By Sean Devers
Albert Smith, the coach of the Guyana team, which begins its President’s Cup regional One-Day cricket campaign against the Combined Colleges and Campuses (CCC) on Thursday at the National Stadium, says is he confident his team will be very competitive despite the unavailability of six key players.
The long serving Coach says that while the team will defiantly suffer from inexperience, the players are all talented and the absence of the established players has given the younger ones the opportunity to ‘step up’ and make their presence felt at the regional level.
Guyana, who last won the title when they beat Barbados in near darkness in the 2005 KFC Cup final at Bourda, will miss the services of Skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Sewnarine Chattergoon and Leon Johnson due to West Indies commitments, while Lennox Cush and Esuan Crandon are on the injured list.
“I want to go into this competition with a positive frame of mind and while nothing is perfect and a few things could have been done differently leading up to Thursday’s opening game, I will not waste too much time dwelling on the negatives.
If we as a team (players, coach and Manager) can produce positive vibes and work hard as a unit we should be among the teams playing in the first regional games under flood lights in Guyana,” Smith explained during the team’s first practice session at the DCC ground yesterday.
Like last year in Barbados, the semi-finals and final of the 2008 unsponsored competition will be played under lights at the Guyana National Stadium.
“While we will be without some of our better players, we must not forget that teams like defending champions Jamaica and other sides will also be without their stars.
Even though the Windwards and Leewards will not be affected too much by the absence of players I think once we play to our full potential and the senior guys like Skipper (Travis) Dowlin, his deputy Mahendra Nagamootoo and Narsingh Deonarine pull their weight and lead by example we should do well,” Smith opined.
The Guyana side will go into Thursday’s game with just three days of practice as a team and not a single practice session at the venue of their opening game, while a problem with the availability of practice balls affected their first ‘nets session’ yesterday.
However, an ‘up-beat’ Smith said that “sometimes there are distractions and situations which we find ourselves in but when the going gets tough the tough gets going.
If you are going to be truly great then you must have the ability to rise above adversity and adapt to situations and give you best effort at all times,”
Smith said that Guyana’s preparation has often been a big topic just before major competitions.
He however said this year he was looking to focus on positive things as his team hunt their 10th title since regional limited overs cricket began as the Gillette Cup series in 1976. “Our preparation might not be ideal but we have to work with the time we have and make the most of it.
We cannot cry over spilt milk and the guys know that this is an opportunity for them to climb the ladder towards making the West Indies team if they do well here.
Sometime when you have a young side you have less experience but more raw hunger for success. Sometimes the hunger to prove your worth could make a big difference,” Smith said.
Guyana has reached the semi-finals of the regional one-day series in every tournament in the last decade and a half except 2000 when the Windward Islands took their last title at this level and Smith feels that although teams like the CCC, Canada and the USA should not be taken lightly, Guyana have the advantage of playing in conditions and on pitches they are familiar with and encouraged the fans to come out and support the young team.
This year Canada, (who first played in 1996 and returned in 2002) and the USA, who was added in 2001, are the North American teams in the nine-team competition which includes the CCC, who played as a University X1 in 2002 and CCC last year.
Smith said that despite the late start of preparations, team spirit is very high and all of the players are eager to represent the Golden Arrow Head with distinction.
“We have six players who have never played for Guyana in this competition and four who have never played regional one-day cricket at all.
But we also have players like Nagamootoo and Deonarine who have played at the highest level and players like Dowlin who is a very intelligent cricketer who has been on the fringe of West Indies selection.
We have several talented batting all-rounders in what I think is a balanced team for one-day cricket,” informed Smith, who is the acting Chairman of the national selection panel which picked this team.
Chris Barnwell, Trevon Garraway, along with former West Indies under-19 players Steven Jacobs, Gajanand Singh, Rajendra Chandrika and Brandon Bess will all be making their debuts for Guyana in regional one-day cricket and Skipper Dowlin said that he is pleased with the level of talent in the team.
“We have some talented youngsters in this team and once we can focus on the job at hand and they can understand the importance of representing their country and we play as a team I don’t see why we can’t enjoy a successful competition,” Dowlin stated.
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