With what is happening in the UAE and to West Indies cricket in general, it is good to hear of some good plans for sport in Jamaica, especially for the celebration of sports in the Caribbean. Jamaica, right now and for years gone by, has been a little giant in the world sports arena. From the deeds of champions past to champions present, Jamaica is a home of champions. Indeed, aided and abetted by Jamaica’s greatness in so many sports, by the greatness of Jamaicans domiciled around the globe, by the greatness of Jamaicans in sports foreign to Jamaicans, and by the presence of so many world champions, including the fastest man and woman in the world, Jamaica can be easily described as the place for sports in the world. Jamaica, however, needs to parade before the world their stars, and, unselfishly, the stars of the Caribbean as well. The news, therefore, that the London-based Jamaican Al Hamilton is attempting to stage his prestigious event, the Caribbean Awards Sports Icons (CASI), in Jamaica sometime next year is wonderful. The CASI awards was first held in Jamaica in 2008. It was then held in the Bahamas in 2009, and after two disappointing attempts to hold it in Barbados and in Guyana, it was held last year in Antigua at the Sandals Grande Antigua Resort. Last year, the awards went to people like Sir Everton Weekes – Barbados, cricket; Dr Cynthia Thompson – Jamaica, athletics; Maurice Hope – Antigua, boxing; Kim Collins – St Kitts, athletics; and to Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce – Jamaica, athletics. Jamaica has the prestigious annual RJR Sportsman and Sportswoman of the Year awards, but this one is for Caribbean icons. It would be nice if Jamaica hosted it, and in doing so, say thanks to the likes of Sir Garry Sobers, Hasely Crawford, Michael Holding, Brian Lara, and his good friend Dwight Yorke for their lovely contribution to Caribbean sports. Hosting CASI would fall in line with Jamaica’s wonderful image in sports, and help in the marketing of sports. CELEBRATING THE CARIBBEAN The West Indies went down by 133 runs to Pakistan in the second Test in Abu Dhabi last Tuesday, and with one match to go in the three-match series, find themselves in the embarrassing position of possibly losing the three-way contest, the 20-overs, the 50-overs, and the Test series by a whopping 9-0 margin. And to rub salt into the wound, all the defeats, with the possible exception of the previous one in Dubai, which now appears something of a passing mirage, was by huge, uncontested margins. The reason offered for the defeats have been the usual ‘beating horse’ of poor and careless batting by the batsmen, and with hardly any exception. The bowling, however, has proven to be just as poor as the batting, if not sometimes worse. Every now and again a bowler, just like the batsmen, turns up with a performance to tickle the imagination or to provide some semblance of hope. That hope, however, just like the one presented by Devendra Bishoo and Darren Bravo in Dubai recently, always dies as soon as it appears. On that occasion, after Pakistan had rattled up 579 for three declared, Bishoo’s eight wickets for 49 runs and Bravo’s innings of 116 took the West Indies to within 12 overs of saving the game and to within 56 runs of winning it. This time a first innings score of 452 matched by a second innings score of 227 for three declared was enough to win easily, despite a knock of 95 by Jermaine Blackwood and a West Indies second innings of 327 off 108 overs. Once again, I am at a loss to find out what went wrong, to find the cause of the now accustomed batting and bowling, and fielding, failures of the West Indies team. This time, however, Pakistani captain, the experienced and knowledgeable Misbah-ul-Haq, may have given the West Indies the answer, an answer which I have known, and have expressed, for a long, long time, ever since the Windies plunge in world cricket at the end of the last century. Others, including the late great West Indies batsman Clyde Walcott, shared the same sentiments that the problem with West Indies cricket, since the turn of the century, was that the majority of West Indies cricketers believed they were better than they were actually. The Indian commentators hinted of the same situation when, in the last series, they spoke about West Indian batsmen playing down the wrong line, playing forward when they should be playing back, and driving when they should be blocking. The real problem is that sometimes, most times, the West Indies play as if they are really better than they are, and most times they pay the penalty. Speaking after Tuesday’s match, Misbah-ul-Haq said that bowling on the slow batting friendly pitches in United Arab Emrates “is difficult” and “getting 20 wickets is always a challenge”. Misbah-ul-Haq went on to say, “I believe you go there and assess conditions and play within your resources. You work out how you are going to conduct your game plan. If you stay within your limits and execute your plan according to your strength, then no matter what the conditions are, you could be successful.” He also said that Pakistan’s spinners are their strength, they were “expecting a turning and spinning wicket but this pitch had nothing for the bowlers. Today it was the fifth day and it still was flat and didn’t do much.” Pakistan have been criticised for slow batting in the UAE but their plan is to win. In their last 11 Tests played there, they have won all 11. Nobody really remembers slow batting, once it is not too slow, when your first three scores in one-day matches are centuries, when you score an undefeated triple century in Test cricket, when your team comes up with scores like 579 for three declared, 452, and 227 for two declared, and when you win matches comfortably. It is nice, especially when the opposing team fails to challenge these scores and lose easily after playing on the same “slow and batting friendly” pitches, the pitches on which both the batsmen and the bowlers of the losing team always complain. Today, the West Indies take on Pakistan in Sharjah in the last match of the series, and the hope is that they will end the contest in style and avoid the embarrassment of a 9-0 whitewash.
This column appears in the current edition of Sport magazine. Download the free iPad app from the Apple Newsstand, and follow on twitter@sportmagukEven when Man City were stealing last season’s league title from Liverpool, I rather liked Manuel Pellegrini.The Chilean with one of the most high-pressured jobs in football has always seemed to go about his business with a relative insouciance, his watery eyes peering inscrutably out from under a forehead populated by more lines than an Ordnance Survey map.No matter that Alan Pardew thinks he’s an old chunt; no matter that half his team have been on a footballing vacation this season, when they should have been trying to make half a decent fist of their title defence; and no matter that he currently looks about as likely as Newcastle fall guy John Carver to be in his job next season. Pellegrini has always seemed to retain a quiet dignity.But then Chelsea, and his old La Liga sparring partner Jose Mourinho, won the league on Sunday – and the City manager finally snapped. “We did the same that Chelsea did this year, but we scored 158 goals last year,” he said after his side’s 1-0 win at Tottenham later that afternoon. “It is important for the fans to play attractive football.”And thus did Pellegrini – elsewhere more than gracious in his praise of the new champions – display the sour grapes that will have had Mourinho purring over a celebratory glass of red on Sunday. It also made little sense to remind Mourinho and Chelsea of how hard it will be to retain the title next season, bearing in mind that the same combination of manager and club did just that in the 2005-06 season.Much like his captain, Mourinho doesn’t meet with universal affection outside Stamford Bridge – but he is about to see off Pellegrini, continues to have Arsene Wenger in his pocket and will likely keep Brendan Rodgers firmly in the role of apprentice when Liverpool visit on Sunday.Louis van Gaal and Manchester United may fight back next term, but for now the Chelsea boss is sat comfortably atop the Premier League perch. He may be there for some time. ‘He’s behind you…’ 1