By Sean Devers
Guyana will begin the defence of their Caribbean T20 cricket title on Monday against Jamaica in Antigua without the planned practice matches this week.
The Ramnaresh Sarwan led team which has lost 5 of its 15 T20 matches including four defeats in last year’s Champions League in South Africa, played two matches in the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Festival in Trinidad last December and were hoping for two more practice games this week before they depart for Antigua on Saturday morning.
However, rain and the unavailability of the Guyana National Stadium, which is the only cricket venue in Guyana with proper lighting for night matches, has condemned the squad, which beat Barbados in last year’s Caribbean T20 final, to indoor practice at the Chetram Singh Centre of Excellence at LBI.
The Guyanese, the most successful team in Regional T20 competitions, retuned from Trinidad on December 30 and after a break for the Christmas holiday, retuned to training this week.
Manager Carl Moore told Kaieteur News that he was hoping for at least two practice matches but will now have to settle for sessions at the indoor nets.
Guyana, winners of the inaugural Regional T20 competition in 2006 in Antigua, lost to Jamaica in the next Regional T20 tournament in 2008 before their success last year to qualify to represent the West Indies in South Africa.
Moore, Guyana’s manager in all of their T20 matches, said that not getting to practice under lights before their Caribbean T20 campaign is a set back but added that the team was lucky to be apart of the T20 Festival in Trinidad where Guyana lost to the T&T Academy team before beating the T&T ‘A’ side. Guyana’s opening match in Antigua is a night match from 20:00hrs on Monday.
“At least we go into this year’s competition with two practice matches under our belt and we are confident that once everyone can play their role we can successfully defend our title. A lot will depend on the senior players and Sarwan’s leadership and our team spirit has been very good so far,” Moore disclosed.
Coach Ravindra Seeram explained that the adverse weather restricted his team to mostly physical sessions and praised the players on the level of fitness they have been able to maintain even after the break for the holidays.
“The fitness level is quite good and everyone is improving all the time. I am hoping to place emphasis on batting, bowling and fielding this week but if the Stadium is unavailable we will have to continue our batting and bowling drills at the indoor nets,” the 49-year-old Seeram said.
Guyana Cricket Board’s Reon King, the former West Indies pacer who was the National team’s bowling Coach in the last Regional 50-over tournament in Jamaica, says it is hoped that the Guyanese will be able to practice on Saturday and Sunday on a turf pitch in Antigua but was not sure if the team would be able to get in a session under lights.
Guyana has never made a 180 total in T20 cricket but their batting has been best when under pressure in the ‘big matches’ with their only three 170 plus totals being made in the 2006 Final against Trinidad and Tobago, against T&T in last year’s semi-finals and against South Australia in their final Champions League game in South Africa.
West Indies batsman Travis Dowlin, with five fifties, is Guyana leading run-scorer in T20 cricket but failed to fire in South Africa and in the two practice games last month in T&T and the South Americans are hoping that he can regain his form at the top of the order while Sewnarine Chattergoon and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who have generally struggled to score quickly in the game’s shortest format, will also need to lay a solid foundation at the top of the order.
Sarwan will also need to play a key role in the middle order for the likes of the pugnacious Jonathon Foo, the star of last year’s Caribbean T20, to blast away in the last portion of the innings in this year’s competition.
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