Youth cricket initiative seen as essential for preserving game
Bermuda Cricket Board executive director Cal Blankendal believes it is imperative for cricket to evolve to safeguard the future of the sport on island.
Following the recent withdrawal of PHC in advance of the new domestic season with the club citing a lack of sufficient players, Steven Douglas, cricket chairman of the BCB, raised concerns about the trend of dwindling numbers within the game and alluded to the need for the board to look into more strategic plans within the existing senior leagues as well as youth programmes.
That sentiment that has been echoed by Blankendal, who concedes more needs to be done at grassroots level, including within schools, to help raise the visibility of the game and encourage young players into the sport.
“With any sport, the first step is always at the grassroots level and having young people take it up,” said Blankendal. “We have to be able to help facilitate the growth of the game again and together with the clubs provide avenues for young players to take up cricket.
“It’s also about the visibility of cricket. It has always been played in schools but we have to do more to make sure people are seeing it being played more regularly.
“We all have to be a part of that growth process and if we are, there will be a domino effect, from grassroots through to senior level. We have to put the work in and, over a period of time, you will hopefully see the results and have less dwindling of numbers.”
Steps have already been taken with the BCB forming a new partnership with the Bermuda School Sports Federation and Markel Bermuda Ltd to host the Super 8s Cricket Festival.
Throughout this week, schools across the island have been competing in the event at the National Sports Centre, which consists of games being played between two teams of eight with innings lasting a maximum of seven overs and matches taking no longer than an hour to complete.
The need to adapt to a different format for youth cricket is a move Blankendal believes is essential.
“For us it’s all about safeguarding the future of the game,” added Blankendal, who has called upon clubs to partner with neighbouring schools.
“Gone are the days where young people will stand in a field all day waiting to make a catch in a 50-overs game.
“We have to rethink how we offer cricket at the lowest levels and in schools and change the mindset of how it should be played. It has to be fun for players to feel that excitement of playing cricket and then we can build on that.
“We needed a programme to facilitate that, so after two years of being inactive, I am elated to be able to facilitate schools cricket, and this year will see the Senior High School boys being included.
“The BCB want to assist in any way that we can to make sure these sort of events are more frequent because if we are successful, it is a win-win situation whereby players will get into cricket in school and then hopefully continue through to play at a club.
“I encourage all BCB member clubs to adopt a school and establish formal partnerships to promote the playing of cricket in their respective communities.”
The initiative has been welcomed by senior men’s national coach Niraj Odedra, who reaffirmed the need for cricket to be available to all ages and all schools.
“I am very pleased to know that cricket is being played at all age groups in Bermuda’s schools,” he said.
“What is important, is that we encourage and promote the playing of cricket in a fun and positive manner. Once the students are having fun, we can begin to teach the technical aspects to them.
“I will do all I can do to assist each club and school with their training sessions and coaching development. All interested clubs and schools can contact the BCB to set up a schedule.”
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