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By Nick Cassidy
Vanuatu have announced their 14-man squad for the East Asia–Pacific Trophy in New Zealand, a blend of youth and experience.
The regional tournament begins in Auckland in late November and the squad is already training three days a week. A number of practice matches will take place before their departure on November 28.
As the pool of young talented players that have been nurtured through the VCA’s junior development program in the past five years begins to mature, the impact on the senior squad can only be positive.
Six of the 14 players in the final squad were part of Vanuatu’s Under-19 side that finished second at the EAP Under-19 World Cup Qualifying Tournament in Port Vila in July this year.
But as ever, it will be the experienced approach and cool heads of the older members of the squad that remain vital components of squad’s chances. They will be boosted by lion-hearted performances from such players as national and APT Dolphins captain Patrick Haines and Mele veteran Pierre Chilia, during the recent final series.
These two will be expected to perform with the ball, along with the pace bowlers Manu Nimoho and Eddy Mansale.
But the squad’s strength is the all-round ability of so many of their players. Andrew Mansale and Kenneth Natapei will be called on with both bat and ball, and both are players capable of handling such a burden. These two, plus Ben Kingsbury, Selwyn Garae, Jono Dunn and Aby Joel are all potential match-turners.
The specialist batsman roles have been mainly taken by youngsters: Simpson Obed, Frederick Timakata and Trevor Langa are all selected alongside the experienced Richard Tatwin.
The side will be coached by Tim Curran from Cricket New South Wales, a mentor with decades of experience under his belt in top grade cricket in Sydney and Newcastle.
For most of the squad members, the tournament in Auckland will be their first time playing on turf pitches - yet another challenge for the players.
The EAP Trophy is the first step in regional qualification for the next World Cup, to be held in 2011. If Vanuatu finish in the top two in the EAP Trophy, they will qualify to head to Jersey, next year to compete in the Division Five World Cricket League.
It may be a far cry from World Cup qualification, but the trip itself is a huge incentive for the team to push towards the final of the EAP Trophy.
Squad Patrick Haines (capt), Ben Kingsbury, Andrew Mansale, Pierre Chilia, Richard Tatwin, Eddy Mansale, Kenneth Natapei, Manu Nimoho, Jonothan Dunn, Selwyn Garae, Frederick Timakata, Simpson Obed, Trevor Langa, Aby Joel.
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