EDITORIAL: Develop cricket for youth, women
Tue, 04/05/2016 - 12:00am Barbados1
None can deny that Twenty20 Cricket has captured the imagination of the viewing public. This is especially so given the exciting matches in the recent World T20 Final that proved an excellent showcase of the sport. In the Caribbean, we are still buzzing from the euphoria of the Under-19, women’s and men’s victories in the World Championships, proving that – at least in the shorter version of the game – West Indies (WI) has a lot of talent. But as we come down from our collective highs, we must ask the follow-up question: now what? And how do we capitalise on the successes achieved this year to ensure more in the future?
There is something about a WI victory that elevates this region to the stratosphere. Despite our geographical differences, we come together as one entity when cricket is being played. When one examines the success of all three teams this year, the togetherness and unity displayed was a clear underpinning for their victories. It should be clear, therefore, that the WI does not lack for skill, imagination and creative enterprise on the field. For all that we have achieved across these levels, however, we are not always blessed with the infrastructural support to harness and nurture these players, particularly youth and female players.
Increased developmental programmes and exposure are critical for the future. While women’s cricket has not always received the support it should – even internationally – the tide is changing. Australia’s recent inaugural Women’s Big Bash League (WBBL) was so successful in attendance and viewership that England will soon host its own women’s league in the summer. WI women’s players Hayley Matthews and Stafanie Taylor admitted that taking part in the WBBL was a confidence booster going into the World Cup. Eighteen-year-old Matthews, in particular, noted that her self-belief and skills improved, and she was able to work with international coaches who helped hone her talents.
It is clear that once the market is there, the public will give support, exemplified by the success of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) in the region. While we may not be ready for a women’s league in the Caribbean due to limited numbers of women playing cricket quasi-professionally, we believe that the team can benefit from having our players included in international squads. In addition, with the CPL committed to putting the best Under-19 cricketers on each franchise, it will provide invaluable training as well as access to highly experienced international players from whom they can get practical advice.
The success of the Women’s and Under-19 teams especially are excellent advertisement for young girls and boys who wish to make a career of the sport and see themselves on the world stage. Local and regional sponsorship is good for the youth level, but we must also ensure youth are exposed to sound coaching at primary and secondary schools to train them correctly before they reach the Under-13 level. Sometimes, even in the more structured Caribbean cricketing territories, that is not always the case.
In the Caribbean, we display a high level of creativity in our art, music, culture and sport. But to get our cricket back to the top, it will take more than the heart so freely displayed; it requires the necessary development from youth level to ensure successes throughout. Now that we have tasted the sweetness of victory, it is incumbent to follow through to ensure we taste it many times over.