CUL DE SAC--The St. Maarten Cricket Academy, like so many people and businesses in the island and around the world, has been hit hard by the novel coronavirus.
The aim of the cricket academy is primarily to select the more advanced cricketers in the elementary schools Kiddy Cricket programmes which is conducted at seven schools in the island. The academy is opened on Monday to Thursday from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. The cricketers are given snacks and proper refreshments to keep them hydrated at all times. The young cricketers are learning advance techniques in batting, bowling, and fielding skills.
The young men are also taught about life skills: such as, respect, teamwork, consideration for others, which would equip them to be well rounded men in society. The young and enthusiastic cricketers are coached by Keith Carty and Kern Saunders both of whom are Cricket West Indies Level One certified coaches. But, the COVID-19 pandemic has halted actions from the academy much to the dismay of the 32 boys who are registered with the programme.
The academy started on January 14 but was abruptly stopped on March 17.
In the area of batting, the youngsters gain advance knowledge in batting grip, batting stance, bat swing, straight drive, forward defence, and the pull shot. For the batting grip the hands are together in the middle of the handle. The “v” shaped by the thumb and fore finger on both hands should line up between the splice and the outside edge of the bat.
When in a stance the batter stands side-ways on. The feet are parallel and comfortably apart. The head should be still and eye level. The top hand should rest comfortably on the inside of the thigh. The steps for a proper bat swing are swing or lift the bat naturally and keep hands in line with body and at the top of the bat swing, also keep wrist cocked and blade open.
In the bowling department, the coaches seek to fine-tune the cricketers’ grip of the ball, the run up and bowling action. The bowler should place his middle and index fingers on top of the ball with the seam running between them. Make sure the thumb is on the seam and ensure the ball does not touch palm of hand.
For fielding, the children practise proper hand positions when taking high catches and low catches. They are shown good throwing posture and techniques, proper ground-fielding techniques and wicket-keeping skills.
Jadurany Le Blanc is a promising wicketkeeper. “COVID-19 affected our cricket academy in that we do not get a lot of time to practise with our coaches to teach us, and [have – Ed.] fun. I do not have a lot of space to practise by myself. I missed training with my friends.” said Jadurany Blanc.
Shaiquon Stewart who is a student at the St. Maarten Academy in form 2A3 stated, “The coronavirus has not only made a negative impact on our cricket academy but also the economy of St. Maarten. Despite quarantining for two months we have been nurturing our skills by observing Pro cricketers techniques (on YouTube). The cricket academy was on its way to [creating] a winning U15 cricket team for St. Maarten.
“Our academy has very talented and skilful players who would succeed in a career in cricket but has been put to a halt due to the COVID-19. The virus has affected our team by decreasing the level of improvements because we would have learned more when we are on the field rather than practising at home by ourselves. I hope we could resume cricket as soon as possible.”
Chirag Aswani is in group eight at the Browlia A. Maillard Campus (MAC Campus one). He reminisces on the good times he had at the cricket field. “On the green grassy cricket field behind Cost-U-Less. I practised cricket from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. I practised thrice per week.
“My coaches trained us well. I was able to keep myself fit. Due to COVID-19, I had to stop practising because the virus is deadly and I want to keep healthy. One important step to be protected is social distancing. I missed practice. Cricket is my passion. I love cricket. Stay home. Stay safe.”
Jordan Anderson is a pupil at the Browlia F. Maillard Campus in group 7B. His comments on the impact of the virus on his team at the cricket academy stated. “I am also a member of the St. Maarten Cricket Academy. I used to look forward to going to training after school because cricket is one of my favourite sports and this is the only way I get to train because I do not have space at home.
“I also looked forward to the treats that we would get after training in the evenings even though some of them are new to me. KFC is my favourite on Thursdays. The virus has made me miss school and my friends daily. I feel stuck in my house and I cannot wait to go back to normal.”
Niakoy Phillips who is a group seven pupil at the Genevieve De Weever Primary School stated, “The coronavirus has affected me in many different ways: most of all, my school, my family and my playing time. I cannot go out to play. I cannot even go out to practise my cricket. I sometimes wonder when I will be able to go back to school. May God be with us and help us.”
At this point, no one knows when things will return to normal on the island but a new normal is just around the horizon. As of now, the cricketers from the cricket academy are sad that they are unable to play cricket at this moment.