|Batting legends to open Lara Academy |
CLINT CHAN TACK Friday, April 21 2017
SPORTS Minister Daryl Smith yesterday announced that the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba will be formally opened on May 13. The facility was initially scheduled to be completed in 2007 for the ICC World Cup but lengthy delays, change of contractors, and concerns over the suitability of the soil for its construction saw costs sky-rocket and a decade elapse.
In making the announcement at the post-Cabinet news conference at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, Smith declared, “After ten long years, we have finally completed the Brian Lara Academy.” Stating that the former West Indies cricket captain is intimately involved with plans for the opening, Smith disclosed that Lara has persuaded former Indian batting maestro Sachin Tendulkar to be part of the opening.
He said a key feature of the opening will be, “a Brian vs Sachin XI T20 game.” The minister indicated that, “a number of other star icons from the West Indies and across the globe will be participating in that game.” He said the opening will be televised worldwide and tickets for the event will soon be on sale to the public.
Smith said the stadium will be handed over to the Ministry of Sport by the Urban Development Corporation of TT (Udecott) by the end of this month. He explained in preparation for the facility’s opening, “we have been utilising the pitch with several test events to get the pitch going.” Smith added the ministry has been, “working with TT Cricket Board to have an overall test of the facility as we have done with all our national centres.” Going forward, Smith said the facility will be an academy that will target,”secondary school students from the age of ten, 11, actually living there” with the best cricket coaches and other qualified personnel. The Minister said the academy will not be restricted to students from TT but will be open to students from the region and internationally.
Education Minister Anthony Garcia, who was also at the conference, welcomed this initiative and said he has been having discussions with Smith about it.
The Sports Minister divulged that discussions are ongoing regarding the hosting the semi-finals and final of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2017 here. He also gave the assurance that the opening of the Brian Lara Academy does not mean a shift of cricket away from the Queens Park Oval.
Saying he is a member of the Oval, Smith said, “The Oval is a private entity and we are thankful for the Oval for being an iconic venue for the world.” He explained that the Oval is a private entity while the Academy will be a government entity.
Smith was confident that the Oval and the Academy, “could live and work hand in hand in the future.” Describing competition as “good and healthy,” Smith said, “We have no animosity with anybody.” He said the objective is to ensure that fans get the best value for their dollar in going to watch cricket.
After lamenting that a generation of cricketers was lost, Smith was confident the stadium would get “a clean bill of health” went it is handed over by Udecott. On previous concerns about tendering issues regarding the stadium’s construction, Smith said 19 contractors were hired to complete work on the facility. “The budget was $90 million, I think they came in under,” he said.