Barbados’ cricket and its tourism product are set to receive a simultaneous boost next year.
The island will host a festival of English cricket in 2018 with both the North-South Series and the MCC’s Champion County Match against Essex to break new ground in the Caribbean.
The North-South Series, which was launched in Dubai and Abu Dhabi earlier this year as part of England’s preparations for hosting the 2019 World Cup, will feature two matches at Bridgetown’s famous Kensington Oval on March 18 and 21, followed by a third at the Three Ws Oval on March 23.
Then attention will return to the Kensington Oval for the first-class, four-day fixture between an MCC XI and Essex, the 2017 County Champions, from March 27 to 30 – which will be a day-night fixture played with pink Dukes balls.
President of the Barbados Cricket Association, Conde Riley, told Barbados TODAY this evening that the initiative would provide a timely boost for tourism and cricket in the country.
Riley said that there was a time when several English counties came to Barbados to play cricket in their off-season and prior to the start of their domestic season, but then they started travelling to destinations such as Dubai and South Africa. He said next year’s cricket festival could rekindle additional tours by the counties. He said local cricketers would also benefit from rubbing shoulders and interacting with these professionals next year.
“Barbados has very good cricketing infrastructure and competitiveness as a destination for initiatives such as this,” Riley noted, while commending Foster and Ince and other persons for the role they had played in making the festival a reality.
Riley also indicated that entities such as the Cricket Legends would be involved in the festival. He noted it was important that Kensington Oval possess and maintain the necessary indoor facilities to encourage these types of initiatives.
The fixtures have also been welcomed by the greatest of all Barbadian cricketers, Sir Garfield Sobers. He was delighted that the announcement was made to coincide with the second Royal London One-Day International between England and West Indies at Trent Bridge, his home county ground of Nottinghamshire for which he first played on a three-year contract in 1968.
“Barbados is honoured to have been chosen to stage the ECB North-South Series and MCC Champion County Match for the very first time next year,” Sir Garfield said.
“We have been home to numerous prestigious cricket events and this will once again be the case as we welcome the players to our lovely shores. We look forward to hosting them, and trust that it will be an intense and high-quality showing of the game.”
John Stephenson, the MCC’s head of cricket, also expressed his organisation’s pleasure at bringing the cricketing extravaganza to the Caribbean. “MCC is delighted to be hosting the Champion County Match in Barbados next year, and continuing the Club’s collaboration with the ECB.
“It has been a long-stated aim of the MCC World Cricket committee to help to reinvigorate Test cricket in areas of the world where attendances are dwindling, and MCC believe that playing a four-day pink-ball first-class match in Barbados can help to do that.
“The Club also hopes it will provide a platform for the iconic Kensington Oval to go on to potentially host a day/night Test Match in the near future.
“The pink-ball Champion County Match utilises players from ECB’s North-South Series and gives current and future England players valuable exposure to day/night cricket in the longer format. MCC is pleased to play its part in helping the ECB and looks forward to welcoming Essex for this fixture next year,” Stephenson stated.
Former Test captain and the ECB’s director of cricket, Andrew Strauss, praised the involvement of the BCA in the process while noting the festival would enhance the level of interest in the game.
“Taking the North-South Series to Barbados is an exciting prospect for everyone involved. It follows on from the England Lions fixtures against West Indies A in February and March, and we hope the MCC’s decision to take their Champion County Match to the Caribbean will add to the level of interest and support both in the West Indies and among cricket fans at home.
“I’d like to thank Cricket West Indies and the Barbados Cricket Association for their support in allowing us to stage the 2018 North-South Series on the island. There was some excellent cricket in the first series in the UAE, most of it from the South, which has already proved valuable to the England selectors and management – and I’m sure the North will be determined to make their mark next year.”
The South won the first series 3-0, but the North will have a new coaching team in 2018 following the appointment of the Durham captain Paul Collingwood who will be assisted by Paul Franks – the former Nottinghamshire all-rounder who is now a member of the coaching staff at Trent Bridge and has been nominated by the Outlaws following their Royal London One-Day Cup win at Lord’s in July.
Mark Ramprakash, the former Middlesex and Surrey batsman who is now England’s batting coach, has been appointed head coach of the South, and will be assisted by Andy Flower – who worked alongside the England assistant coach Paul Farbrace in this year’s series.
The 13-man North and South squads will be finalised by the England selectors, with input from the coaching teams, in December – when they also confirm the England Lions squad for the West Indies tour, which includes three four-day matches and three 50-over fixtures split between Jamaica and Antigua.
Sporta Group, incorporating Sporta Tours, has again been appointed as tour partner for the North-South Series and MCC Champion County Match. The company will manage the travel and logistical arrangements for the ECB, MCC and Essex, along with an exclusive supporters’ tour package for fans looking to follow the action to the Caribbean.