Fiji set to kick off domestic league
A busy 2011 for the national team and the addition of a fourth team will increase the importance of Fiji's Elite Player League (EPL), which starts its second season this weekend.
The Fiji Blues will play in three international tournaments next year, and the EPL, featuring four composite teams of the country's best players, is the players' main chance to impress national selectors.
The Lau Voyagers, led by the experienced Joe Dabea, make their league debut against Western Bulldogs at Albert Park 1. The Voyagers, an exciting mix of youth and experience, will count on two youngsters likely to come into national team reckoning: batsman Sekove Ravoka, who has already played for the Fiji Blues, and 16-year-old Ebrahim Cassim, who is expected to also play for Fiji soon.
Both young batsmen play a game that the national selectors are looking for, working the ball around and playing along the ground. Adding invaluable experience to the team will be allrounder Waisake Tukaha, who will pose a danger with both bat and ball to the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs will be led by national captain, Joe Rika, one of the country's best batsmen. He’ll be helped by his Fiji Blues team-mate, Maciu Gauna, and the pair will form the backbone of the Bulldogs batting. Providing attacking firepower will be allrounders Kiti Tavo and Tauyesa Vakarau, who are both explosive lower-order hitters capable of taking an attack apart on their day. Tavo returns to Cricket Fiji’s elite program after almost two years and will be looking to show that he is still a valuable player.
In the weekend’s other match the Suva Capitals, the winners of the first EPL, take on Sigatoka Dunes at Albert Park 2. Suva will be led by legspinner and former Under-19 national captain, Viliame Yabaki. The bowling attack, however, will be led by Fiji fast bowler Sakaraia Lomani, regarded as one of the country's most dangerous bowlers.
Suva's batting includes two promising players making their EPL debuts - Rukesh Patel and Mosese Ravula. Patel dominated the recent Under-19 Western Conference so he will be keen to prove he can handle the senior competition.
Sigatoka will be looking for a strong performance from their captain, the experienced allrounder, Iniasi Cakacaka. The captain combines wily offspinners with good batting ability. His main support with the bat will be Eric Browne, who keen to earn a national team recall, while young paceman Tukana Tavo will lead the bowling attack, causing plenty of problems with his pace and bounce.
This match looks set to be a close fought battle that will provide an exciting start to the 2010 EPL season.
George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo