St David’s and Cleveland have been asked by the Bermuda Cricket Board not to select their Bermuda squad players for this weekend’s second round of the Eastern Counties at Lord’s.
The request was made to the clubs so as to have the Bermuda players properly prepared for the week-long ICC Americas Twenty20 World Cup Qualifier which starts the following day with a double-header at White Hill Field. Bermuda will play the United States in the opening match at 11am.
St David’s will be the harder hit as they have two players in the squad, captain Justin Pitcher and all-rounder Macai Simmons, while Cleveland will be without Dion Stovell, the Bermuda captain.
“The coach [Herbie Bascome] spoke to the players about making themselves available for the national team match the following day,” Cal Blankendal, executive director of the Bermuda Cricket Board, revealed yesterday.
“This is an ICC Americas World Cup qualifier, which is similar to a Fifa World Cup qualifier. Technically speaking, we would not have a national team player playing a club match and then inside of 18 hours playing an international match for their country.
“In Bermuda, we do have some unique cultural events that we can’t forget about, but we are just asking those two or three players selected for the national team for this international event to consider making themselves available for the Bermuda match only. It was never a directive, more a request to the players and also the coaching staff of the clubs that they would take that into consideration.
“The players still have the option and the coach has the option to play them. We’re just asking them to take Bermuda into consideration. At the end of the day the decision is the responsibility of the player and coach and, by default, the club.
‘We stand by any decision, but we ask that they put Bermuda first this time. We believe the national team programme, at this point, is very important.”
The two competitions will make this one of the busiest weekends of the season, with great anticipation ahead of the counties match and then the international matches which will continue during the week.
“The dates for the matches was not selected by Bermuda, but determined by an international calendar, otherwise we would not have these matches taking place at the same time,” said Blankendal who contacted coaches George Cannonier, of St David’s, and Curtis Jackson, of Cleveland.
“I spoke to the president of St David’s and sent an e-mail to the president of Cleveland,” Blankendal revealed. “I sent it off to the Eastern Counties as well.
“I did not indicate to them that they should or should not, just passed on a request from the national team coach.
“We hope everyone recognises the importance of the national programme.”
Cannonier admits he is not happy about losing his captain, particularly, who was one of their top players in the last round against Bailey’s Bay.
“This has been a real concern of ours,” said the coach, who was contacted last week.
“An e-mail was sent, but I don’t see the clash in the two events so I’m not very happy about it.
“It’s been a while since we’ve been cup holders for any length of time, this season could be the start of that again.
“When I heard they could be taking my captain after him being such a big influence on the team, I felt dumfounded, really.”
Jackson acknowledged receiving a phone call from Blankendal.
“The Board has requested that us and St David’s don’t pick the players who are in the national squad for the county,” Jackson said.
“Obviously Dion will be a miss with the bat and the ball and with his experience.”
Captain Stephen Bremar is also in the national squad but was not selected for the T20 tournament. Jackson, who played against Flatts last year at Sea Breeze Oval, has not ruled himself out of selection for the challengers.
“I was hoping not to play, really, but they have already talked about me playing, so I guess I’ll be out on the field taking sun again,” Jackson said.
Bermuda will be joined in the tournament by the US, Canada and Cayman Islands with the top two teams going through to the next round of qualifying against other associate countries before the top two from that tournament advance to the 2020 T20 World Cup in Australia.
The teams will be involved in an opening ceremony on Saturday at the teams’ hotel, Willowbank, starting at 7pm.