Danish test for Bermuda's new boys
Bermuda's national coach Gus Logie has a threadbare squad of just 12 players at his disposal as Bermuda prepares to begin the post World Cup era against Denmark.
Practically everyone that travelled to Europe this week is guaranteed a game over the next few weeks with Bermuda's thin resources stretched to the limit. Just four of the World Cup squad - skipper Irving Romaine, new vice-captain Stephen Outerbridge, big hitter Lionel Cann and spinner Dwayne Leverock - boarded the plane on Monday night with a host of new faces being asked to fill the enormous void left by the likes of Janeiro Tucker, Clay Smith, OJ Pitcher and Kevin Hurdle.
The middle order - Bermuda's strength over the past few years - has been completely decimated. As well as Tucker, Smith and Pitcher there will be no David Hemp, no Dean Minors and no Kwame Tucker. A squad of up and coming youngsters and international novices will take their place.
Ironically most of the youngsters - the likes of Edness, Robinson and Arthur Pitcher - have played for Bermuda before. It is club veterans like Roderick Masters, Dwight Basden and James Celestine who will be making their international debuts on this tour.
Coach Logie admitted the team was in a rebuilding stage and said the tour would be a test of how quickly the new boys could adapt to the enormous jump in class from domestic cricket. "Any time you go out to play you play to win, but we also have to be realistic and realize that this is a rebuilding stage. We are looking at development of our younger players and exposure for certain players to a higher level of cricket. It's about understanding what it takes to play at that level."
The opening games against Denmark are not full one-day-internationals because the Danes did not qualify for the World Cup and ODI status. But Logie expects them, along with Holland and Ireland who Bermuda face later in the tour, to be among their biggest rivals for re-qualification at the ICC Trophy 2009 in Malaysia.
"We played them a few years ago and narrowly beat them, but they have grown in stature and the game has taken off a bit in Denmark. Many of their players have exposure to the English county cricket set up. They, Holland and Ireland are going to be three of our arch rivals in 2009 and we need to learn as much from this tour as we possibly can."
There will be new roles for some of the players on this tour with Lionel Cann, traditionally used as a late-order finisher, likely to be asked to become the mainstay of the batting line-up along with Romaine. "We don't have the same depth in the middle order anymore and the chances are Lionel will be asked to bat higher up and play a more integral role. Players like Lionel and the captain Irving Romaine will need to play a central role."
The return of seamer George O'Brien gives the bowling attack an injection of pace and aggression while Jacobi Robinson, Arthur Pitcher and Ryan Steede will play a supporting role. Dwayne Leverock will again be the centre-piece of Bermuda's bowling attack with his economical left-arm spin.
Logie said the new boys had shown commitment in practice. Now it was time to see what they could do on the big stage. "This is an opportunity to assess certain players and see how they gel as a team. We can practice as much as we want but you have to think that those things we did in training can be done in game situations."
Preparation for the tour has been far from ideal with Azeem Pticher, Kevin Hurdle and Maurice Lowe all pulling out for work and personal reasons and Greg Maybury being called-up to the Under-19 qualifiers. The search for available replacements saw Robinson and Basden called up. But further back-up was not available.
"We have a lot of players playing the game but for whatever reason not everybody is in line for selection for the national team."
He added that the passion for the game shown at Cup Match was not so evident when it came to the national team. "Players can want to train, want to play with passion at the local level. If that can be transferred to the national team they can reap just as good rewards."
One fillip for Logie will be the arrival of three stars from Bermuda's Under-19 team ahead of the game against Ireland. Seamers Stefan Kelly and Malachi Jones and spinner Rodney Trott will jet in from Canada after representing the U-19s in the World Cup qualifiers. "These are the guys we are looking at to carry the flag in the near future. We want to wish them all the best in Canada where we trust they will qualify for the World Cup."
Reproduced with permission of the Bermuda Sun
Will Luke is assistant editor of ESPNcricinfo