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National youth cricket a success
The future looks bright for cricket in T&T after a year of many successes, as some excellent individual performances led to two regional titles at youth level. The national under-17 team won the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Tobago House of Assembly Regional 50-over tournament, while the national U-15 team was victorious in the WICB Regional two-day tournament for a record seventh time. The national U-19 team could not make it a beaver trick of titles for the year, but performed well, finishing second and third respectively in the WICB three-day and 50-over competitions. The U-17 50-over tournament in Tobago, which bowled off on July 1, was the first of the year. The team, captained by Varindra Jagrup, won four of its five matches to claim the round-robin tournament. T&T finished on 24.8 points, while Barbados finished second on 19.9 points in a competition decided in the final round. In the final round, T&T needed to defeat Guyana and Barbados had to lose against the Leeward Islands for T&T to win the title. Led by Jeron Maniram’s unbeaten 94, the national team chased a challenging 243 to win by four wickets.
T&T’s celebrations were halted, as the Barbados/Leeward Islands clash was still in progress. When the results came in that Barbados lost by 35 runs, it was jubilation among the T&T squad as they were crowned champions. National opening batsman Amir Jangoo won the Most Valuable Player award, after scoring 259 runs at an average of 51.8. Five days later the U-15 two-day tournament bowled off in Jamaica. The U-15 team also held its nerve in the final round, chasing a competitive 165 to defeat the host country by seven wickets to claim the title. T&T needed to win its match, as the Windward Islands won its match earlier in the day to momentarily go to the top of the standings. Opening batsman Keagan Simmons led the charge on the day, scoring an unbeaten 96. Coach Glen Dwarika, said fitness was one of the keys to success, as the team played five two-day matches in a 15-day period. Dwarika also gave credit to trainer Gerald Garcia, who gave the players the necessary treatment to play through their injuries. The national team’s superior bowling record also made a difference. In all youth regional tournaments, bonus points are given to every wicket taken by a fast or medium pace bowler.
This was implemented to encourage more fast bowling throughout the region, in an effort to regain the glory days of West Indian fast bowling that brought fear to opposing teams in the 1970’s and 1980’s. T&T’s fast and medium pace bowlers took 49 wickets, while Windward Islands could only muster 22. By the time the national U-19 team began its third round match against Barbados in St Kitts on July 27, the U-15 team had already wrapped up the U-15 title. Despite national U-19 batsman Jeremy Solozano finishing as the leading run scorer (334), the team ended the three-day competition in second place. In the 50-over competition also played in St Kitts, T&T showed some quality, but finished third. National spin bowler Bryan Charles ended as the top overall wicket-taker in both competitions, grabbing 43 wickets. Solozano and Charles were both chosen for the West Indies U-19 team after their performances. National U-19 wicket-keeper batsman Nicholas Pooran was also selected to the West Indies U-19 team. Pooran did not participate in the WICB Regional tournament as he was chosen to represent the T&T Red Steel in the Inaugural Limacol Caribbean Premier League, which was staged from July 30-August 24. The ICC U-19 Cricket World Cup will take place in February in Dubai.