WICB Youth Development Project Officer, Fawwaz Baksh, spoke exclusively towww.digicelcricket.com about the Grassroots Cricket programme, its impact on youngsters across the Caribbean and why he believes the future of West Indian cricket lies in the pride and love of youngsters for the game.
What is the background to the WICB Digicel Grassroots Cricket programme?
“The programme is aimed at introducing cricket to absolutely any young boys or girls who would like to try it. There is no need for previous cricket experience or equipment, and the programme is entirely free for participants. We travel to communities in each of the countries and lay on training in the local area – making it very friendly and non-intimidating. The programme began by targeting the Under-15s, but popular interest meant we expanded to the Under-17s.
“This weekend marks the end of the year quarter and we are bringing together Under-17s cricket clusters from across each territory to a central location. The whole weekend was subsidised by the WICB and Digicel’s sponsorship – through which we provided travel, refreshments and equipment. The aim was to give the youngsters a taste of travelling and playing like a true West Indian cricketer and allowed them to go beyond the essentials they learn at home by playing real games. The various coaches who came also got a chance to meet and learn from each other, by sharing ideas and strategies.”
What has the reaction been like to the Grassroots Programme across the Caribbean?
“What we have seen is that a lot of these youngsters would love to try cricket but their background means they haven’t had the opportunity to do so before. By travelling to their communities and laying-on the training, we are widening the pool of young cricketers across the Caribbean. We have seen a growth in the awareness of these cricketing opportunities. For example, the Under-15 Leeward Cricket squad featured eight former participants of the Grassroots programme.”
What were you hoping to see from the young cricketers in the final games?
“I wanted to see true pride and love for the game from the youngsters. If they took it as an opportunity to meet other players, learn from them and mingle, they will go home better off. The most important thing is that they take pride in representing their communities in a bit of friendly rivalry and that they realise that they could be future West Indies cricketers. I always say to the youngsters that you may start small, but you can become very big.”
You also run a grants programme for communities. What does that consist of?
“As part of our commitment to developing cricket across the Caribbean, we offer monetary grants for any cricket club – it doesn’t have to necessarily be a youth club – to use for infrastructure, training or equipment. Anything which will strengthen the club’s ability to provide cricketing training and facilities to the community is eligible for funding, be it for a new practice net, an after-school club or simply, new bats and balls. The funding is open for any club and applications open in January.”
With this weekend’s games marking the end of the 2011 Grassroots activities, what lies ahead for 2012?
“From January to June, we run Under-15s training in all our territories. This consists of free after-school training and practice laid on in local communities and any youngster who meets the age criteria can join – they simply need permission from a parent or guardian to attend. All equipment is provided and there is no cost to the youngsters wanting to try their hand at cricket.”
The WICB Digicel Grassroots Cricket Programme catered to youth cricketers from the age of 12 to 17 and was hosted in Trinidad & Tobago, BVI, Antigua, St. Maarten, St. Kitts & Nevis, Barbados, St, Lucia, Grenada, Dominica, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Jamaica and Guyana from April to December 2011.