No level playing field in international cricket... or in inter-island bowls it would seem

THREE questions come to mind after Guernsey's 2013 European T20 Division One Championship campaign in Sussex, writes ROB BATISTE.

THREE questions come to mind after Guernsey's 2013 European T20 Division One Championship campaign in Sussex, writes ROB BATISTE.

  1. Could the Sarnians have won the event?

  2. If the answer is no, what is required to do just that?

  3. Just how unfair are the rules and how much of an uneven playing field are the likes of Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man operating from?

The answer to the final question is that the CI sides are facing an uphill struggle even before they bowl a ball, such are the arrangements by which teams such as Italy, the winners, can unearth players at almost the drop of a hat, and we cannot, being a Crown Dependency with rigid restrictions on residency.

It's said, and is probably very nearly the truth, that of the successful Italian side, just one lives in the country.

The rest, via conveniently acquired passports and who include Australians, South Africans and Sri Lankans, live across the world.

Before the Guernsey party departed finals day at Hove there were even suggestions that the new champions might not be filling their newly-acquired spot at the autumn World Global Qualifier in Dubai, simply because they would not be able to afford to fly in all their players from around the globe.

True, or not, it highlights the massive handicap the Guernseys and Jerseys of this world face as they try to battle their way up the international pecking order.

Yet both Channel Islands could have beaten the Italians.

In the semis, Jersey should have done so, as the Italians briefly went awol in the mind with possible thoughts of home – the Dolomites, Melbourne or Sri Lankan beaches?

On the face of it Nic Pothas's team performed rather well over the course of the week, given that the side was so inexperienced.

They gave a very decent account of themselves against Italy at the group stage, but simply did not have the collective nous to make the crucial difference.

But, it will come, or we hope it will. There is some seriously good and focused talent among this group.

Most of the members of the squad enhanced their reputations and only one or two disappointed.

None of the youngsters were remotely out of their depth and given their apparent commitment to the sport and raw potential, can develop into seriously good cricketers.

And, it is worth bearing in mind, there are more young players knocking on the door.

It was unreasonable to expect Guernsey, or Jersey, both largely experimental sides in the flush of youth, to win the tournament.

For that, you need a player of the capability of Freddie Klokker, the Danish captain who hammered Guernsey to all parts of the Sussex county ground and even

threatened to gatecrash a wedding being staged in one of the hospitality areas.

As good as he is, Jeremy Frith is still a small step down from Klokker in T20 terms.

All week, Pothas spoke of intensity and the need for Guernsey cricket to raise those levels domestically, while at the same time learn from their mistakes.

Pothas clearly, and 100% correctly, sees our domestic game as being too soft, too insular.

But how do you break free of this circle of cricketing cuddliness?

The new-look Swoffers Weekend Championship is evenly matched, but it will never get the players' pulses racing in the manner of an inter-insular or an ICC tournament.

Something tougher, far tougher, is required to raise those intensity levels and get away from the time-honoured tradition of rucking up whenever and simply doing a few warm-ups.

Jersey Cricket Board chairman Ward Jenner, once a Guernsey captain remember and well-versed in the stifling niceties of the CI game, is also eager to get more out of his island's top players.

And while Italy were, perhaps surprisingly, turning the tables on Denmark in a repeat of the 2011 final, Jenner and GCB chairman Dave Nussbaumer were locked in serious discussions as to how to find answers – quickly.

One exciting idea on the table is for a new European-based league competition in which Guernsey and Jersey play, home and away, the likes of Scotland A, Ireland A and Netherlands A.

All three of those are close to home and all would also benefit from a competition that would help bridge the gap between their senior team and under-19s.

Add eight 50-over meaningful internationals of this type, to the GPL T20 and a handful of prestigious friendlies against the likes of the Sussex Academy (home and away) and the MCC, then the domestic programme will contain enough challenging cricket to assist the director of cricket's objectives.

Linking talented emerging young players with strong UK clubs or minor counties is another avenue that may well be explored.

But rest assured, Nic Pothas will not sit still.

He never does and neither does he allow those working alongside him to do so.

He tests, he probes, he plans virtually every minute of his working day.

It was an eye-opener to see the man at work over the course of a whole week.

No doubt, there will be casualties as Pothas pushes the boundary to raise standards, but that is a necessary consequence.

Those omissions or enforced retirements will no doubt raise eyebrows and stir some furious debate, but it is the only way to go for Guernsey cricket to put the cone on its own pyramid, in the manner that football finally has via GFC.

*

GUERNSEY bowlers are threatening not to play their own version of the 'Muratti'.

Only a few weeks ago they enjoyed a fantastic week at the British Isles Championships in Dublin, culminating with Kris Bichard landing the U25 singles title and the team of Matt and Len Le Ber, Gary Pitschou and Garry Collins winning the fours title.

But, it has to be said, for some time now we have lacked the depth of Jersey men, well outdoors anyway.

That was again highlighted by last weekend's thrashings at the Caesareans' hands at Les Creux.

The Jersey men have been the dominant force for many years, but normally the Sarnian ladies come out on top.

This time, we were soundly stuffed on both fronts, the women by a remarkable 71 shots.

But that is only half the story.

Guernsey bowlers returned very unhappy that they were forced to play the lawn bowls inter-insular on a carpet, even if it is a fine piece of synthetic handiwork and makes economic sense to run.

Inside Track learned that the Sarnians, who play only on grass outdoors, left fuming, such was the feeling of being disadvantaged.

So much so, there is a collective feeling that they will refuse to play another Le Quesne on the carpet.

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