Today sees the Americas Under-19 Championship start in King City, Ontario, Canada. With the prize for the winners being a place in the World Cup in Malaysia next year, it is sure to be a week of competitive and exciting cricket.
Argentina, Bermuda, Canada and the Cayman Islands are all taking part in the tournament for the fourth time, with Canada hosting for the third time. The Bahamas play for the first time on their own, after playing as part of a combined side along with Belize and Panama in the inaugural tournament in 2001. They are also just the second affiliate member to take part in the tournament, with the Caymans being an affiliate member when they played in 2001. Defending champions the USA miss their first tournament due to their ongoing suspension from the ICC. With news coming through recently of much improved youth development in the states, this is disappointing news indeed.
So with the defending champions out of the running, Canada will be looking to claim the title for the third time. As hosts, playing in familiar conditions (all but one of the squad is from Ontario) they are certainly favourites. But Bermuda will be breathing down their necks. With two of their senior World Cup squad members in the team for this event, and some regular matches in Bermuda's national one-day league, they are the best prepared team for the tournament, and will be giving Canada some stiff competition.
The Cayman Islands only beat Argentina in the 2005 event, but will be hoping to go one better their 2003 performance when they beat Argentina, Bermuda and the USA to finish second, almost winning after having Canada on the ropes in their match. Some of their squad play at the highest level in the Cayman Islands domestic competition.
Argentina are at a disadvantage for this tournament as they are the only one of the five teams currently in their off-season. But they will be inspired by their senior teams remarkable performance in finishing as runners-up in the World Cricket league Division Three tournament, and four of that team will be in King City for this tournament. They haven't won a game in the previous two tournaments, and will be hoping to improve on that record this time out.
As already mentioned, affiliate member the Bahamas previously played as part of a combined side in 2001, but are making their first appearance in their own right. Whilst they are certainly the underdogs in this event, they will be hoping to cause a shock or two. They are currently the highest ranked affiliate member in the Americas, and a good performance in this event and by the senior team in next years World Cricket League Division Five tournament in Jersey could put them well on the way to associate membership of the ICC.
Like they do for every tournament, the ICC issued a media release for this important World Cup qualifying event. Sadly, it contained errors that could have been fixed with just a few minutes research. They mange to shoehorn three errors into the first two paragraphs. First they claim that Argentina are making their first appearance in the tournament as an ICC associate member. Argentina became an ICC associate member in 1974 and took part in the previous three Americas Under-19 tournaments. Secondly, they claim that the Cayman Islands are making their debut in this tournament. They're not. They have played in all three tournaments to date, even finishing as runners-up in 2003! The third error is one that, to be fair, several people do make. They describe King City as being in Toronto. It is actually a 45 minute drive north of Toronto. For a UK-based comparison, saying that King City is in Toronto is like saying that Leeds is in Manchester. They also fail to point out that the Bahamas have played before as part of a combined team, but we can perhaps let them off for that one.
Coming after error strewn press releases on the forthcoming Netherlands v Bermuda Intercontinental Cup matches and on the first China v Hong Kong women's match last month, it really is a poor showing when cricket's governing body can not be bothered to do the research that ensures accuracy in what they dish out to the media. These media releases are often posted almost verbatim on cricket websites and in newspapers, thus making everyone else inaccurate. Is it any wonder that some people don't take the development program seriously when the ICC's media relations people can't be bothered being accurate when talking about it? Time for the ICC to shape up and do some research!