By BRENT STUBBS
Senior Sports Reporter
JOSHUA Holder shot a blistering 129 from 71 balls to help Suriname clinch the International Cricket Club (ICC) Americas Pepsi Under-29 Division II Championship title at Haynes Oval on Saturday.
His Man-of-the-Match performance also kept the Bahamas winless in the three-day, four-team tournament that served as a qualifier for the 2015 Division One qualification for the 2016 World Cup.
It was the second defeat for the Bahamas against Suriname, but a tournament low all-out for 19 runs after failing to catch the torrid mark of 232 in 20 overs by Suriname in the last game played at the Windsor Field before the tournament came to a close at Haynes Oval where other matches were played simultaneously.
“It was a lack of experience with us having such a young team,” said Bahamas team captain Greg Taylor Jr. “I think that was our biggest challenge, the lack of experience and exposure. We just have to continue working at home, but we also have to travel a bit more so that they can get more experience playing at the international level.”
In all fairness to the Bahamas team, Bahamas Cricket Association president Greg Taylor Sr said this was not the original crew of players they had intended to field. But just before the tournament started, they were informed that players needed to be able to play for at least two years in order to be eligible for the tournament.
“That caused us to have to replace a lot of the players we had on the team because they would be eligible to participate,” Taylor Sr said. “Every game we saw an improvement and everybody from away said despite us losing every match, the boys played well.”
Team captain Nandkumar Jagoo concurred, adding that they performed as best as they could under the circumstances.
“This is our first time together playing cricket. We only had about two players who played in any type of tournament before,” Jagoo said. “But next year we will be much better because the guys would have gotten some of exposure. Plus we only had a couple of weeks to get ready. We just have to work harder on our batting and even on our bowling.”
The game was an important one for both teams.
In the case of Suriname, they were tied with Argentina, who handed them their first loss only to come back and return the favour in their re-match. Suriname’s huge output against the Bahamas automatically eliminated Argentina from winning the title. At Haynes Oval, Argentina responded after the Cayman Islands went to the crease and only managed 53 with the bat by reaching that target in only 7 overs.
“We done well. We had Holder today, who had 132 and he bowled very well,” said Kumar Rampat, the head coach for Suriname. “We also batted very well, so it was a good performance for us. We expected to go unbeaten in the tournament, but after the long travel, we had to get acclimatised. We were travelling since Monday night and didn’t get here until Wednersday.”
Holder, a 17-year-old who has been playing cricket for the past eight years, said he had a really good tournament.
“I did my best. I put all my energy into it,” he said. “I would like to thank coach, who helped me to improve a little bit on my batting and my bowling and I would like to thank the guys for everything that they have done to help me to achieve what I’ve done so far.”
At the closing ceremony at Haynes Oval, Holder was named the Batsmen of the Tournament, the Bowler of the Tournament and the Most Valuable Player (MVP). The only individual award that he didn’t carry home was the Wicker-Keeper of the Tournament. That went to Tomas Marinozzi of Argentina.
While the Bahamas didn’t win any games, Timothy Munnings, the director of sports in the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture, said the tournament gave the Bahamas a lot of exposure.
“It shows that we’re more than a one-sport country. We’re more than track and field,” said the former quarter-miler, who represented the Bahamas in both the IAAF World Championships and the Olympic Games. “We’re more than just swimming. We have cricket too.
“In this country, we have over 100 different federations and associations so there’s something different for everybody to get involved. I think, from what I’ve seen, our boys may have been a little intimidated against the Suriname team who were clearly bigger than us in stature. With more experience, I think these guys will be better prepared.”
Former long-time national team softball pitcher Linda Ford, who grew up watching and playing the game with her siblings as their home is only a stone’s throw away from the park, said that while it was good to have the tournament again, she would have preferred to see the team a lot more prepared.
“We didn’t represent the way I know we are capable of doing,” she said. “The guys were young and inexperienced. I guess it was their first time playing and they might have been frightened, but when you are playing 20/20, you have to swing your bat or you will get out.”
On Saturday, the Bahamas suffered its first loss to Suriname at Haynes Oval. After coming out of the blocks, hitting 16 off the first 2 overs to finish all out for 46, Suriname got a slow start, losing 2 wickets. But they managed to reach their allocated total in just 3 overs.
The Bahamas then went on to play the Cayman Islands in their next match later in the day at Windsor Park. The Bahamas batted first and behind Gharbharan and Rhone with 20 and 16 respectively, the Cayman Islands caught the Bahamas’ total of 58 to seal another victory. During the opening day of the tournament on Thursday, the Bahamas lost to both the Cayman Islands and Argentina.
In their four games, the Bahamas scored a total of 187 and gave up 292 for its fourth place. Suriname, winning the title, scored 373 runs and gave up 374. Argentina, on the other hand, scored 417 and gave up 315 as they ended up in second place. The Cayman Islands scored 247 and gave up 243 for third place.
From November 27 to December 2, the Bahamas will have a chance to avenge the disappointing performances of the junior team when the men host the same three teams from Suriname, Argentina and the Cayman Islands in the qualifier for the Division One in the Americas Region and also a qualifier for Division Six of the World Cricket League.
The Cayman Islands is already a member of the World Cricket League, so the Bahamas, Suriname and Argentina will be vying for the other spot.
“So it’s imperative that the Bahamas win this tournament,” Taylor Sr said. “We will have our best team, so expect that the Bahamas will be in a much better position than the under-29 team was this weekend.”