NOT many cricket competitions are being sponsored in Essequibo and in particular for schools; yet I was indeed heartened by the initiative taken by co-sponsors Harrischan Ramballi and Yog Mahadeo of the Mahadeo Foundation.
In fact, generally, cricket in the county is quite dormant. I have had the privilege, though, of witnessing the majority of matches in the competition, which began in November 2018 and concluded on February 20, 2019. It was earmarked for secondary schools in the Region.
Mr Ramballi was very passionate about introducing a competitive atmosphere within the cricketing community as well as seeking to formulate a developmental path for budding young cricketers in Essequibo. In this regard, sponsors were acquired for the seven secondary schools where the players received uniforms, gear and in other cases free transportation to the matches.
The preparation of pitches was primarily done by Mr Ramballi with assistance from Mr Sam Bacchus who facilitated the use of the Imam Bacchus ground for several matches without compensation. The Affiance Number 1 and Reliance Sports clubs were also instrumental in providing invaluable support to the success of the tournament.
While I was impressed with the thought process of introducing such a competition; much more is needed especially by the Essequibo Cricket Board (ECB) whose presence at the games was a disappointment. I was of the firm belief that with the collaboration of the ECB, its paid coach should have been working with the schools at various periods. This did not materialise and from my observations, there were youngsters who seemingly were playing a competitive match for the first time.
In such instances, they were uncomfortable with the gear, some were clueless about the rules and field-placements while others it seemed needed prior motivation which a coach could have done. There were also technical deficiencies in all departments including a few of the bowlers who had suspected actions.
Generally, though, there was a genuine commitment from the players who were eager and confident to display their talent. The tournament had a buzz about it which, upon reflection, had similar vibes as when I competed during my time at secondary school.
There were instances too whereby some players had to be debarred from participating because they were not attending school regularly, yet they wanted to play. Next year I am sure those defaulters will be on the school’s register with maximum attendance.
Notwithstanding the challenges of an inaugural tournament, it fulfilled the objective of having competitive cricket being reintroduced into the education system and getting the players interested with the aim of seriously pursuing a career in the sport. I therefore envisage that national Under-15 all-rounder Sheldon Charles will ascend to greater heights since he was stunningly the most outstanding player.
He exhibited his maturity while excelling with both bat and ball. Other exciting prospects included Arian Doodnauth, Renard Ramroop and Kamesh Lall – batsmen with good techniques and temperament, Raj Ramballi is a promising leg-spinner while Dreshawn Phillips and Alex Ally have proved to be exciting fast bowlers with genuine pace and rhythm.
It is the expectation therefore that ECB, along with other stakeholders, will facilitate these players’ progress in the sport through camps, continuous coaching and more competitions.
Credit therefore to the sponsors and the Department of Education that the Ramballi and Mahadeo Foundation Under-17 tournament was successfully executed and has created opportunities that will further enhance the future of a core of very talented young cricketers. (Elroy Stephney)