By Dean “The Sportsman” Greenaway
Although no balls were bowled, the BVI was the epicenter of West Indies Cricket on Tuesday night, when the BVI Cricket Association hosted the inaugural Leeward Islands Cricket Board’s Red Jacket ceremony, honoring Nevis’ Elquemedo “Elquo” Willett and Antigua and Barbuda’s Sir Andy Roberts at The Moorings. Willett and Roberts were the first Leeward Island players making the West Indies team.
The BVI’s Brent DeFreitas and Maxford Pipe, were also honored. Cricket West Indies President Ricky Skerritt gave the feature address at the ceremony that included board reps from several of the Leeward Islands Cricket Associations.
Leeward Islands Cricket Board President Enoch Lewis who conceived the idea told Island Sun Sports he thought the went “very, very well.” He said in phone conversations, BVI Cricket Association President Jimmy Bharat, had been telling him they’re going to have a gold standard event and deliver gold jackets.
“I think for everyone that’s been here, would go away saying this event was worth coming to and Jimmy would have delivered on his promise of delivering a gold standard event,” Enoch said. “This is just the start of it. We’ve hoping going forward that we can find long term sponsors and that we can work together with governments, just broaden and develop this into a huge, huge event and use it as something that we can use as an income earner for Leeward Islands Cricket.”
Enoch said deciding on the first recipients for Gold Jackets was very easy as they chronicled the sports history. “We said who was the first person to walk the path for us, it was Elquo and who followed him, it was Andy Roberts and we said that’s where we’re going to go,” Enoch said. “Leading into this event, we’ve had persons who are not here, who have decided to provide financial support by buying dinner tables—that’s how they thought of the idea. That’s why I’m so proud of the Leeward Islands Cricket Board because we conceived of this idea and put it out there first.”
DeFreitas, who played in the 2002-03 Red Stripe Bowl, the 2006 and 2008 Stanford 20/20, and with the Leewards for the 2007-08 Carib Beer Cup and took 5 for 88 against Trinidad and Tobago, then had his final Leewards stint in in 2009-10, was also recognized along with Maxford Pipe. Pipe, who was absent, played for the Combined Virgin Islands and had 152 not out against St. Maarten and bagged 8 for 40, also played in the Stanford T20 in 2006 and 2007.
“Being honest tonight, I’m really pleased with this award because I know the hard work I put in, not only for the Leeward Islands team but the BVI Cricket Association and representing the BVI,” DeFretias told Island Sun Sports. “I’m pleased and very happy about it.”
DeFreitas said his five wickets haul against Trinidad and Tobago for the Leewards in Anguilla is a cherished memory.
“That’s always in the back of my mind,” he said. “It was in a losing process but it was a good spell of bowling I put down in Anguilla on that wicket.”
He reflected on the short stint he and Pipe were roommates before Pipe was sent home and said playing for Leewards wasn’t as easy as people think. “We spoke a lot about the game but after he left, the Antiguans were by themselves, the Kittians by themselves and the Nevisans by themselves so I was stranded until Steve Liburd, Renako Morton and Tinetto Willett picked put me under their wings and we built a relationship, then they started to show respected,” he explained. “I showed them I was opened to anything and that’s when I felt comfortable and started to move forward.”
Following the event, BVICA President Bharat told Island Sun Sports: “I’m extremely pleased to have these legendary guys visiting our shores of the BVI, it was a spectacular event,” he said. “We will do this again. We need time to plan and execute and this is a staging of what’s to come. With the support of the Leeward Islands, we’ll do this again. A lot of people would have wanted to be here, but because it’s midweek, they couldn’t come. We’ll learn from it and plan it for another time when it’s not so busy in the BVI. It’s going to get bigger than this.”