The new one-league format has come under fire so far this season. *File supplied.
The new one-league format has come under fire so far this season. *File supplied.

The Logic Premier Division season, still just three weeks old, has been dogged by lop-sided games and accusations by current and former international players over the harm this was doing to the country’s up-and-coming players.

Sun columnist Lionel Cann has been a vociferous opponent to the scrapping of two leagues, citing the hammerings his young Warwick team are getting as being detrimental to their long-term development.

But the man in charge of implementing the new structure, Nyon Steede, BCB first vice president and chairman of the cricket committee, has responded by saying that in order for the next generation of players to improve, they must be exposed to a higher standard.

He said that despite an $11m Government injection of cash into the sport in 2007, the game in Bermuda has gone “backwards”.

While admitting the Board has not done enough to get information out to the clubs, he said the success or otherwise of the new format would be determined at the end of the campaign. Steede also outlined an addition to the regular season that will see the top eight break off for a separate tournament and bottom five contest a plate-style competition.

‘Lop-sided games’

He told the Bermuda Sun: “We knew there was probably going to be some lop-sided games but the focus is on development and in order for the players to develop they have to play better opponents.

“Also, hopefully, they will see the gaps between their game and some of the high calibre players so they know where they need to improve and by how much.

He added: “If they are playing teams against players at the same calibre, they think they are playing or doing better than what they actually are.

“Playing a team of similar ability, you are going to get a lot of loose deliveries. When you’re playing the likes of [Bailey’s] Bay and St David’s you are not going to have that flexibility. Those deliveries are going to be punished.

“There was some concerns it would discourage players but for those that really love cricket, I don’t think that will happen. Hopefully, they will look at it as a challenge and think ‘I need to work a lot harder to improve my game’.”

Steede added the structure requires help from teams in possibly playing fringe players against weaker sides and loaning them squad members who aren’t getting regular cricket.

He understands the frustrations of some but argues it’s very much a case of short-term pain for long-term gain. He said: “When you are looking at the future of  Bermuda cricket, it’s the young players who are going to carry us on.

“A lot of older players are moving out and when Bermuda gets to the next World Cup qualifying round a lot of the current team will probably be too old to play.

“By giving the young players access to playing in one league hopefully the good players can be recognized and we can bring them into our National Academy.”

Jury still out

Despite his optimism, Steede admitted the jury is still very much out on the one-league format and admits it could be scrapped if it fails.

But he says the feedback they received before the stated deadline at the start of the season indicated this is what the clubs wanted.

Concerns were raised at a subsequent meeting but, said Steede, not enough clubs came forward to oppose the structure.

He said: “Some teams are putting younger players in their side. I can see where Lionel said it would really discourage them and it could really be demoralizing for them because when you have a guy like Malachi Jones bowling to a 14-year-old, I can see that.

“But hopefully those teams won’t have to use really young players.

“You can’t have it both ways, you can’t say we want one league and quality opponents and we want to shield the young players and let them develop in a lower league but when it suits you throw in an 11-year-old into your team.

“When you’re developing, the main focus should not be on winning.

“Everyone’s talking about going to a recreational league – well, when has cricket be anything other than recreation? All our sports are recreation. It’s always been a recreation league.

“It’s hopefully a two-year period — if it’s  not working we may go back to a different structure.

“It may not be two leagues, but we have to do something to move cricket forward. When you look at since 2007 when Bermuda qualified for the World Cup and we did relatively well, Government infused $11m into cricket – we’ve been going backwards every since. So people say ‘don’t change, don’t change’ but we haven’t  progressed, so we have to try to do something different.

“Is it the right thing? It might not be. We don’t know, But at least we’re trying to do something to move cricket forward.”

“We looked at the dynamics of having only one league and we knew there would be some negatives but we’re hoping the positives outweigh that.”