By Neto Baptiste
Minister of Sports, Daryll Mathew, has assured that the government will deliver on its promise to assist the Liberta Sports Club with preparatory work at its venue as the country prepares to host key matches in the ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup starting this month.
The Liberta Sports Club venue and the Police Recreation Ground have been earmarked as practice venues for teams that will play in the quarterfinals, semifinals and final of the international event slated to start from January 25, but there has been skepticism as to whether or not government will fulfill its obligation towards getting the venues ready on time.
“I just want to assure the public of Antigua and Barbuda that all of the venues will be ready. We’re almost there in terms of our readiness to host what is probably the largest international cricket event on our shores and the nation will be proud,” he said.
“The major area of work that needs to be done [in Liberta] is one part of the fencing and so you can be assured that those things will be completed because it is part of our hosting requirement and so we do not have the option to not do it,” he added.
President of the Liberta Sports Club and former West Indies fast bowler, Kenneth Benjamin, said in a recent interview that the government had pledged to assist with the reconstruction of a section of the facility’s fencing and the retiling of the pavilion’s bathrooms.
The venue’s final approval hinges on the completion of these requests.
Matthew reminded that the hosting of the Under-19 World Cup would bring significant benefits to Antigua and Barbuda.
“We’re actually hosting the quarterfinals, semifinals and the finals for the Under-19 World Cup and immediately following that we will be hosting the Test series with England, the Richards-Botham series and so we will be hosting a four day warm up match and then go right into the first Test so for the next eight to 10 weeks we should be having a substantial amount of cricket here in Antigua and Barbuda,” he said.
“We will be using a couple of outside venues meaning separate from the Coolidge Cricket Ground and the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground so we will be using the Police grounds and the Liberta Sports Club and so some work has gone in and will continue to go in to ensure that those two venues, as practice venues, will be up to date and in a state of readiness,” the minister added.
Antigua and Barbuda, along with Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, and St Kitts and Nevis will host the matches, with Antigua and Barbuda set to host the Super 8 matches.
Sixteen teams will compete in the competition. New Zealand decided to withdraw from the tournament due to the extensive mandatory quarantine restrictions for minors on their return home with Scotland named as their replacement.
Bangladesh are the defending champions.