By Neto Baptiste
Coordinator of Schools Cricket and former West Indies wicketkeeper batsman Ridley Jacobs has come to the defence of the programme, condemning those calling for the scrapping of Combined Schools due to a string of poor performances in the country’s top domestic league.
Speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show, Jacobs highlighted that the team, which is under the direction of the Ministry of Sports, has been depleted by the exit of some key players, while others have travelled outside of Antigua.
“This year alone we have lost 14 players due to different clubs and also from travelling abroad. Some of the players have CXC exams and had to get study leave, so it has been a challenge for us to put out the best possible team for Combined School,” he said.
“When you look at Combined Schools’ team … you have Michael Greaves who is at Liberta and is the captain of the Liberta team, and he left Combined Schools this year. We have Kofi James who was also one of our captains who is also at Liberta Blackhawks; Uri Smith who is also at Blackhawks; Miandre James at Blackhawks; and Joshua Thomas who is the wicketkeeper at Blackhawks,” he pointed out.
Last weekend, Combined Schools were hammered by an innings and 549 runs by PIC Liberta Blackhawks in the ABCA Two Day competition, sparking fresh debate over whether the team should be allowed to compete at that level or scrapped in its entirety.
One suggestion is that all eligible players must turn out for Combined Schools instead of their club teams, a notion rejected by Jacobs.
“If we think that way, the clubs are going to struggle because the clubs will not get quality players for their teams, and there is where the problem comes in because the clubs are looking for the best of the players. We are basically in charge of schools cricket so if the club decides they want certain players we don’t make a fuss over it. We just take the players that want to come and play for Combined Schools and we train these guys, because once the community wants the players then we don’t have any control over that,” he said.
Jacobs, who scored 2,577 runs in 65 Tests, believes structural improvements at the team’s Factory Cricket Ground facility would serve to improve the effectiveness of the programme.
“I think what I would like to see done in terms of Combined Schools is to have a pavilion at Factory where we would have dressing rooms so that when the guys come to practice we don’t have an issue when rain comes; they can get shelter. We also need some concrete nets there that guys could always be practicing. We are in the process of, hopefully, getting some stuff from the cricket association who promised us some netting,” the former player said.
Blackhawks amassed a massive 675 declared against Combined Schools over the weekend. Schools were bowled out for 46 in their first innings and then for 80 in the second to hand a dominant Blackhawks the massive triumph.