|Volume No. 1 Issue No. 92 - Monday February 05, 2007
|Dominica Comeback |
by Hayden Gill
In the 1970s and 1980s, Dominica were the powerhouses of Windward Islands cricket, a far cry from what exists in the modern era.
Names like Grayson Shillingford, Irvine Shillingford, Norbert Phillip, Lockhart Sebastien, Thomas Kentish and Roy Marshall were prominent in helping Dominica sweep Windward Islands competitions.
These days, however, Dominica have failed to stamp their dominance of yesteryear; and in the process, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada have produced more international players of recent vintage.
Additionally, those two countries and St Lucia have pushed ahead of Dominica when it comes to development of cricket infrastructure.
While St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent have been awarded matches during Cricket World Cup 2007, Dominica has missed out.
But the biggest of the four Windward Islands has made a significant push in the past year to bring its name back into the forefront of Windward Islands cricket.
While Jean Paul and Mervyn Matthew have emerged as fast bowlers of promise, cricket facilities are also taking on a significant change.
Windsor Park, which hosted the last of its 18 first-class matches in 1999, is nearing completion of a transformation process that will put it on par with some of the stadia which will be used for the upcoming World Cup.
The development of Windsor Park, equipped with floodlights, and the unveiling of Benjamin's Park as a first-class venue over the weekend brings a sense of satisfaction to the Dominica Cricket Association and its president, Emmanuel Nanton.
"Windsor Park is up there with all the new facilities. It is a lovely work of art thanks to the government of China," Nanton told MIDWEEK SPORT.
"The lighting is good. The sound system is good. It is going to be spectacular for all to see."
The final phase of the facelift is on the way with preparation of the outfield and pitch and the new Windsor Park, in the heart of the capital in Roseau, should be completed by April.
On way back
A new page was written in the history of Dominica's cricket when Benjamin's Park, a big, open ground on the north-west coast, hosted the third-round Carib Beer Series match between Barbados and Windward Islands that ended yesterday.
It is the island's third first-class venue, following the old Windsor Park and the lovely Botanic Gardens, and the occasion presented Dominica with a return to first-class cricket for the first time since 2004.
"We are pleased to have first-class cricket returning to Dominica and we're particularly pleased to bring it to another part of Dominica," Nanton said.
"It has been a challenge for us to develop the ground out here and to put in the necessary facilities to have it upgraded as a first-class venue.
On a high
"We were elated when the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) came in and gave us the mandate to hold a first-class match here."
The crowds turned up in large numbers, especially on Sunday
evening when close to 4 000 spectators were on hand following the disappointment of a washout on Saturday and a delay of more than three hours the second day.
Portsmouth, which is about 30 miles away from the capital Roseau, made global headlines in 2000 when one of its daughters, Elizabeth "Ma Pampo" Israel, celebrated her 125th birthday, which made her the oldest living person in the world at the time.
Benjamin's Park offers scope for plenty of development. Most of the spectators were lining the boundary and many were in tents but there is vast space beyond the boundaries for the creation of stands.
A new pavilion is a work-in-progress, fencing in on the cards and the outfield, devoid of grass, needs further work.
"As part of our programme with the Stanford 20/20 funds, we decided to upgrade four grounds in Dominica. Benjamin's Park was one of the grounds," Nanton said,
"We've also got some support from the government of Dominica and from the private sector. It has been quite challenging. We spent quite a bit of money."
Nanton, who is in his third year as president, is also vice-president of the Windward Islands Cricket Association and a director of WICB.
He also speaks positively about the strides in the development of the game in this 289-square mile island that has a population of 70 000.
One of the initiatives is the recruitment of former Barbados Cricket Association coach William Bourne as the Dominica coach and the development of a three-year strategic plan [2007 to 2010].
"We are hoping to put Dominica back at the top of Windwards cricket and move even beyond that," Nanton said.
From the looks of it, Dominica is on the right path.