By Neto Baptiste
Managing the Covid-19 situation and ensuring the safety of players and management teams has provided tournament organisers with their biggest challenge thus far in the ongoing ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
This is according to tournament director, Fawwaz Baksh, who said there have been a few positive cases since the start of the tournament, but he was quick to add that rigorous Covid 19 protocols and guidelines have been effective in combatting the spread of the virus.
“I think the Covid element has actually been the biggest challenge for us. It started with getting teams here to the West Indies, but we overcome them and then it was just making sure they are being fed well; and keep in mind that the only meals they are getting is from the hotel and what we provide at the match venues. Everyone over 18 is fully vaccinated, but for some of the countries where some of these young men are coming from, vaccines are not available, and some countries actually prohibit vaccination for people under 18 so we recognised that, and for those, we have asked for exceptions from each government which thankfully, we’ve gotten them,” he said.
Baskh, who was speaking on the Good Morning Jojo Sports Show at the time, reminded that the under-19 tournament is the biggest of any ICC tournament, adding that having teenagers who are confined to hotel rooms over such a long period only makes the job harder.
“It’s 16 teams, the most teams in any ICC tournament, and the difference is that while you may not make it into the super league, they go on and play a plate competition, so generally, in other tournaments they would be knocked out and they would go back home, but when you have 16 teams from the start of the tournament all the way to the end, and constantly playing cricket, up to four matches per day, that in itself is a challenge to maintain,” he said.
“Now, you throw Covid in there where you have teams staying in a hotel room, they can’t leave unless they are going to practice or play a match, then that becomes an even bigger challenge, and we’ve had to put things in place, not only to keep them safe, but for their mental health,” the tournament director said.
Antigua and Barbuda will host the entire Super League segment of the tournament, featuring 12 matches in 11 days from January 26 to the final on February 5 at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Baskh said the governments of the respective host countries have been very supportive and that Antigua and Barbuda is no exception.
“There is still some work to be done, but nothing significant that’s going to stop the games from happening, and the success of this tournament is mostly dependent on government and they stepped up in a big way, so they are getting all of the venues ready and not only at the Coolidge Cricket Ground and the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium but they are also investing heavily in Liberta and Police grounds so that the teams have practice facilities and match facilities, so I am very happy with the progress so far,” he said.
Eligible fans can now download tickets for the tournament by visiting www.u19cwc.com/tickets which they would, in turn, present at the gate on match days.