WHEN the Sport Company of TT announced on Monday night that fully vaccinated people would be allowed free entry to ICC Under-19 World Cup venues in Trinidad, Barrackpore siblings Kavinash and Saaif Ali dropped everything.
Kavinash, 21, immediately applied for a day's sick leave from his job and Saaif, 17, skipped his virtual Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) classes for a sunny day’s cricket at Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba.
The pair presented their respective national vaccination and identification cards to stadium security, sanitised their hands and quickly found a shady spot to view a plate match between Ireland U19s and Canada U19s.
Since the pandemic hit in mid-March 2020, this was the first time in 21 months that cricket fans were allowed entry into local stadiums to view matches in Trinidad.
By noon, however, the Ali brothers seemed to be the only members of the public who capitalised on this long-awaited opportunity to come out and watch some cricket. Otherwise, the seats of the south venue housed a handful of travelling fans from both nations, members of the protective services and stadium staff.
Having been restricted to watching cricket on television and online streaming services over the past 20 months, the siblings wasted no time in changing their usual Tuesday plans to soak in some Under-19 World Cup action.
“It feels good to come back out and watch some cricket after such a long time. I’m also hoping to be back out on the field playing cricket as well," said Kavinash, a Presentation College, San Fernando graduate.
“I have some friends from the Canadian team playing but today, it didn’t matter which team was playing, we would have still come and looked at the World Cup matches.”
Similarly, Saiff took a break from Debe Secondary’s online CAPE classes to just sit back, relax and enjoy some youth cricket.
He said, “It feels better to back out here. I would have been just doing a couple things around the house today. We have online school. but I decided to take a little day off from it all to enjoy some cricket.”
The brothers were happy to be back in the stands and urged people to get vaccinated if they wanted their lives to return to some level of normality, particularly in the sporting arena.
Saiff said, “If everybody gets vaccinated and do their part, sports would be able to continue. We would love to look at some Caribbean Premier League T20 matches later on this year.
“If bars can open, why can’t cricket open too? It’s a non-contact sport.
"But the key is to get vaccinated and we can hopefully go back to normal.”
Vaccinated spectators were also permitted entry at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain on Tuesday for the second plate quarter-final between Uganda and United Arab Emirates.
It was also reported there before noon that few to no members of the public attended the match.
On Wednesday, eligible patrons will be allowed at the Oval (Scotland vs Zimbabwe) and at the Diego Martin Sporting Complex (West Indies vs Papua New Guinea) for the next two plate quarter-finals, both starting from 9am.
The remainder of the plate matches bowl off in Trinidad from Friday until Monday.
The return of spectators comes on the heels of Sunday’s announcement by the Ministry of Sport and Community Development that its safe-zone return-to-play proposal, after consultation with stakeholders and officials, had been approved by health authorities.
A media release on Sunday said, “National governing bodies (NGBs) and sport serving bodies will now be able to host sporting events and execute sporting activities for fully vaccinated athletes, coaches, officials, and administrators at specific sporting facilities.”
Fans who are vaccinated will also be allowed to attend sporting events, with the ICC U19 World Cup being the first to welcome spectators.
The ministry said, “Approval has also been granted for fully vaccinated spectators to attend events at 50 per cent facility capacity for outdoor events, and 25 per cent facility capacity for indoor events subject to guidelines to be issued by the Ministry of Health."
The new public health regulations were scheduled to be published on Sunday and took effect from January 24.