SANTA CRUZ, St Elizabeth - Manchester will be extending a helping hand to neighbours St Elizabeth by hosting a game in the West Indies Under-15 cricket tournament, July 11-26, organisers say.
Tournament co-ordinator Brian Breese says the fifth-round game between Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago will be held at the Manchester High School ground in Mandeville.
Manchester High, the current all-island champions, join St Elizabeth Technical High School, the Treasure Beach Sports Park and Academy, Alpart Sports Club and Manley Horne sports ground as venues for the two-week tournament.
Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago apart, teams involved in the annual event are defending champions Barbados, Guyana, Leeward Islands and Windward Islands.
Ninety-six players and officials will be housed at boarding facilities at Munro College at Potsdam, in Malvern, St Elizabeth.
President of the St Elizabeth Cricket Association Daren Powell, who is currently on a short trip overseas, told the Jamaica Observer Central just before departure that the local organising committee headed by Treasure Beach hotelier Jason Henzell was coping well.
He praised members for their "assertiveness" in dealing with the inevitable challenges. Powell, a former West Indies fast bowler and a member of the St Elizabeth Parish Council (PNP -- Malvern Division), urged school principals and community leaders to mobilise spectator support for the Jamaica team during the tournament.
Breese told the Observer Central that while the names of all team members had not yet been submitted, "we now have (names) of all the umpires and match referees" and things on the ground are "falling nicely into place".
The Windward Islands had indicated an early arrival, on July 7, for a short camp at GC Foster College in St Catherine, Breese said.
An upbeat Henzell said all venues had been inspected by the Jamaica Cricket Association and there was now only need for "minor tweaking" to get everything in place.
He believes the tournament will provide an opportunity for a "genuine legacy" in terms of creating "a high-performance centre for cricket" in St Elizabeth. Henzell claimed the tournament had also led to a new-found "unity in cricket" across the parish which he feels could act as a catalyst for the revival of the flagging parish association.
In terms of cricket, the regional Under-15 tournament will be the first of its stature to be hosted by Jamaica entirely outside of Kingston.
Local observers say the development is a reflection of increased investment in cricket infrastructure in St Elizabeth in recent years. It is also being hailed as a victory for those promoting sports tourism.