Saturday, February 4, 2023

Smith, Pradhan hail ICC for U19 T20 World Cup

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As teams put the final touches to the preparations for the inaugural ICC Under-19 Women’s T20 World Cup in South Africa, the game has been lauded for the step that it is taking by staging this tournament. 

Former South African captain and ICC U19 World Cup alumni, Graeme Smith, saluted the ICC for its commitment to growing the game across the world, while former India women’s bowler and newly appointed ICC Women’s Cricket Manager, Snehal Pradhan, applauded the ICC for introducing a platform for more opportunities for the future stars of the women’s game through this gap-bridging pathway to senior and professional cricket. 

As former international cricketers who have advanced to administration roles in the game, Smith and Pradhan are in the unique position of understanding the excitement of teams preparing for a World Cup and the work that it takes behind the scenes to deliver a world-class sporting event that will leave a lasting legacy.

“A junior World Cup is such a terrific platform to assess where you are as a cricketer with aspirations for the future,” Smith said ahead of the tournament starting on 14 January. 

“It is very exciting to represent your country, at any level, and I am sure there have been goosebumps across all the teams who are flying in for the Under19 Women’s T20 World Cup. It’s incredible to think that rivalries that will play out for years will be established at this tournament, as well as friendships that will last a lifetime,” he added. 

Pradhan believes that this is an incredible and well-deserved opportunity for the players. 

“It can’t be overstated what a great opportunity this is to experience a global event in their teens. They are getting exposure which they deserve, and this will provide a great step to progress to senior cricket,” she said.

A junior women’s T20 World Cup is a critical addition to the global game. The birth of this tournament was delayed by the global Covid-19 pandemic but will now finally provide future stars with the same platform as their male counterparts. 

“That is a massive statement in itself, and we must commend the ICC and the different boards around the world for taking the growth of the game so seriously,” Pradhan continued. 

Smith, recognized as one of the game’s great leaders, added that it was very encouraging to see flags that he had never played against. 

“The health of the game is in its diversity. To see so many countries building a cricket culture is exciting for anyone involved in the game, because it reiterates the welcome that this sport provides to all who show an interest in it. Talent can come from any corner, as long as access to opportunity is provided,” Smith pointed out. 

Pradhan echoed his sentiments, adding that making it a 16-team tournament was also progressive. 

“We must commend the ICC Women’s Committee for making this a 16-team event. It takes bravery to invite countries that may not otherwise be at a World Cup. That allows the game to grow markets where, traditionally, cricket is not a big sport. 

“There are several heart-warming stories already emerging from the make-up of the teams assembled in South Africa. This inaugural Women’s Under19 T20 World Cup truly is a global representation of the game and its future. 

“Indonesia and Rwanda are playing a global event for the first time. Already, that is a success story before a ball has been bowled,” Pradhan pointed out. 

There has never been a better time to be involved in cricket for women. There is an infectious energy, as evidenced by the record crowd of over 86,000 that crammed into the MCG for the last Women’s T20 World Cup final. 

“The commercialization of the women’s game now makes business sense. It is a huge growth area,” Pradhan explained. 

“Women deserve equal opportunity, because this sport has huge popularity.”

As the next generation embark on a new journey in South Africa, they will be sure to embrace the magnitude of the occasion. 

All 41 games will be played in Benoni and Potchefstroom, from 14 – 29 January 2023.

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