By Neto Baptiste
President of the Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association (ABCA), Leon Rodney, is urging the country’s young cricketers to make use of the opportunities they are given when they play at the sub-regional and regional levels.
His statement comes amidst concerns over the fact that only one under-19 player from Antigua and Barbuda has been included in a 56-member West Indies under-19 preparatory squad for the 2022 under-19 World Cup here in the West Indies.
“Majority of the time, the core of any Leeward Islands under-age cricket team would have been made up of mostly Antiguans and if we say that we are fully satisfied when they go to the West Indies tournaments in terms of the performances, then we would be lying because we would have sat and gone over it that when you do get the opportunity, produce,” he said.
“We have a saying ‘select yourself’ and somebody may say ‘how do you select yourself’, but you select yourself by letting you know always being heard, so there is no secret; we always say that we have to do better in our under-age cricket. Some of the guys play a lot of cricket but when they get to that next level in represent Leeward Islands or CWI, they just don’t carry the Leeward teams as they should,” he added.
Fast bowler Kelvin Pitman is the lone Antiguan player named in the squad, but is on the list of seven Leeward Islands players that have been included.
Rodney reminded that Antiguan players normally dominate selection at the Leeward Islands level, but that players must also take some responsibility and/or blame for where they go or fail to go from there.
“Let us look at it from the angle where Leeward has about seven or eight players in the setup and what we also have to take into consideration is that the last time CWI would have played any underage cricket would have been in 2019; so, basically, we have lost two years. So what you find happening is that the last under-19 team the West Indies would have had, I doubt that anybody in this setup would have been back [played] in that under-19,” the cricket boss said.
“My understanding is that the documentation from the under-15 and under-17 tournament which was held in 2019 would have been the documentation that would have been circulated to say these were the best players at that level at that time,” he added.
Asked if he is satisfied with the level of youth development taking place here, Rodney said there are many coaches who continue to assist young players in getting to the next level.
“I know Winston Benjamin has been helping a lot of them; I know Kenneth Benjamin has been helping a lot of them, and Ridley Jacobs has been helping a lot of them. If you ask me if I am satisfied with a lot of the performances then I would have to say no but I also know they are getting good help so what it is we need to do is to reevaluate the system to deliver the performance from the assistance they have been getting. There is no doubt that some of them are getting very good assistance but what could get them to deliver the performance when they get the opportunity at the next level,” he said.
The 2022 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup will be played in the West Indies in January and February next year.