The Guyana Jaguars began their hunt this morning for an unprecedented third consecutive title in the third edition of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) Professional Cricket League Digicel Regional Four-Day when they face an in-different Jamaica Scorpions at the National Stadium, Providence.
Jaguars will start as strong favourites after only losing just once in the last two years of the competition and on paper has the strongest team comprising of several Test players and recently selected West Indies A team players. The tournament features 10 rounds of cricket with teams playing on a home and away basis for the Headley/Weeks Trophy.
The home team batting is being led by captain Leon Johnson who topped the charts last year with 807 runs at an average of 57.64 while vice-captain Vishaul Singh, who recently stroked his fifth First-class century with a splendid 161 playing for West Indies A against Sri Lanka A has been in good form. The list goes on with another A-team player Shimron Hetmyer, who stoked a century in the last round of the last season’s Four-Day match against the Scorpions right at Providence. There are also Test players Rajendra Chandrika and veteran Shivnarine Chanderpaul who along with his son Tagenarine who will carry the brunt of the batting.
The bowling will be led by talented left-arm spinners Veerasammy Permaul and Gudakesh Motie, who both took 40 wickets last season and they will be supported by improving right-arm fast bowler Keon Joseph.
Assistant coach and Manager Rayon Griffith has already stated that the team will be looking to start the season well and carry the momentum throughout the season.
Meanwhile, in the opposing camp, Head Coach Robert Samuels told this publication that “home boy” Trevon Griffith is expected to make his debut for the Scorpions today. The dashing left-handed opening batsman, would have been a part of the team for the last two seasons but only played a few limited over games. The batsmen extensive knowledge of the Providence wicket could be of great use to the visitors who finished third on the points standings last season.
Samuels quizzed on his expectations of the game stated, “The first game will be tough encounter, they have the home turf advantage and we will be starting as underdogs against the defending champions but I’m expecting a high quality and high class game from both teams.”
Opener John Campbell has been their most consistent player in the league and the coach is hoping that he continues to perform well since, “My worry is about the openers since they have not clicked and my fast bowlers but hoping that if both come good, the team can perform well.”
He added, “The pressure is on Guyana (Jaguars) to perform since they are the defending champions and the pressure is on to go out and put on a good show”.
The matches will be played on the most eastern pitch, which was not recently relaid and should entice either captain to win the toss and bat first since it should become slower as the match progresses a sentiment expressed by new Scorpions Captain, Nikita Miller.
Miller said that his team has prepared well before arriving in Guyana and will want to begin the season on a winning note. The Scorpions’ spin department lies in the hands of the experienced Nikita Miller and the young Damion Jacobs but both bowlers would be spinning the ball into a left- handed heavy top six and an off-spin of Campbell and Griffith will become very handy.
The Jaguars will be looking to maintain their recent dominance of the Scorpions whom they have beaten on the last four occasions. Test spinner Veerasammy Permaul has so far taken 296 Regional First Class wickets and will become only the fourth bowler to take 300 wickets when he bags four more victims.
At Providence, the first ball bowled off at 9:30hrs this morning. Admission is free.
The umpires for the match are Nigel Duguid and Jonathan Blades while former West Indies pacer, Colin Stuart is the Match Referee. The reserved Umpire is Nandkumar Shivsankar.
In other matches in the opening round, a reinvigorated Leeward Islands Hurricanes host Barbados Pride at Warner Park in Basseterre, St. Kitts. The Hurricanes – under new captain Kieran Powell – will be hoping to turn around a number of seasons of weak performances and begin to show more consistency, but the depleted Pride will be eyeing their ninth straight victory over the hosts.
In the other match, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force and Windward Islands Volcanoes, two sides which promised much last season, but failed to deliver, will aim for a strong start to the season in the first of six day/night contests during the season.
Day/night matches are one of the innovations which the WICB has introduced to the Tournament in a bid to bring more fans to the game. They were first trialled in the R4Day during the 2010 season.
Apart from playing at night, there is also plenty of recent history between the Red Force and Volcanoes that makes this contest intriguing.
The Volcanoes have won five of their last seven matches against the Red Force, including the last three played in Trinidad.
The other innovation the WICB has introduced this season is a bonus points system that rewards teams for getting wickets using fast bowlers (see accompany playing conditions). For every wicket taken by a fast bowler, each team will be awarded 0.2 points.
JAGUARS (from): Leon Johnson (captain), Christopher Barnwell, Anthony Bramble, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Rajendra Chandrika, Shimron Hetmyer, Eon Hooper, Keon Joseph, Gudakesh Motie, Veerasammy Permaul, Raymon Reifer, Vishaul Singh.
SCORPIONS (from): Nikita Miller (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, John Campbell, Jason Dawes, Derval Green, Trevon Griffith, Damion Jacobs, Brandon King, Andre McCarthy, Marquino Mindley, Devon Thomas, Shacaya Thomas and Chadwick Walton.
RED FORCE (from): Yannick Ottley (captain), Yannic Cariah, Sheldon Cottrell, Jyd Goolie, Kyle Hope, Jon-Russ Jagessar, Steven Katwaroo, Imran Khan, Jason Mohammed, Khary Pierre, Roshon Primus and Marlon Richards.
VOLCANOES (from): Liam Sebastien (captain), Sunil Ambris, Narsingh Deonarine, Tarryck Gabriel, Kavem Hodge, Delorn Johnson, Mervin Matthew, Kenroy Peters, Jerlani Robinson, Shane Shillingford, Devon Smith and Tyrone Theophile.
HURRICANES (from): Kieran Powell (captain), Quinton Boatswain, Nkrumah Bonner, Kacey Carty, Rahkeem Cornwall, Jahmar Hamilton, Montcin Hodge, Chesney Hughes, Jeremiah Louis, Akeem Saunders, Jacques Taylor, Gavin Tonge and Hayden Walsh Jr.
PRIDE (from): Kevin Stoute (captain), Anthony Alleyne, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Nikolai Charles, Justin Greaves, Aaron Jones, Kevin McClean, Omar Phillips, Mario Rampersaud, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican and Kenroy Williams