THE TRINIDAD and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) has emphasised youth cricket in its 2022 calendar.
The board, however, like multiple other national sporting organisations, awaits permission from the Ministry of Health to resume activity, with limitations, after a “phased return to sport” policy was recently proposed by the Ministry of Sport and Community Development.
At Thursday’s launch of TTCB’s tentative cricket calendar, president Azim Bassarath outlined a lengthy propsective itinerary for the season, with stress on youth tournaments.
The TTCB plans to revive the sport, after an almost two-year hiatus owing to the pandemic, from this crucial development stage with competitions in the Under-13, Under-15, Under-17, Under-19 and Under-23 divisions.
One such tournament is the return of a bilateral Under-13 tourney between TT and Barbados, but this time including Guyana. Bassarath said he is in talks with the two regional cricket fraternities to have the tourney in August in Guyana.
The age group in particular, he said, has produced fruitful talent in the past, and can once again serve as a stepping stone for young cricketers to showcase their talent at a regional level.
“Cricket West Indies has never hosted an Under-13 tournament. Every year before the pandemic, the TTCB had an Under-13 inter-zone tournament.
“Some time ago, the TTCB and Barbados Sports Council used to have bilateral visits. Barbados would come here for one year and the next year, TT would go to them.
“Shai Hope, Kraigg Brathwaite and a number of players who are presently on the West Indies and Barbados teams were part of those bilateral tours in the late 90s and early 2000s.
“Based on that, we feel that it is important to give the U-13s that opportunity, since there is no CWI tournament, we think it is important that we have an U-13 tournament.
“It is important to give these young players an opportunity to play among their Caribbean counterparts at the same time, so that we can further develop them,” said Bassarath, after listing the board’s detailed calendar of event at the National Cricket Centre in Couva.
The TTCB president has mandated that all players, officials and club members must be fully vaccinated to play in any of its sanctioned tournaments.
Inter-zone and North/South Classic tournaments have been scheduled to for all age divisions between the U-13 and U-23 bracket, partnered with the resumption of the National League (seniors).
If sport is given the all-clear to resume, the TTCB confirmed it can return to play by next month, starting with a T10 and followed by youth division matches.
TT Red Force coach David Furlonge welcomed the event-filled schedule for youngsters. He believes these competitions are crucial for revitalising the sport and serve as a good transition back to play after a 22-month downtime.
He said, “It is important. Two years of no cricket is very detrimental. A guy who was 17 two years ago probably can’t play in an Under-19 tournament right now. His youth cricket is over.
“That is why we took a decision, approved by the TTCB president, to include the younger players (U-19 and U-23) now in the senior set-up. These youth tournaments are instrumental for grooming the youngsters and transitioning them through the ranks into senior cricket.”