"The U/19 event will serve as a stepping stone to the senior squad" - Martin Vieira

Sun, Jul 5, 2009 3:25 PM

ICC Americas Regional Development Manager Martin Vieira, believes the ICC Americas U/19 Regional Qualifier will serve as a stepping stone for players wishing to play international cricket at senior level.

The event will be contested between six teams - Argentina, Bahamas, Bermuda, Canada, Cayman Islands and the United States of America and will be held from 6-11 July, 2009 in Toronto, Canada.

How do you look forward to the event?

The ICC Americas U/19 Regional Qualifier should be a stepping stone to the senior squad and it is important, not only for the top three countries but all other teams that play in the Pepsi ICC World Cricket League to have a solid base of young players to choose from in the future. So this tournament is equally important to countries like the Cayman Islands, Argentina and the Bahamas as they get ready for the various divisions of the WCL.

Will the tournament be instrumental in promoting the game within the youth in the region?

We have already seen expansion in this age group to a second Division starting this year and I expect within two to three years most of our 17 members will be fielding an U/19 squad. Of course, if players could make it to their national squad and get an opportunity to travel and represent their country at an International level, it would be a great incentive.

How popular is school cricket in the region?

Very popular and growing at an alarming rate. The middle school programmes in just about every country is becoming more popular. At the high school level, Canada leads the way with over 100 schools across the country playing in an organized format. In the USA, a high school league started in Brooklyn, New York has almost doubled since inception one year ago. In Suriname, 200 schools play under a structured program sponsored by the Ministry of Education. While Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Argentina and the Bahamas all have well organized leagues and provide excellent coaching for the players.

What challenges do you face in the growth of the game?

Taking finance out as the number one challenge as it will always be , we still have to overcome competition from all sports especially football crazy Latin America and baseball in the Central region. The duration of the game also becomes an issue in fast paced North America. The lack of professional leagues and scholarship to Universities as incentives to look forward to restricts participation to those who want to play for the mere enjoyment of the sport. Even with the efforts of the Pepsi ICC Development Programme, the lack of qualified coaches and good facilities would rank high on the list of challenges.

Bermuda participated in the last ICC U/19 Cricket World Cup in 2008. Do you foresee similar success stories with other teams participating?

The Americas Region teams have achieved modest success in the past, Canada had a tie with Full Member Bangladesh in 2002, the USA defeated Namibia in 2006 and Bermuda topped Ireland in the last ICC Cricket World Cup. We still have a long way to go but any of the top three - Bermuda, Canada or the USA - could strike on a good day.

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