Countless insults have been thrown at the Bermudian players: fat, unfit, lazy, incompetent, arrogant. Some of them may be true, it isn't my place to judge, but certainly it can't always have been this way. Otherwise, how would a land with a population less than a third of the size of the city I live in in the UK have reached the Cricket World Cup?
It would be foolish to expect such a small player pool to be able to compete at such a high level in the long term, but there must still be something wrong for them to plummet so far and fast. One of the problems is the domestic structure on the island; if such a small pool of talent is split between thirteen teams, then there is little scope for these players to challenge themselves. For example, so far this season, Curt Stovell, one of the most talented newcomers to the Bermudian team, has averaged around 80 with the bat and 10 with the ball as captain of his club team. These cheap runs and wickets simply won't be doing him any good at all. If I look at my home city in the UK, there are only really four competitive cricket clubs, and two of them are in decline. Splitting the talent in these clubs between thirteen teams would be a waste of everyone's time.
As a result, young, talented players have to move away from the island if they want to make the tiniest amount of progress in their careers. Terryn Fray, Kamau Leverock and Stefan Kelly have all been playing cricket at varying levels in the UK to try to hone their skills, as opposed to playing against has-beens and fill-ins in the Bermudian competitions. If you look at the alternative, Joshua Gilbert stayed at home to play his cricket, and forced his way into the national team on the back of countless wickets with his off-spin, but has found it very difficult to make a step up that could really use a ladder.
And yes, many of the oft-thrown criticisms are true - Gus Logie had problems making the national squad attend training sessions in his tenure, and some of that squad were far from the peak of their fitness. If the murmurings from the Bermudian board are to be believed, though, everything is hunky-dory with shiny sponsors, shiny awards and shiny batting and bowling figures in their shiny competitions. Too bad that for all of these outward appearances, the on-field results are yet to show much improvement, if any.
David Hemp won't last forever, and when he goes, Bermudian cricket will be left tottering.
Despite all of this, there are one or two bright-ish spots to be found in the team. For instance, while Steven Outerbridge struggled with ODIs, he is quite a potent force in WCL3. There are also a number of young players coming through, including Leverock, Jones, Kelly, Fray and Gilbert to name but a few. Hopefully, these players will establish themselves and consolidate a good standing in and around the WCL2 and 3 tiers of cricket.
I'll keep this section short: the weaknesses are talent and infrastructure. Davd Hemp is now well into his forties and will not last forever, but there isn't any obvious replacement for him. Many senior players who took Bermuda to their dizzying ODI heights retired almost straight away, then un-retired, shutting out younger players, then retired again. Sadly, the last near-decade has been one long story of disarray.
Probably still David Hemp. Now 42 and far from the player he once was, he still puts in 100% for Bermudian cricket. In recent months, he hit his way to a match-winning century in a one-dayer against the USA; and still not much older than the rest of his middle order, with an average age of 40. There still isn't anybody who appears ready to replace him, as was the case when Clay Smith retired, and he will leave a huge void when he finally hangs up his boots.
Crowded. Very crowded. Cricket remains a popular sport, so with the right investment and tweaks to structure, there is little reason that Bermuda can't be a strong (if modest) team. They could still be a force in the Americas. Instead, though, the domestic season seems to be more geared towards exactly how many sponsors logos the BCB can fit on its homepage, rather than how many teenagers can be given good, competitive cricket.
Total implosion. Relegation from Division Three yet further into the international wilderness. Slipping out of the top three bracket of cricket in the Americas which would mean no more World Twenty20 Qualifiers. Perhaps if Bermuda marketed itself as a pre-season tour destination for counties who want to give young players in their academies or second-XIs some cricket, there could be something for the young Bermudians to aspire to.
From Bermuda, I will move on next week to the more promising story of Uganda, a cricketing nation brimming with talent who make the most of their limited opportunities.