THE 2021 domestic cricket season has been called off.
Owing to a resurgence of covid19 cases and the recent tightening of restrictions by the TT government, the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board has agreed to cancel another anticipated season of domestic and youth cricket.
The decision was made at Saturday’s quarterly meeting, held virtually, of the TTCB executive.
Since mid-March last year, not a ball has been bowled on the domestic circuit owing to the pandemic. The TTCB’s latest announcement means cricket will resume in 2022, once permission has been granted by the Ministry of Health.
“It was unanimously agreed, by every single member present, that we should call off the 2021 cricket season. The situations we’re currently in right now, I think that people’s health is of utmost importance than playing cricket.
“We are very concerned of what is going on and the decision that was taken was in the best interest of everyone; the youngsters, parents and club cricketers,” said TTCB president Azim Bassarath.
The TTCB boss believes the season closure was done in the best interest of the sport’s stakeholders. He said although the decision seems harsh, the health and safety of those involved remain a top priority.
If the reinforced restrictions span the rest of 2021, and continue to hamper outdoor sport, it would mean cricket in TT would not have been played domestically for almost 18 months.
As a young cricketer, the guarantee of no cricket being played for the rest of the year serves as a clear detractor. Partnered with the possibility of an also uncertain 2022, Bassarath reaffirmed that youths remain hopeful for the coming year.
“We had some Under-19 trial games recently and the interest we saw from those 56 players during that time, it was very encouraging. People are looking forward to the restart of cricket and to continue playing.
“The parents and cricketers understand the situation we’re all facing and that we’ll do whatever it takes to wait it out until we get back on the park,” he said. Bassarath hinted, however, that they are bracing for a drop in the standard of play owing to a lack of training and game time.
He continued, “From what we have seen from the Under-19 trial games, we think that the overall standard of cricket will drop because athletes will not be given the opportunity to train, practise and to play cricket as much.
“It’s more than a year now. With any sport, the standard will drop. We expect that and it will take time. Hopefully, we will have additional tournaments in 2022.”
Bassarath, a former umpire, also said that the executive is looking at putting up a four-team Under-16 tournament and an Under-19 tourney for the start of 2022.
The TTCB plans to host another zonal Under-23 tournament, which was last held in 2019, together with all of its inter-zone tournaments.
If covid19 eases, secondary schools and primary schools will also welcome a return to play so the local fraternity can hit the ground running in the coming year. All, however, remain solely dependent on the status of covid19 locally.
Financially, according to the TTCB head, cricket has stood the test of time. “With any entity, we would have lost some funding. But we are pretty comfortable where we’re at (financially) at the moment. “We’re not out of the woods but we’re comfortable.
“Every month we get some funding from what is owed to us by Cricket West Indies (CWI). That helps us to pay the bills. CWI also has some constraints but we’re still getting some assistance and it’s helping us survive in this crucial time,” he added.
With Tuesday’s postponement of the Indian Premier League forcing an exodus of players back to the Caribbean, Bassarath expects cricketers to return home and get some rest ahead of a hectic CWI schedule.
South Africa, Australia and Pakistan are tentatively scheduled to tour the Caribbean within the coming months. WI has already toured England, New Zealand and Bangladesh during the pandemic and has also hosted a full series against Sri Lanka in Antigua.
Although the TT government tightened up on restrictions, on Sunday, they continue to allow national athletes preparing for major competition a chance to train at specific national sporting facilities.
National Super50 and Regional Four-Day teams continue to train at the National Cricket Centre (NCC). The TT Red Force is defending Super50 champions and will begin their defence in the latter half of 2021.
“We have to continue national team training as there is another Super50 tournament bowling off at the end of the year. We have to defend our title. We want to plan properly for that.
“All these players (IPL and local-based) must continue training for both Test and white-ball cricket. We have to accommodate them at NCC and facilitate as much players as possible who are on the verge of making the WI team,” he said.
When asked if the TTCB would be attempting to host some virtual sessions/classes for cricketers, Bassarath was uncertain if this medium was ideal for such a hands-on sport.
“We don’t know how effective that would be. We don’t want to go and spend scarce money that we don’t have. Every cent will count in the future and we’re uncertain how beneficial online cricket tutoring will be.
“Really and truly, when you go out in the middle and play the game, only then we see what cricket and the sport is really about,” Bassarath concluded.
The TTCB president added that CWI is planning to have some coaching courses, in June, in Trinidad. He confirmed that the local fraternity is working with the regional body to ensure this programme is a success.