CRICKET’S world governing body is ready to deliver the Caribbean’s first-ever staging of the International Cricket Council (ICC) Under-19 World Cup.
The tournament’s 14th edition bowls off on Friday with 2016 winners and hosts West Indies up against three-time champions Australia at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence, Guyana.
Altogether, 16 teams will feature in 48 matches across four countries – Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, St Kitts and Antigua.
ICC head of events Chris Tetley said the travelling nations have already touched down in the Caribbean and are comfortably acclimatising to their respective bio-secure bubbles.
Tetley anticipates a high-intensity tourney and believes the 2022 edition serves, like prior Under-19 World Cups, as an integral stepping stone to guide young players through this crucial transitional stage of their careers.
The World Cup will feature the next generation of cricket’s rising stars.
“It’s a complex tournament to run, one that we’re delighted to be staging in the Caribbean for the first time. We’re excited to see the cricket that will be played.
“Many of the current and past international captains come through the U-19 World Cup. Virat Kohli recently spoke about how significant this event was for him when he captained the Indian side in 2008 when they won the tournament.
“He found that experience extremely formative in his career. So you can see the value in which the players hold this event which is very high, and for that reason, we take the organisation of it very seriously,” Tetley said.
He affirmed the pandemic did and still poses some challenges. However, Tetley remains confident the ICC’s countermeasures and guidelines, once fully adhered to, would play an important role in restricting the spread of covid19.
Months of detailed planning, he said, have gone into staging the large competition across four host nations.
“The safety and bio-security of all participants is of primary significance to us in organising the event," Tetley noted.
“A lot of work has gone in to creating a plan that will provide safety and a safe environment for the participants, but equally, for the host countries in which we’re staging the event.
“It’s a two-way process. We’ve been operating the plan now for about a week or so, since teams arrived.
“We’re pleased with the way it’s going but it’s something that we need to keep maintaining and keep aware of situations in each of our host countries because the dynamics in each country are slightly different,” he added.
TT will host ten matches, inclusive of group stage, plate tournament and Super League fixtures, at three venues – Brian Lara Cricket Academy (Tarouba), Queen’s Park Oval (St Clair) and Diego Martin Sporting Complex.
Last week, Minister of Sport and Community Development Shamfa Cudjoe said that no fans will be allowed to attend matches to curb the spread of covid19. Other host nations however, have permitted entrance to a limited number of fully vaccinated fans.
Tetley said the ICC respects the decisions of each government and must abide by their guidelines to host the event safely.
“Vaccinated fans, to certain numbers, will be possible in other territories. We understand the position of the TT government and we operate within any parameters that they require us to.
“But we’ve got great partnerships with host governments through Cricket West Indies (CWI) so we’re confident the plans we got in place will enable us to keep everyone safe and secure and to enjoy the tournament.
“We’re very appreciative of the support of CWI and the work their staff has put in. And the four host governments, without whose support and involvement, the event would not be possible. We rely on government support to be able to put on events like this,” he said.
In the end, Tetley said, the U-19 World Cup will provide young players with a great chance to showcase their talent at a top-flight international competition, after such a lengthy downtime, owing to the pandemic.
“We use it (World Cup) as a finishing-school experience for young cricketers to get, what for some, might be their first opportunity to play in a large scale tournament format.
“We run the event in a similar way as the senior World Cups that we run to give the best possible experience to help their cricketing education.
“It’s an event that gives the cricket world an opportunity to structure youth programmes globally. It’s the largest tournament that we run.
“In doing that, moving any number of people around the world, and around four countries in this case, it’s a significant logistical exercise. It’s no small undertaking.
“This event is a long time in the making. We’re in a good space. Teams have started preparations. We’re very confident that we’re ready to enable to young starts of the future to put on a great show,” Tetley closed.
Bangladesh are the reigning U-19 World Cup champions. The tournament will be televised via ESPN Caribbean.