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Our youngsters need more cricket, not less

Bermuda Under-19 have played with heart in Toronto, but find themselves against teams in the form of Canada and United States that are more battle-hardened (Photograph by Nicki Horan)

It has been difficult watching from afar as our Bermuda youngsters have struggled to make a definitive impression at the ICC Under-19 World Cup Americas Qualifier in Toronto. The host country and the United States have just been at a different level, leaving us only to show a similar gap in quality to Argentina, who are by far the weakest team in the four-nation tournament.

It’s something that is probably similar to the senior squad in that the under-19s probably don’t play a lot of competitive matches outside of Bermuda. That can make it tougher when it comes to being consistent at that level, understanding conditions, and also just having a rhythm as individuals and as a team. These are some of the things the senior team are trying to tackle and I think it has to filter down to them as well.

In the past there were complaints that Canada and the US have been able to draw on people from many different cricket-playing nationalities by providing passports of convenience, given that ice hockey and baseball are the national sports in those respective countries. But these are all teenagers born and bred in North America, so the focus of the argument has to change.

It is clear with the next T20 World Cup taking place in the US that the Americans would have a lot of resources; it is a market the International Cricket Council has been trying to crack for several years with a view to more viewership, hence revenue streams.

They have just had the inaugural Major League Cricket T20 tournament, so the sport is growing over there. And with Lionel Messi joining Inter Miami in Major League Soccer, the eyes of the world for what we consider traditional sports are trained on the US more than they might normally be.

More money leads to more development, more facilities and more training opportunities. Canada has always had indoor facilities, obviously, because of its adverse weather conditions in the winter. They can’t just get outside when they would want to, but have managed to produce top teams in the region at all levels.

These things make a big difference, and it’s something that we definitely lack here in Bermuda. This summer we’ve seen a lot of rain; more than usual, I would say. So it might be hard for these guys to train, and even if it’s just somebody wants a bit extra and you can’t really get it, it’s something that needs to be looked at.

We’ve been in talks about involving a lot of the under-19s in our senior training sessions and match practices. It can only be positive and benefit us because it means — especially at a training session — we can have more hands in the middle, which means we can have middle sessions, two scenarios. It also means they can challenge themselves against the better cricketers in Bermuda.

We have to work hard here to get ourselves to that level to compete consistently — it’s not just one game. We want to compete tournament in, tournament out, match after match; to make sure that we’re winning games, and not just competing and getting down to the end. We want to be winning against these teams.

It cannot be easy being outplayed but I hope those youngsters can take something from the experience. For some of them, it’s their first international exposure and there is an argument that shouldn’t be the case for under-19 competition. They should have already been internationally tested at younger age groups.

On the local front, we at Bailey’s Bay had to experience losing for the first time this season. To go a whole season undefeated would have been an unbelievable achievement, but it’s one of those things where I guess you say a good run has to come to an end. It is a wake-up call and I think you’ll see a different energy in us this weekend in the Eastern Counties second round against Flatts. I don’t think losing to St George’s will set us back too much. St George’s deserved to win. We had a talk about it and it’s one of those things that you just have to move on from — have a good training week and come Saturday morning with the occasion, and definitely after that loss, you’ll see a different energy in the whole set-up.

If that’s not enough motivation, Bay versus Flatts means there is yet another head-to-head with bestie Kamau Leverock, who will be buzzing after helping Somerset Bridge win the Western Counties Cup last weekend in a low-scoring thriller.

It’s always good to play against him. This time the situation is flipped around from Cup Match in the sense that the team that I’m playing for has the cup and he’s trying to get it back. I don’t imagine the approach that he takes to his game will be any different and mine won’t be, either. I expect a good contest, a good battle. Hopefully, we can come out on top and retain the trophy. We want to look to win the game; that’s the way we go into these games, always looking to win. Obviously if we’re in a position where we can’t win, then it’s about retaining the trophy.

• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith

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Published August 17, 2023 at 9:21 am (Updated August 17, 2023 at 9:21 am)

Our youngsters need more cricket, not less

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