Cricket in the Caribbean is a part of the islands’ history, is steeped in rich tradition and occupies an ineradicable part in the firmament of each and every part of the West Indies. To imagine there being no Cricket in the Caribbean would be akin to imagining the context of sport without the spirit of competition. Seeing something like Formula 1 without Michael Schumacher or the pop music firmament without its king, i.e., Michael Jackson. It’s as if the great Academy Award-winning Sound Of Music were to be a movie minus music itself.
Certain things can never be left behind, ignored or denied their presence under the sun.
And cricket is a unifier like few other things in the Caribbean.
Today when you see a united West Indies team playing together, regardless of where a Pollard, Pooran, Hetmyer, Hope, Holder or Allen hail from, there’s pride in seeing individuals belonging to different islands coming together in competing under a common banner.
But just imagine if a Shimron Hetmyer or Shai Hope or Akeal Hosein weren’t scouted as talents by their individual islands and not made to undergo rigorous cricketing training programmes?
What if there weren’t any vital programs in the first place to harness the talent of the youth in the Caribbean from the grassroots level?
Among the many important cricket-developing programmes that aim to shape the skill-set of the youth from an early stage itself, the Caribbean is proud of vehicles like the much-vaunted and widely-known Northern Cluster Grassroots Cricket Programme, which has now already reached its fourth edition.
Make no mistake.
The Northern Cluster Grassroots Cricket Programme is no ordinary cricket coaching camp or clinic; an open-to-all cricket programme, the context behind the cricketing initiative is to identify talented youth, subject it to rigorous albeit fun-filled cricketing contests, and ultimately, shape the talent in the Caribbean from a very early age.
The earlier you begin in sport, the faster you have the chance of reaching your destination, i.e., the national team that sets out to garner glory for a country.
Then whether some make it to the club-level or some reach the country is down to individual performance and that thing utterly underrated called consistency. What’s important, however, is to get early exposure to the sport that brings the Caribbean together like few other things can: cricket.
And among the finest things ever about St Lucia’s Gros Islet-based Northern Cluster Grassroots Cricket Programme is that it isn’t just a standalone initiative with imparting cricket training at its heart; it is supported by the serene island’s Ministry of Youth Development.
The sky will be the limit wherever the government will get involved in promoting the sport and joining hands with the forces that drive cricket.
Ditto for St Lucia’s Gros Islet, home to the one of a kind summer cricketing engagement called Northern Cluster Grassroots Cricket Programme.
The camp, on an average, attracts upto sixty young cricketers, both male and female.
It’s a platform from where to unleash your potential. And among the driving forces of the cricketing clinic is Mr. Alton Crafton himself, a name widely known to any around the Caribbean.
In an age where the focus often rests on the player and his returns for the team and the contribution to the ticking scoreboard or whether to the wicket’s column, nothing could be just as important as the contribution of his Guru.
When you hear the term cricket commentary, for instance, you are reminded of the great Tony Cozier, an exemplary man who became the “voice of the West Indies cricket.”
But in the Caribbean islands, when you take the name cricket mentor and coach, you perhaps may not find a better adjective or description than Mr. Alton Crafton.
A man whose meaning of existence and presence in the West Indies is cricket itself, Mr. Crafton, who was himself an active cricketer from 1991 to 2003, is today a paragon of cricket coaching, especially here in St Lucia, one of the most picturesque parts of the Caribbean.
A life that’s dedicated toward uplifting the other, in scouting talent from an early age, putting with honest sincerity and zeal, his energies in shaping many a youths’ future, Alton Crafton personifies cricket like few other things can. He’s the coach and mentor of the young talent from St. Lucia Kimani Melius who happened to lead the Windies in the Under-19 World Cup 2020.
To the discerning eye, it may not be incorrect to conjecture that his contribution at mentoring players after taking them under his able wings is nothing less than that of Darren Sammy’s brave contribution at helping his West Indies lift two World Cup titles (ICC World T20, 2012 and 2016).
Central to this programme, like previous editions, will be Mr. Crafton’s presence.
And it’s a well-laid out programme composite of several cricketing drills that not only aim to test the talent and potential of youth but expose them to the great sport that has birthed personalities as iconic as Sir Sobers, Sir Viv, Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose, Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir George Headley, Charlie Griffith, Stafanie Taylor, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul among the many from the Caribbean islands.
This year’s camp that’s already in progress shall end on the final day of the penultimate week of August, 2021.
Make sure to check out the itinerary and be a part of it if your heart beats for Cricket and you wish to expand your horizons from an early age.
There’s nothing as exemplary as being an early jet-starter in a sport.