What Future for Our Young Top-Class Cricketers?

Saint Lucians who attended were very pleased to see the recent launch of the National Under-19 Sandals Resorts Cricket tournament.

We cannot overstate the importance of such tournaments to the development of our young players, particularly as the West Indies senior teams — both men and women — continue to struggle, and, not to put too fine a point on it, disappoint, at the international level.

Sandals was the main sponsor for Cricket West Indies for over four years and we can admit they did not get the return on that investment they might have expected by the performances of the regional squad. So, it’s heartening to see that the company remains committed in their interest in young players — and more specifically, young Saint Lucians.

It’s baffling as to why our young Saint Lucian talents shine so brightly at the youth level but have been unable to transition that into the senior level. And it’s something the Saint Lucia Cricket Association needs to take a hard look at.

We have had Kimani Melius captain the West Indies Under-19 World Cup squad, but where is he now? Is he getting the support, both technically and financially, that he needs to grow and develop? Or is it that he too will fade into the annals of ‘what could have been?’

Following in Kimani’s footsteps, Ackeem Auguste has also gone on to captain the West Indies Under-19 team, but what future awaits him?

Now we see young Theo Edward take the region by storm, scoring four consecutive centuries in the Windwards Under-15 tournament that ended just a couple of months ago — and already, people are questioning whether he will be able to fulfill the promise he has at the senior level, or whether he too will sparkle brightly and then fade.

Of course we do not forget our two exceptions to the rule – Daren Sammy and Johnson Charles, but as the old saying goes, one sparrow (or even two) does not a summer make.

The big question is: Why are these talented players not going on to senior success? That is a question that the Saint Lucia National Cricket Association (SLNCA) and the Ministry of Sport have to answer. It’s something they must investigate.

We saw Clivus Jules speaking at the Sandals launch about the importance of corporate citizens like Sandals investing in the development programmes, but Sandals cannot do it alone. Yes, we have the National Sports Academy, but what other support systems do we have in place for these young stars to help them rise to the next level, especially when they grow out of the age groups?

Are our youth being given the coaching, advice and general support they need? We recently learnt of a young player, who has moved past the youth level, now having to try and pay for his coaching out of his own pocket. If that is true, that is a cardinal sin that reflects badly on every cricket institution, from Saint Lucia all the way up to Cricket West Indies.

So even as we commend Sandals Resorts for their continued philanthropy and dedication to uplifting our young Caribbean athletes, others need to step up as well. Perhaps the powers that be might explore with Sandals, the possibility of creating avenues for small and medium size businesses to contribute to the development of cricket through the medium of the Sandals Foundation.

Moving on, we need to have more information on what is taking place with our local players: Where they are now and what plans do we have to help guide them to where they need to be and can be. If not, we are wasting precious time – a little like playing cricket at Beausejour on an endlessly rainy day.

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