SHIVNARINE Chanderpaul is in Trinidad and Tobago and has joined the Guyana Jaguars team who will strive to become the first West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) franchise team to lift the coveted NAGICO Super50 trophy, emblem of Caribbean limited-overs supremacy.The 40-year-old West Indies stalwart’s presence in the team is a major boost for the Guyanese outfit and he was impressive, striking the ball confidently; in the lone practice session the Jaguars will enjoy before they face Windward Islands Volcanoes in their opening day-night Zone A match at the famous Queen’s Park Oval today from 13:30hrs.
In the other Zone A match carded for today the National Cricket Centre (NCC), Balmain, reigning champs Barbados Pride battle Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) from 09:00hrs. Guyana Jaguars reached the semi-finals in the inaugural NAGICO Super50 tournament last year but will be missing the services of four key players who were part of their contingent. All-rounder Narsingh Deonarine and left-handed strokeplayer Leon Johnson are part of the West Indies ODI team scheduled to do battle with South Africa in the five-match series which starts tomorrow.
Opener Asad Fudadin returned from South Africa having sustained an injury and is undergoing rehabilitation while Ramnaresh Sarwan was not offered a contract with the Guyana Jaguars but found favour with the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force officials who recruited him during the Caribbean Premier League auction last year. Sarwan, however, has not appeared for the Red Force in the three four-day First Class matches of the inaugural CPL and was also unavailable for the NAGICO Super50 trial matches to force his way into the T&T outfit for the 50-overs showdown.
In the meantime, the Guyana Jaguars, under the leadership of GCC’s Vishaul Singh; made an impressive start in the CPL and currently heads the six-team standings. Talented all-rounder Christopher Barnwell will once again be at the helm of the Guyanese team and he will be relying heavily on the experienced Chanderpaul as well as former Test and ODIs player Veersammy Permaul and Devendra Bishoo; the other seasoned campaigners; who should be ready to lead the charge for success in conditions that would be conducive to their style of play.
The Albion Sports Club spin-twins Permaul and Bishoo have been in excellent form during the four-day matches and as much as they are adept at the limited-overs format, they and pacers Ronsford Beaton and Paul Wintz will have to exhibit greater control, variety and variations to restrict the opposing batsmen below whatever total the Guyanese batsmen will muster whenever they bat first or during their stint should the Guyana Jaguars bowl first.
Both Beaton and Wintz displayed fine exhibition of controlled aggression during their outing at the Oval last year and must be striving for repeat and even better performances while skipper Barnwell needs to re-discover his confidence with the ball and display the same aggression and accuracy that catapulted him to West Indies ODI teams.
Off-spinning all-rounder Steven Jacobs is also back in contention for a place in the starting eleven and the toss-up could be between him and Barbadian all-rounder Raymon Reifer who is a medium pacer and a much more reliable batsman. There is a mild setback for the intended starting eleven. Jonathan Foo, who has regained his place after encouraging performances; is reportedly ill with a flu-like symptoms and was due to be examined medically before a final decision is made about his place in the line-up.
Reifer will definitely hold the edge over Jacobs because all-rounder Royston Crandon, who bowls off-spin, is also back in the squad and could probably be selected to strengthen the batting (with Foo unsure to be fully fit) to resume his regional limited-overs career. The big question for coach Esaun Crandon, chairman of selectors Rayon Griffith and captain Barnwell is: who will open the batting? Last year Chanderpaul and left-hander Trevon Griffith did the honours but with the selectors having to decide whether they will maintain the same combination or rely on new Rajendra Chandrika-Griffith tandem – having been impressive in practice matches, staged at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence; earlier this month.
There is that feeling that Chanderpaul, who has played a career 398 50-overs matches for various teams including 268 ODIs (8 778 runs and 11 centuries) for West Indies; will be allowed to shoulder the responsibility of defying the new ball bowlers or whatever combination will be utilised by Windwards for the new-ball foray. He will most likely open the batting and attempt to establish a solid base for winning totals. He will be partnered either by Chandrika or Griffith, both of whom had been the in-form batsmen in the trial matches and both should be in the starting eleven.
Over the years, Windwards have improved immensely and should provide stern competition for the Jaguars. They won their first-ever regional title in 2013 when they defeated the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) in the final played at the Kensington Oval and they were runners-up to Jamaica in the 2007 final at the 3Ws Oval in Barbados.
Chanderpaul was at helm of the Guyana team when they last won the regional 50-overs title in 2005 at GCC, Bourda where they defeated Barbados in the grand final. Since then, Guyana reached the final in 2009 but they were edged out by Trinidad and Tobago in the President’s Cup final at the Guyana National Stadium, Providence.
Overall there have been 39 Regional limited-overs tournaments over the years since the inaugural series in 1976. And while Guyana have not celebrated glory since 2005, they have been the second most prolific team with nine titles (two shared) behind Trinidad and Tobago who have ten (1 shared) crowns. Jamaica are third with eight (1 shared), Leewards seven (3 shared), Barbados six (1 shared) and Windwards three.
This year NAGICO Super50 promises to be another exciting tournament with all players hoping to excel and strengthen their chances of gaining selection on West Indies teams for future international engagements against England in the Caribbean.
Although the West Indies World Cup squad has been named, there are still opportunities for outstanding performers to force their way into contention for any opening should there be need for a replacement player to go to Australia for the 2015 ICC World Cup competition which starts on February 14. West Indies will clash with Ireland in their first Pool match on February 16. Guyana are scheduled to clash with defending champions Barbados Pride on Saturday while they will meet the CCC team on Monday.