By Carlena Knight
Cricketing legend Sir Vivian Richards is calling on the public to throw their full support behind the Under-19 Men’s cricket team during the upcoming ICC U-19 World Cup.
The West Indies youth team are now in the final weeks of preparation for next month’s international event which is expected to be played for the first time across the Caribbean in Guyana, St, Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua and Barbuda.
The West Indies Rising Stars U19s have been drawn in Group D alongside Australia, Scotland and Sri Lanka for the 16-team tournament. Bangladesh are the defending champions.
As they look to begin their path to the finals in front of the home crowd, the ‘Master Blaster’ is calling on the public to come out in full support for the youngsters.
“This is a great time, I believe, for these young individuals. As we know, with all these tournaments around the world, the lucrative careers that can be made by these particular individuals if they do the necessary things that are right and they are in a good place, in my opinion. When you can represent the West Indies at the under-19 level, that to me is huge and such an honour.
‘This is the future, so let us all get behind them and give them the necessary support that I know that they need,” Richards said.
The former West Indies captain also shared his excitement over the fact that the Caribbean will, for the time, be hosting the event.
He said this is not only a great boost for cricket in the region but also for an upward swing in the business sector.
His sentiments were echoed by Sports Minister Daryll Matthew who added that it is a proud moment for all Antiguans and Barbudans to be able to host another major ICC tournament.
“I think it is a proud moment for our country and a demonstration of the kind of confidence that that ICC has in Antigua and Barbuda. You would recall in 2018 that we hosted the Women’s T20 World Cup which, at that time, was the largest ever women’s cricket audience and so, I believe in the kind of support that cricket has in Antigua and Barbuda and the infrastructure that we have for cricket in Antigua and Barbuda and the sort of administration that we have in Antigua and Barbuda that when these three things come together it creates a great scenario for us to host these sorts of events,” Matthew said.
He said that although there is an added cost to host an event like this, the benefits that would come through such a competition would be far greater.
One such benefit, according to Antigua and Barbuda Cricket Association (ABCA) President Leon ‘Kuma’ Rodney, is the upgrading of cricket fields across the country.
For the tournament, four cricket venues in Antigua and Barbuda will be used, the Police Recreation Grounds and Liberta Blackhawks cricket field as practice areas, and the Coolidge Cricket Grounds and Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium for the actual games.
This move, Rodney says will encourage persons to bring the other venues up to a certain standard.
“Well, what this does for Antigua and Barbuda is that Police Grounds will now be up to a certain standard. Liberta, as you know, has been up to a specific standard but would be better. So, I hope that that will also encourage the other grounds now to step up to the plate so that when we have just for example, the West Indies under-17 or under-15, you know you have at least have four quality grounds and others that you can have those tournaments,” Rodney explained.
The 14th edition of the international youth competition is expected to run from January 14 to February 5, 2022. Antigua and Barbuda will host the semi-finals and finals of the competition starting from January 25.