Saint Lucian Rising Stars — Products of Hard Work

The Saint Lucia National Cricket Association on Monday December 20, 2021, gave their blessings to two male Rising Stars, who departed via George F.L. Charles Airport, bound for St. Vincent and the Grenadines via Barbados, where they teamed up with the other members of the West Indies Under-19 cricket squad, to take on the South Africa Under-19 team in four 50-over Youth One Day Internationals.

[L-R] Mc Kenny Clarke, Zaida James, Ackeem Auguste (Photos by Robertson Henry)
[L-R] Mc Kenny Clarke, Zaida James, Ackeem Auguste (Photos by Robertson Henry)
The pair of McKenny Clarke, a tall lanky right-arm fast bowler, along with West Indies Under-19 team captain Ackeem Auguste, a stylish left-handed batsman, formed a crucial part of the regional side’s bid to capture glory in the four friendly internationals which were played at the Cumberland Playing Field on December 26 and 30, 2021; and at the Arnos Vale Cricket Grounds, on December 28, 2021 and January 03, 2022.

Following the four Youth ODIs in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the regional side departed for the World Cup Under-19 matches in Guyana and St. Kitts, and then on to Trinidad and Tobago.

Although the West Indies finished eleventh in the global youth cricket showcase, those who were privileged to have witnessed the batting of Auguste and the raw pace of Clarke, have had nothing but praise for their emerging talents.

Auguste’s lone inning in the ICC Under-19 World Cup, and the four in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, displayed of his class, and four of the catches he took in St. Vincent and the Grenadines will become the subject of legend in the many years to come.

Both players are products of strong family support – morally and otherwise, as they grew up stamping their mark on the local cricket fields at the various levels. Auguste was in top form before the dreaded coronavirus pandemic put a halt to all sporting activities. During that period he stroked himself into Saint Lucia’s record books with three consecutive hundreds in that island’s first division two-day competition.

Clarke, still working his way into top match readiness, had many a batsman hurrying their shots, as his pace and bounce surprised many. Even the South African batsmen had a grudging respect for him, with one of them commenting, “He hits the bat very hard.”

Wayne Auguste, president of the Central Castries Association said that he was feeling a sense of pride as he watched Ackeem lead his players into battle, his stroke play, and the pace generated by Clarke.

According to Auguste, “Ackeem and McKenny, like all other young cricketers on the West Indies Under-19 team, are trying to find their feet as international cricketers. Ackeem captaining of the West Indies team is an honour Central Castries and by wider extension Saint Lucia, will always cherish. It is also an example of recognizing the talents of the players, and doing our best as an organisation to support them in all ways possible.”

It is the second time that a Saint Lucian is captaining the West Indies Under-19 team; Kimani Melius being the first when he captained the regional side at the 2019 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa.

Auguste said McKenny Clarke is a young man with raw talent who has and continues to work hard, and has never given up. “McKenny is one for the future once he continues to put in the hard work as he has a few years ahead of him to refine his game, improve his skills, and keep knocking on the doors of the regional selectors.”

The reports coming out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have been positive, and both young cricketers on their return to Saint Lucia, have already indicated that the hard work is not over. Auguste has been called up as part of the Windward Volcanoes squad, as the four-island grouping takes on regional counterparts in the 2022 Cricket West Indies Regional 4-day cricket competition.

A programme to further the development of young McKenny Clarke is being formulated, aimed at improving his physical fitness, and cricketing intelligence.

Meanwhile captaining the Windward Islands Under-19 women cricketers this year against the USA Under-19 women, in what was a historic tour for the Americans, was Zaida James of Saint Lucia.

Dyke Cato, a sports administrator from St. Vincent and the Grenadines who scored for all four Twenty20 Invitational matches between hosts the Windward Islands and the visiting USA team in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, told her father “you have a gem there. Nurture her, guide her, and allow her to be trained properly, and she will make the Caribbean proud.”

Wayne Auguste, president of the Central Castries Cricket Association, said that he is not surprised that not only did Zaida performed creditably, but the reactions from those who watched her bat.

Those who saw her in the regional female cricket tournaments in Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, a few years ago, were impressed with her level of cricketing skill and intelligence.

Wayne Auguste said: “Central Castries Cricket will do all that is possible to further the development of these young players. It is our hope that by developing and nurturing the talents of Ackeem, McKenny and Zaida, they will reach the pinnacle of what all Saint Lucians are expecting.

“Additionally, when they reach their pinnacle, and are playing at the highest levels, other young cricketers and their parents, along with other administrators, will be so moved as to fully support the young player’s ability, and nurture their talent towards fulfilling their own expectations.”

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