Leaders Guyana face defending champs Jamaica today
By Sean Devers
Guyana made an auspicious start to their campaign to regain the Regional Under-19 three-day cricket title when they took an early lead in the 6-team TCL West Indies Under-19 tournament in St Lucia by beating the Leeward Islands in their first round game on Saturday.
Guyana who dominated regional youth cricket in the 90’s with consecutive titles from 1992-1997, only added two more titles since Ramnaresh Sarwan led them to victory at home in 1997 when Steven Jacobs led the Guyanese to victory in Guyana in 2006 and St. Kitts in 2007.
But even when Guyana last won the title in 2007 they did not win their first round game. In St Kitts, they drew with the Leeward Islands in their opener before losing outright to Jamaica in their second match but went on to eventually win the title.
With four players back from the 2009 tournament in Jamaica including their lone first-class player Keon Joseph, the Guyanese beat the Leeward Islands by 8 wickets after an 11-wicket match haul from debutant leg-spinner Amir Khan and an unbeaten 74 from left-hander Kwame Crosse in his first game at this level.
It was a fine start by the South Americans at a time when Guyana’s cricket is at maybe an all-time low with Administrative problems off of the field and a lack of success on it, leading to a general lack of interest from the cricket public and a luck warm response from the business community.
Captained by Dexter Solomon, one of 10 players without any experience at this level, the Guyanese, managed by Alvin Johnson and Coached by Hubern Evans, take on defending champions Jamaica in a crucial second match from today.
Left-arm pacer Andre Stoll picked up two important first innings wickets to support Khan who had four and returned to make 37 in a valuable 6th wicket partnership with Crosse to set up Guyana for a first innings lead on the second day but those on the ground in St Lucia say it was a team effort that put Guyana 6 points ahead of second placed Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, going into today’s second round.
Guyana’s 12 points leave them as front runners but with Jamaica on 3 a keen battle is anticipated from the defending champions today.
Guyana’s Director of Sports Neil Kumar did not beat around the bush at the farewell function for the team when he told the Manager that for too long Guyana has not won anything and that success is very important at this juncture of Guyana’s cricket.
Acting President of the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) Bissoon Singh also told the young team that at a time when the GCB has attracted public attention for all the wrong reasons, a victory in St Lucia would help to cast a good light on Guyana’s cricket. Singh told the youths to enjoy St Lucia but to remain focused on the real reason for them being there which was to try and win matches and make Guyana proud.
The team, which could have been under mental pressure to live up to the Manager’s promise to try and win both titles, has responded in wonderful fashion as the South Americans ensured that they were the only team to register an outright win in the rain affected first round.
Bissoon Singh contacted the team after their win to congratulate them on their great start and to remind them that there are four matches left in the three-day competition to do well in as they march towards the 2010 trophy.
“I called the team just after their win today (Saturday) and the Manager put his phone on speaker so that the entire team in the dressing room could hear me congratulate them on behalf of the GCB. I told them we were proud of them and that all Guyana was wishing them well as they move forward in the competition,” Singh said
“I am hoping that Guyana can win and all we (GCB) want is for the teenagers to do their best and play with pride and passion and if the other teams are better than Guyana and win then so be it. But even at the senior level pride and commitment and passion for the game seem to be something that is not so common among many present players and we at the GCB will have to work to change that mindset since the talent is certainly there,” Singh, also the Demerara Cricket Board (DCB) President and a former GCC leg-spinner, disclosed.