The Botswana Cricket Association (BCA)’s drive to develop the sport within the country continued to gain momentum as the association launched the Botswana Premier League (BPL) Under 17 league.
The league, which will be expected to be the launching pad of young local talent into the bigger stages of the game, is expected to conclude on November 12th later this year.
According to BCA Chief Executive Officer, Girish Ramakrishna, the tournament is expected to test the credentials of the BCA’s grassroots development programmes.
“The youngsters taking part in this league are the products of our development drive. This competition will give us an indication of how far we have come and see how they can perform in tough competitions,” Ramakrishna said.
The BCA CEO says at least five teams made up of youngsters, aged between thirteen and sixteen, are expected to compete in the tournament.
The five teams are South Gaborone Tau (lions), Central Gaborone Tshukudu (Rhinos), Combined Northern Districts Mokwepa (Cobras), Combined Southern Districts Kwena (Crocodiles) and Mogobane Nkwe (Leopards).
The teams, which will be made up of the best talent from regions where cricket has already been launched, will play in a league format, with teams facing each other on home and away basis. The top two teams that will have most points at the end of the league season will then face off in the grand finale.
“We did not want to have washout matches but rather wanted tough matches, hence we decided to make regional teams which will be made of the best talents in the country,” Ramakrishna said.
He added that under this system, with the best against the best, they expect tough matches which will be enjoyable to watch.
He said with the league expected to be a 40 over format one day cricket, they expect to test how the teenagers can cope with conforming to the longer play format which is used at senior level and internationally. Ramakrishna further says, with this league, the BCA hopes to unearth talent that can be used in the national junior teams’ setup as well as in the future senior teams and at senior club levels. Ramakrishna says with the success of the BCA’s development programme, the introduction of the league is a ‘progressive pathway from introductory cricket into senior cricket’.
“Our High Performance Department felt it was now time for the better young talents to be taken out of the school leagues and to play in a league that would expose them to a higher standard of cricket and also give them regular games,” Ramakrishna added.
To ensure that young Batswana locals are not sidelined, he says they have decided that each team should field six Batswana players in each match.
He added that there is high expectation that the BPL Under 17 League will bring to the fore many new players who were not known before. Meanwhile, the BCA CEO says despite the league being for boys, they have made a condition that the two Gaborone based teams will field at least one girl in each of their matches. He says six girls from the Botswana ladies Under 19 team have been allocated three each into the two Gaborone sides as part of this rule. According to Ramakrishna, the plan is to ensure that the young ladies get tough training alongside the boys to prepare them for their upcoming regional tournament in December.