The Bermuda Cup Match is a postcard for cricket if ever one existed. Set on a pintsized tropical island blessed with scorching weather, pink sand, crisp-blue waves, breath-taking landforms and an uncompromising passion for cricket. The 2-day event brings to nation to a standstill as the atmosphere fills with a cocktail of rum, reggae and rich-smelling cuisine; the coastline landscape is, temporarily, restricted by the towering scaffolding stands that enclose the playing arena.
The success of the event is largely maintained by the Bermudians love for the sport (and partying). However, it is important to remember this is an event to celebrate Emancipation Day and would not be possible without the tireless work undertaken by the local population and the organisers to keep the event as popular as ever, and maintain the legacy and history of the competition. While Bermuda is a rare gem, there have been many other nations, associate and full member, struggle to maintain the popularity and integrity around their own domestic setups. The Cup Match has qualities helping maintain its popularity, including a public bank-holiday and historic ties to cricket by virtue of being Overseas Territory of Britain. Despite the event being cancelled this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, this gives us the chance to explore how the cricket event of the holiday has remained culturally relevant.
“Growing up in Bermuda, watching Cup Match, it’s seen as the pinnacle of cricket. Players become role models to young athletes around the island,” Bermuda’s star all-rounder Kamau Leverock tells Emerging Cricket. Cup Match provides a goal for the younger generation to aim for and keep the fire burning. Not only are the players in the spotlight of the entire nation, success on the field can secure you a place in Cup Match folklore. The event is more than an opportunity for the star cricketers to entertain the island’s people, including local politicians and celebrities, it is recognition and reward for the years dedicated to developing their craft. In short, the young Bermudians pursuing cricket have a visible and achievable aim and have local idols to aspire to be like.
When questioned on the crowds during Cup Match, Leverock replied “The atmosphere is the most electric. Even the crowds at GT20 Canada didn’t compare.” It is a claim most people would struggle to disagree with. While franchise tournaments can be fun, quick to arrange and easier to sell to foreign sponsors, the atmosphere manufactured does not feel as authentic as a fan’s passion through long-term connections to a club team like we see on Cup Match day. Islanders display ribbons of their team’s colours on cars and mopeds in the weeks leading to Cup Match. The environment on the day is ecstatic. The locals are not only there to watch cricket, they are there to see their team win!
The legacy of cricket in Bermuda and Cup Match is preserved by the relevance it has within Bermudian culture. History is very important in maintaining prestige of a sport, however, other countries have proven that history can only remain relevant for so long; organisers have made conscious efforts to keep cricket inclusive and maintain the connections with the local community that built Cup Match to the reputation it holds now. A niche addition, but one that illustrates my point nicely, is the abundance of Crown and Anchor tables around the vicinity of the Cup Match arena, as important to Cup Match as the cricket. Small additions to the locals’ experience that complement the culture and traditions, with this being just one of many examples, have been fundamental to the preservation of attendees in Cup Match.
The format of the annual competition, a 2-day declaration match, could be argued as contributing to the high standard of cricket on the island, given its small population of roughly 63,000. Being only a day shorter than the minimum for a domestic first-class fixture, the match allows players to test their stamina over a long period of play. Batsman can endure over after over and grow into an innings. Bowlers will have to adapt their game as the pitch deteriorates. Many argue that the skills gained from long-format cricket help you become a better cricketer for the shorter formats, this could explain why Bermuda has often punched above their weight. For spectators, they get a compressed package of anticipation from the drawn-out competition that regular first-class cricket provides.
To find out more about cricket in Bermuda and the history of Cup Match, head over to the EC Podcast where Neil Joyson spoke to the guys in depth back in September 2019:
Unfortunately, this year’s cricket event has been cancelled due to the circumstances surrounding COVID-19. While some competitions have been thrown into uncertainty, the foundations of Cup Match are focused on community rather than commercial interests. For this reason, we will see Cup Match again once the current global situation has settled. Bermuda does provide a fine example of how staying true to the local community can provide long term success and stability. It is not expected for other associates to spring up an event the size of cup match overnight or build their cricketing culture and structure in the image of Bermuda. However, as the success of cricket on the island has shown, making the local population the focus for your cricket culture from the outset puts cricket in the best position to flourish within a region. In the future, let’s hope Bermuda will not be a unique example, but be one of many cricketing nations flourishing within their local culture and hosting postcard events like Cup Match.
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