As cricket across the world took a collective standstill during the COVID-19 pandemic, Vanuatu surged to the forefront of the sporting world with the BetBarter Vanuatu Blast giving cricket starved fans across the world some live action from the island country.
The T10 Blast was live-streamed around the world with just over 600,000 people tuning in to watch the grand final between the Sharks and Panthers with the Sharks taking victory to seal what was a historic competition for Vanuatu cricket.
However the question stands, where does Vanuatu Cricket go from here given the positivity of the T10 Blast?
In this week’s edition of the Emerging Cricket Podcast, Daniel Beswick, Tim Cutler and Nick Skinner discussed the potential for the sport in Vanuatu in the wake of the T10 Blast.
Cutler said that going forward Vanuatu have a perfect blueprint to follow in the form of the meteoric rise of Vanuatu’s pacific neighbours in Papua New Guinea.
“They just have to start building that base now. To use another Pacific nation’s development as an example, and what PNG has done with the help of Cricket Australia, New Zealand Cricket and the Australian Government, putting those funds into local grounds.
“Vanuatu should look to do the same thing, they’re a country of islands as well. It’s to get facilities where people can be playing. It doesn’t have to be international match standard. But to get school programs in as broadly as they can,” Cutler said.
After falling at the final hurdle in the two previous global qualifiers, the PNG men’s perseverance paid off with qualification for the T20 World Cup gained in October 2019. The Barramundis’ sustained commitment to the cause, along with the team’s performances in 50 over cricket, lays a blueprint for Vanuatu to follow.
After rising through ranks of the World Cricket League, Papua New Guinea reaffirmed their spot in the top all-Associate 50-over competition when they qualified – in remarkable fashion – for the new ODI Cricket World Cup League 2 in 2019.
One rung below sits Vanuatu, part of the ICC’s Cricket World Cup Challenge League A, a three-year competition that forms part of the 2023 Cricket World Cup qualification pathway. The island nation is drawn in a group that includes Associate heavyweights Canada and Singapore.
Like any Associate cricket nation, the main challenge is playing consistent international cricket, with Vanuatu’s CWC League matches temporarily postponed in amidst the pandemic.
The addition of the T10 Blast ensured Vanuatu’s players are playing regular domestic cricket whilst also showcasing their talents to the world.
The Emerging Cricket Podcast’s Daniel Beswick said that while the pandemic is currently wreaking havoc across many continents that the Pacific’s low infection rates could lead to an opportunity for the region’s nations to play each other in the quest for consistent matchplay.
“Given that the Pacific are over the hill and almost done with COVID…there is a possibility perhaps of a tri-nations or a four nations tournament that they could potentially put on with the streams available now.”
“You never know, if there’s a time and a place for them to really showcase their international game to the world then it might be an opportunity for them,” Beswick said.