keemo Paul who is a valuable player. I am shocked that there has been no statement coming from the ECB and the Guyana Cricket Board and those who called themselves cricket stakeholders, apparently Paul is coming from a county that is not much liked by a lot of people, but the fact remains Paul is a stand out and should have been in the West Indies team.”
Ahmad questioned the selection of Carlos Braithwaite, Ashley Nurse and Fabian Allen, adding that Paul is a dedicated cricketer who gives a 100% and can be dangerous especially in the English conditions; he noted that Paul is one of the best buys in the IPL and feels that Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons should have been there as well.
Ahmad, who also served as Chairman of the Wakenaam Cricket Committee, said his love for the game is one of the reasons he got involved, however he feels that there are a number of issues that need to be addressed as it relates to the state of cricket in Guyana and the Caribbean.
“The current president of the CWI Ricky Skerritt has not had much of an opportunity to do what he supposes to do in terms of re-organising the board and so on; however cricket is not about politics, but dedication.” Ahmad explained that wholesale changes are not the way to go, referring to the axing of Esaun Crandon from the coaching staff of the regional side.
“I am not sure Floyd Reifer would get the best out of the players, it seems that there is a lot of favoritism in selection process as well, nothing has changed from Courtney Brown tenure to now and some of these selections remain very much questionable.”
“The West Indies U19 is one of teams that has to be selected for the U19 world cup and it will be interesting to see how they will treat our talented Guyanese youngsters since we have been the most dominant team in this format for quite some time now.
“We can see how much success Crandon has had in the four-day tournament, but low and behold, when Skeritt and company took over, they just dispensed with one of the most successful coaches in the Caribbean. Crandon joined the regional side for the England series and the West Indies performance improved tremendously, he has what it takes to be successful at the highest level and would have helped to groom players such Shimron Hetmyer, Paul, Sherfane Rutherford.”
“I am very much dismayed about putting Rayon Griffith ahead of Crandon, every body knows the brain of the Guyana team is Crandon who is English trained and knows how to adapt to different conditions. One of the best strokes that Guyana would have made is to have Crandon as the coach.”
Ahmad added that the administrators must not sacrifice the youths for political gains. “We have to get serious; whatever Guyana is doing now they are doing it right, regardless of what it is that is happening in the administrative section of Guyana. What matters is winning and there are programmes and systems here where training is given much emphasis from which we have seen the results both at the junior and senior levels.
“Yet our players are having difficulty in making the West Indies team and since Skerritt took over our players are not being treated as they should have. It’s sad to see our youngsters are being deprived of playing opportunities,” he said referring to the development squad has been chosen to attend a Cricket West Indies (CWI) emerging players training camp in Antigua which is aimed at enhancing their skills in the white-ball formats of the game. No Guyanese was selected.
The former cricket administrator inquired, what more the local players have to do to make a camp and made mention of Romario Shepherd, Clinton Pestano, Kemol Savory, Anthony Adams, Ricardo Adams, Kevin Sinclair, Ronaldo Alimohamed and Bhaskar Yadram who has made a franchise team, adding that these are all capable players and the best pool of youngsters in the region at the moment.
While the majority of cricket in Guyana is being played in Berbice and Georgetown, Ahmad does not entirely lay the blame on the current Essequibo cricket administrators for the little cricket that is being played there.
“People may want to blame the administrators, but there are people who are sabotaging the efforts of the ECB. They would go to sponsors and attempt to stop their sponsorship and this means they are stifling a young population in the county because of political differences. Companies are gaining millions of dollars in Essequibo but not one of them is giving back to the Essequibo cricket and that is because they are being influenced from outsiders.”
“Regardless of who is in charge of Essequibo cricket, it is not going to change unless we relax this animosity; we are one people and must work together to build the game, Everybody has got to contribute and can’t kill the game in one area and shine it in another,” he said, adding that Essequibo has talent, but the youths must play the game to improve.
Ahmad feels that the administrative aspect of the game in Guyana has not had much of an impact on the players, but this should not be taken for granted. “We have played more cricket in the courts than in the field in the past few years, but the good part of it is that, it has not affected the players as much, which our success at the first class and U19 levels would suggest. The former ECB head stated that the problems affecting Guyana cricket cannot be solved in the courts.
“The GCB for 20 years had the best set of administrators, but just couldn’t put tournaments together, fortunately we have tournaments now and we are winning. I agree we have to put our house in order and at sometime it has to be fixed, but it can only be fixed if the minds can be together, not in the courts,” he said.
Ahmad added, “One of the best decisions we have made was to pay our players so that they can earn an income while playing and we need to have different structures for our upcoming male and female cricketers. Ahmad explained that the female game here is struggling at the moment because the structure is not there to facilitate its growth and the female tournament in schools must continue.
“There are people with a wealth of experience who can contribute and we need to get them involved, we can’t continue fighting each other when much more needs to be done to continue to produce cricketers of quality.”
Ahmad blasted the CWI for not staging the three-day format of the Regional U19 tournament this year which purportedly has been switched from Guyana. “Yes we will be going to the U19 world cup, but we also need to produce players at this level who can bat for longer periods. We in Guyana have prepared our players for three-day and one day tournaments, now I heard due to financial issues the CWI will only be staging the one dayers, this is unacceptable. The 50-over World Cup is going to generate a lot of income for the board. What is the marketing arm of the board doing? West Indies cricket is the best cricket in the world to market, we have a brand that sells, but the marketing people need to do a lot better. We have lost Digicel which has been a major sponsor,” he lamented, adding that former President Dave Cameron still has a lot to offer to West Indies cricket, noting that he has made a broken board into the financially viable board.
Ahmad told Kaieteur Sport that drastic changes may not be the best way to go at the moment. “President Skerritt has got to get his act together soonest and his Vice President Dr. Shallow has got prove his worth. You just don’t make whole sale changes and expect to win, not because you made promises during an election campaign you have to fulfill it at the same time. You have to not do what you think is right, but what you think is necessary for the long term success of West Indies cricket, it makes no sense we have the best administrators and a team that is loosing.”
He added that, “Looking ahead, Skerritt and his executives must not forget that cricket belongs to the people and I am urging the directors to represent as much as possible, the welfare of players, I hope Guyana and its players can continue to reap the rewards for their outstanding performances and not being sidelined because of politics or other reasons.”
Ahmad lauded the Guyana Jaguars for winning the regional four-day title for the past five years and is calling on the Government of Guyana to honour these players.
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