WI cricket: Is that light we are seeing on the horizon?
Kirk McKenzie hits the ball to the off side as wicketkeeper Jahmar Hamilton reacts. (Photo: CWI Media/Phillip Spooner)

In 2017, current Cricket West Indies (CWI) High Performance Manager Mr Graeme West spoke glowingly of the opportunity "to create a world-class, high-performance facility" following Cricket West Indies' (CWI) joint venture with the Antigua and Barbuda Government in buying the Coolidge cricket facility there.

"I would really now like to see us develop a facility in Antigua that is going to allow us to develop players to the highest level. We pretty much have a blank canvas, so that, for me, is something that I am really looking forward to…" Mr West told this newspaper back then.

Today, CWI administrators are watching their dream materialise at what is now not just a training centre, but the home (headquarters) of West Indies cricket.

Indeed, we suspect history will record the acquisition of the Coolidge facility as the lead achievement of the administration led by Mr Dave Cameron (2013-2019).

Hard evidence of its increasing value came at the tail end of the recent regional 4-day cricket season when the youthful West Indies Academy team topped a tri-team series involving their seniors.

Those seniors, including several who have played for West Indies in red and white ball cricket, were grouped in squads named in honour of legendary West Indies batsmen Messrs George Headley and Everton Weekes.

Very few would have attended the games in Antigua — most people watched on YouTube streaming. For sure though, the standard of cricket played by the youngsters — most in their early 20s and late teens — was eye-catching, to put it mildly.

Of four centuries scored in the tri-series, three were scored by Academy members, including 22-year-old Jamaican Mr Kirk McKenzie, who extended his knock to a double century (221). Guyanese, Mr Kevlon Anderson, 22, and Barbadian Mr Kevin Wickham, 20, also scored centuries for the Academy.

Mr McKenzie, one of two members of the youthful squad currently with West Indies A in Bangladesh, followed up with a polished top score of 86 in the drawn opening 4-day game against the youthful Bangladeshis which ended Friday.

The only century scored by a non-academy batter in the tri-series came from 24-year-old West Indies Test wicketkeeper/batter Mr Joshua Da Silva, who is among those having benefited significantly from development programmes at Coolidge.

Not just their batters but Academy bowlers were also impressive; not least 19-year-old Barbadian seamer, Mr Johann Layne, who took a five-wicket haul on first-class début against Team Headley.

It needs to be said that, even before the tri-series, young players part-nurtured at Coolidge were putting up their hands during the 2022-2023 regional 4-day championship. These include 24-year-old Dominican Mr Alick Athanaze, who topped the batting aggregate and averages with 647 runs in 10 innings, and others such as 22-year-old St Lucian Mr Kimani Melius and 19-year-old Guyanese Mr Matthew Nandu, both of whom scored maiden first-class centuries.

We note word from CWI of thought being given to smaller academy programmes linked to that in Antigua across the wider region.

As CWI president, Dr Kishore Shallow, was reported as saying, much will depend on the ability to find resources. For that to happen, we suspect regional governments and 'big business' will have to help.

We wait in hope.

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