While there can be little excuse for their woeful batting against the Royal Challengers Bangalore in their opening Champions League T20 match at Centurion Park on Sunday the Guyanese cricketers here are not only battling the opposition on the field.
Coach Ravindra Seeram said that the players were affected by the cold weather in Johannesburg and at least five of them had contracted the flu while Manager Carl Moore is only now recovering from a climate-change related illness which has affected him since his arrival here last week Wednesday.
For those accustomed to living in the tropics of the Caribbean or Guyana, Johannesburg could be very cold and uncomfortable and heat warmers for the players had to be bought.
A lot will depend on Skipper Ramnaresh Sarwan both with the bat and as a leader if the Guyanese are to rebound from their first round defeat by 9 wickets since only Travis Dowlin and Royston Crandon of the remaining squad members have experienced South African conditions before.
RCB, who Guyana had to play their first match against is one of the pre-tournament favourites while the Sachin Tendulkar led Mumbai Indians is the other Indian IPL side in the 10-team competition and will be keen to bounce back in a commanding manner after their first match defeat to the Lions of South Africa.
Guyana face Mumbai Indians in their next match Thursday and with Durban being the home base of South Africa’s Indian population and the capacity of the ground there far larger than at Centurion, the Guyanese will again have to deal mentally with the fanatically Indian supporters in what is a crucial match for them against a very powerful team. The team flew into Durban yesterday and will have their first major practice session today. Though a bit warmer than Johannesburg, a cold front is expected to pass through Durban this week while the pitch should offer more assistance to the seamers than at Centurion.
Guyana is in the tougher of the two zones and the top two teams will qualify for the semi-finals after four preliminary matches. Both Mumbai Indians and Guyana go into Thursday’s game with first round losses and realistically both teams can still advance to the semi-finals. A good showing here will be vital for the South Americans since their last two games are against clubs from South Africa and Australia who like Guyana, don’t boast too many International stars.
But the high altitude in South Africa is posing an extra headache for the Guyanese who live four feet below sea and who now have to compete at close to 6,000 feet about sea level here.
South Africa stretches between the 22nd and 34th degrees of the southern latitude and hence is part of the subtropical zone. Compared to other regions at that latitude, temperatures in many areas of South Africa are rather lower.
The cold Benguela current causes moderate temperatures on the West Coast and on the central plateau the altitude (Jo’burg lies at 1753m) keeps the average temperatures way below 30 degrees Celsius. In winter, also due to altitude, temperatures drop to the freezing point and in places even lower.
“The climate is so different from home and that has been tough on the boys. There are having problems with breathing and the cold conditions and had just a few days to acclimatize to the conditions here before our first game,” Moore explained.
“The team spirit is still good after the first round loss and we must remember that although Mumbai Indians is full of high profile players they lost to a lesser team in their first match while we had to face a much stronger team in our opening game,” Moore said.
The Guyana Manager said that it’s always difficult for any inexperienced team to have to play their first two matches against the two teams which many expect to reach the final but added that now that the first match is out of the way the pressure of anticipation and ‘doing it for the first time’ should be gone.
“We know we have a huge task on our hands on Thursday but we saw how Mumbai Indians were beaten and we know that our performance on Sunday was way below what we are capable of.
The guys know how disappointing their performance was for all those who are supporting team and now that all the first match nerves should be out of the way, we expect to put on a much better showing from hereon,” the Manager added.
The team has a long talk about rising mentally to the occasion and about the need to be assertive as batsmen in the first six overs and a member of the Guyana 23-person squad said that a there is consideration for a change to made to the starting eleven although he added that this would not be done until the final practice session on Wednesday.
“The eleven we used for Sunday was the same eleven that played every game in the Caribbean Championships but some of the batsmen have consistently not been producing and the conditions and the opposition here are different so yes ….changes could be made for Thursday’s game,” He revealed.
Narsingh Deonarine is one of the most senior batsmen in the squad but he has struggled throughout the Caribbean tournament and again on Sunday with his strike rate and running between the wickets. Including either Assad Fudadin or Steven Jacobs to replace the West Indies left-hander are options that could be considered.
Sarwan said that the guys should now understand what they are up against and should have learnt a lot, especially mentally, from the first match.
“Most of the guys have never played international cricket but I know we have the talent to bounce back. After Sunday’s performance in which everyone batted poorly due to a combination of good bowling, poor shot selection and maybe nerves from the newer guys, we identified areas to work on and the unity among the players remain very good. That’s always important, especially in T20 cricket where you need everybody to play as a team,” Sarwan said.
“Many teams have started badly and went on to win tournaments as they get better with the more matches they play. Mumbai Indians also lost their first game and they were not expected to lose so they could also be under some pressure coming up against an underdog team like us. We have the ability and especially the younger guys have been told that this is their chance to show the world what they can do,” Sarwan added.
“I don’t think we can be judged from Sunday’s performance which was really below par and those who have followed Guyana’s cricket know we are a much better team than our performance on Sunday suggested. I am confident that we will bounce back with much better performances and urge all those who have supported us to not give up on the team now since doing well for the people of Guyana and the West Indies is really important for us,” Sarwan disclosed.
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