Bridgetown, Barbados, July 9 - (www.bcacricket.org) - Not only has the start of the 2020 BCA season been pushed back by two weeks to August 15 but also the number of preliminary matches in the Twenty20 Championship featuring Elite and First division teams has been slashed by virtually half.
And record five-time champions Sagicor Life UWI and Barbados Youth will have the luxury of two sides in a now 20-team Elite/Division 1 Tournament.
The decisions followed a second meeting with clubs and schools at Kensington Oval last evening.
The season, already hit hard by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, was due to start August 2 and end December 19 with T20 Competitions only in all of the divisions except the Schools’.
Now, instead of 17 rounds of matches followed by quarter-finals, semi-finals and the Final, there will be nine rounds with the 20 Elite/Division 1 teams divided into two zones before going into the knockout punch.
Originally, the Intermediate division was to comprise 40 teams (including UWI and Barbados Youth) to be divided into two zones with 19 rounds before moving to semi-finals and Final. But the number of teams will now be 38 comprising of two zones with ten teams each and another two zones of nine teams.
For the Second division, there will be 60 teams split into six zones with nine preliminary rounds. The top teams from Zones A, B, C, D, E and F along with the next best two qualifiers will advance to the play-offs.
All matches will be played on Saturdays only. Play-off matches are to have a reserve day and will be played at neutral venues.
The Finals will all be played at Kensington Oval with the Second division on October 31, starting at 1:30 p.m. and the Intermediate and Elite/Division 1 both on November 7.
The Intermediate division Final is slated to begin at 1.30 p.m. and the Elite/Division 1 at 6 p.m.
BCA Director of Cricket Steven Leslie explained the changes in an interview with BCAcricket.org.
“Our Board felt that UWI and Barbados Youth teams who currently have representative Division 1 sides should remain within that particular section of competition. It was viewed that it would not be fair to the Intermediate teams for either the UWI or Barbados Youth who play at the First division level to be included in a division that they are generally not playing,” Leslie said.
“So that’s where the Barbados Youth and UWI teams were given an opportunity to field two squads in the combined Elite/First division.”
Asked why there has been a reduction in the number of preliminary matches, Leslie said: “The views expressed from the clubs at the original meeting last month (June 17) was that they felt that the format of 17 preliminary rounds of matches was too long and they are more acceptable and agreeable to the format that has been presented now in the zonal format which allows fewer preliminary matches.”
In relation to a suggestion from representatives of some lower division clubs that they would prefer to have a 35-over Competition instead of a T20, Leslie stressed that the decision to stick to the latter was due to impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
“There were various views expressed at the first meeting in June and those were all considered and reviewed by the BCA Board of Directors, and then it was felt that because of the COVID-19 environment that we are operating in, that the most appropriate cricket that will be played shall only be T20 for the domestic season,” Leslie remarked.
“The fixtures and completed rules for the Competitions are going to be presented to the Board of Directors at a meeting, which will be held next Tuesday and then those documents will be shared with the general public.”
This season will be the first time in 75 years that the premier domestic Championship, as well as other league competitions, will not be played.
1945 was the last year the top local Competition was not played because of an unavailability of balls.
The premier Championship, known as First division for virtually 120 years, started in 1892 and has been played annually apart from 1898 (because of a hurricane), 1918 and 1919 (due to the first World War) and 1945.
In 2009, a promotion and demotion system was introduced and in 2012, the First division was rebranded as Elite and contested with a settled number of ten teams with Barbados Youth (formerly known as Combined Schools) exempted from demotion.