Bermuda's Under-19 players could have a chance to put themselves in the frame for pro contracts when they compete at the youth World Cup in Malaysia next month.
Bermuda cricket development director Arnold Manders said the youngsters, who travel to India at the end of this month for a pre-tournament tour, would be in the international spotlight at the showpiece tournament in February. And he said the game against England could be a chance for the likes of Rodney Trott, Malachi Jones and Stefan Kelly to impress county coaches from the English professional leagues.
He said the U-19s have been training like a professional team with five sessions each week in the gym and in the nets. They have also travelled to Trinidad for a training camp and taken part in a leadership and training day at Warwick Camp.
The 15-man squad, officially announced yesterday, will travel to the Royal Cricket Academy in India on January 31 to take part in a further training camp and to play three warm-up matches against local opposition.
They will play two more practice matches against fellow qualifiers Nepal and Namibia before the tournament begins with the opening match of the World Cup against Bangladesh on February 18.
Manders said the target was to reach the Super Eight stage of the competition - meaning they will have to finish in the top two in a group that also includes Ireland and England. "If we don't do that we at least want to reach the final of the plate competition and be the top Associate team."
He added that there was an extra incentive for players to excel with talent scouts likely to be watching the tournament, looking for the next generation of professionals. "It will be an opportunity for them, if they can do well - particularly against England. You could see some names going off to the county teams, I don't know."
Manders said the commitment and desire from the squad had been first class with the players themselves requesting an extra weekly training session in the Olympic Gym. "They have been to Toronto and Trinidad. They are going to Malaysia and India. They have had opportunities to speak to some of the greats of Test cricket. This is a programme they want to be involved with.
"They are prepared to put in the work because they see the light at the end of the tunnel. They have had more exposure than most teams and I think more than most of the senior team did when they were youngsters."
Manders said the Under-19 programme would continue to thrive beyond the World Cup with the Sir Garfield Sobers Tournament and possible involvement in the senior first division. He said the set-up would serve as a model for national programmes at other age groups.
"We think we have a good model with the U-19s and we are going to try and roll that down to U-13s and U-15s. We are also trying to set up an U-10 development squad. We have the right template there with the director, the manager and the coaches. It's just a matter of finding the right people." He said the aim was to provide a steady supply line to the senior team and increase the pool of talented players available for selection.
Of the 15 selected for Malaysia, Manders added: "The coaching staff is very pleased with the team selected for the U-19 World Cup. It has a very balanced bowling attack led by senior World Cup players Malachi Jones and Stefan Kelly, three offspinners in captain Rodney Trott, Tamauri Tucker and Chris Douglas, one legspinner in Tre Govia and an abundance of medium pacers in Jordan DeSilva, Kyle Hodsoll, Gregory Maybury and Lamar Richardson.
"In the batting department, the team will rely heavily on the senior experience of captain Rodney Trott and vice captain Malachi Jones along with Chris Douglas, Terryn Fray, Young player of the Year Deunte Darrell, Stefan Kelly, Dennico Hollis and Lamar Richardson."
This article first appeared in the Bermuda Sun