Seven young Antiguan and Barbudan cricketers returned to Antigua and Barbuda on Sunday after successfully completing the 2022 Antigua and Barbuda-U.K. Cricket Exchange Programme. Glenn Williams 17, Michael Harilall 18, Jawakie Joseph 21, Jalen Francis 19, Glenton Williams 19, D’ahri Francis 19 and Chey-Anne Moses 18 were selected from a competitive field of promising cricketers to participate in the programme.
The cricketers were placed in cricket clubs across the UK and over the course of four months from the beginning of May until the end of August they competed in various matches and tournaments in their respective leagues. Glenn and Jalen were in Nottinghamshire attached to the Bingham Cricket Club and Keyworth Cricket Club respectively. Chey-Anne, Michael and Jawakie played in London at the Crouch End, Finchley and Harrow Cricket Clubs and finally D’ahri and Glenton played at Grantham Cricket Club in Lincolnshire.
Through this exchange programme the young cricketers honed and developed their skills at the game while experiencing new places, living in a different culture and making lasting friendships through sport. The annual exchange, now in its third year, was conceptualized by Minister of Education of Sports, the Honourable Daryll Matthew, Antigua and Barbuda’s High Commissioner in London, Her Excellency Karen-Mae Hill, and the Performance Coach at Keyworth Cricket Club, Keith Williams. It has also benefited from the endorsement of all four of the Antiguan and Barbudan Cricketing Knights.
The Exchange, now in its 4th year, gives high performing cricketers from Antigua and Barbuda and the supporting UK clubs the opportunity to participate in a sports exchange programme that would expose them to the game of cricket in different countries at a competitive level. The first two Antiguans arrived at Keyworth in 2019 and in September of that year, Antigua and Barbuda hosted two boys from Nottinghamshire in a reciprocal visit. Since then the programme has grown steadily and 2022 saw the largest intake with seven cricketers – six boys and one girl.
The experience was overall enjoyable and educative for the cricketers. A few of them shared their experiences about their time in London. D’hari Francis said ‘my experience staying with a family was wonderful as you felt like you had your own family.’ Glen Williams added, ‘they treated me like their second son. They made me feel welcomed.’ There were also some cultural adjustments as cricketers from a small island. For Glenton Williams, a spin bowler, the cold weather was one of them. ‘Well you see now I bowl spin, and to grip that ball, 12 degrees is very hard, he said. Glen Williams, a fast bowler, had to get use to the grassy, slower English pitches and the more controlled pace of the English batsmen which he said was challenging at times.
But for Jaylen Francis, a batsman, while he struggled in the beginning with the swing bowlers by the end of the season he was able to improve his control of the ball dramatically.
High Commissioner Hill highlighted the importance of the exchange programme to the development of cricket in Antigua and Barbuda. She said, ‘I’ve seen remarkable development in the young men and ladies who have taken part in the exchange over the years. Their level of confidence as cricketers and individuals, the expansion of their global outlook, are all noticeable. Having this opportunity to see another part of the world and to learn how cricket is played from another country’s vantage point is an invaluable opportunity that will be of tremendous benefit to their future careers maybe assisting them with the coveted prize to make the West Indies senior team one day’.
Similar sentiments were echoed by Keith Williams who stressed that cricket was a valuable sport because it teaches more than the game itself. He said that in playing cricket the players will gain life skills that they will take with them for life. He said, ‘Cricket is a really unusual game in that it is played by individuals on behalf of the team. If they do not behave in a fair and honourable manner, this is noted on the cricket field. It teaches them the ability to fail and to understand how to deal with failure and then do something about this so you have less of a chance to fail next time. It also contains the elements of camaraderie as all the people who have come over to this side and the people they have played cricket with they become friends for life.
Sports Minister, The Honourable Daryll Matthew, commended the cricketers on their performance, noting that they had made the nation of Antigua and Barbuda proud. He said, “ It is a great thing that they have been able to represent the nation at this level of competition. By all accounts they have performed well and they have bright futures ahead of them as they develop in the game. I wish them the very best of luck in their future sporting careers. I extend special thanks to the host clubs and families for their generous and enthusiastic support over the years”.
The new round of cricketers who will participate in next year’s programme will be selected later this year at trials in October. The programme will expand the size of the programme to ten players from Antigua and Barbuda for the 2023 season.