West Indian T20 game gets a reboot
For some time now, West Indies cricket has lived on hope. Hope can sometimes be a word used to mask the ugly reality. The cricket was wallowing and everything around it was falling apart. The 2007 World Cup was an organisational failure, the Stanford investment proved a fiasco, sponsorship disputes abounded and the players went on a strike.
A new CEO was appointed, the senior players returned from strike, a new national coach was brought in, an academy was opened, the Under-19 boys brought some joy and the Trinidad & Tobago team, who did so well in the Champions League in India, brought some pride. It wasn't a turnaround but a small baby step towards future. Back in January the board announced a US$2m grassroots and community coaching programme.
This T20 tournament is another initiative to popularise the game. For some time now, cricket had ceased to be sexy. They said the youngsters were succumbing to basketball and other American temptations. The World Twenty20 was a success among fans and this T20 tournament is an effort to cash in on the format's popularity to ignite some interest at the grassroots. The West Indies board conducted research which stated the obvious: That T20 cricket was a favourite among the 18-34 age-group audience. And so money was pumped into this event.
Back in January, the WICB started some introspection and published a paper - Transforming West Indies cricket. It stated that, "if there is no product to sell then there can be no commercial programme to implement" . This T20 regional tournament is a step to beef up that product. The tournament came into being after the Stanford T20 collapsed last year following the arrest of its promoter.
"Bring it" was the cry during the successful World Twenty20 hosted recently in the Caribbean. "Bring It Back" is the slogan now. It's a call to the fans to roll in, play their music, sway merrily, wave their flags, and create a party atmosphere at the games. The cricket tragics in the region will hope it's also a call for the cricket to return to its glorious past.
GuyanaSquad: Ramnaresh Sarwan (capt), Narsingh Deonarine, Travis Dowlin, Sewnarine Chattergooon, Lennox Cush, Christopher Barnwell, Davendra Bishoo, Derwin Christian, Esaun Crandon, Royston Crandon, Jonathan Foo, Assad Fudadin, Steven Jacobs, Paul Wintz.
Player to watch: Sarwan leads a team without Shivnarine Chanderpaul. He himself is coming back after missing out the series against South Africa and this competition would be big for him to prove his fitness and showcase his talent and hunger. Deonarine is another one to watch out.
Windward IslandsSquad: Darren Sammy (capt), Devon Smith, Andre Fletcher, Rawl Lewis, Liam Sebastien, Johnson Charles, Donwell Hector, Craig Emmanuel, Lindon Lawrence, Keddy Lesporis, Gairy Mathurin, Nelon Pascal, Shane Shillingford, Deighton Butler.
Player to watch: Andre Fletcher could well be the wicketkeeper-batsman of the tournament. Considering Denesh Ramdin's recent failures in the international arena, the fans would hope that Fletcher can put some pressure on Ramdin by doing well in this tournament.
Leeward IslandsSquad: Wilden Cornwall (capt), Omari Banks, Runako Morton, Jacques Taylor, Justin Athanaze, Kerry Mentore, Tonito Willett, Kelbert Walters, Shane Jeffers, Anthony Martin, Gavin Tonge, Lionel Baker, Kadeem Phillip, Javier Liburd; Percy Daniel (manager), John Archibald (coach).
Player to watch out for: Gavin Tonge was part of the second-string West Indies team picked for the Champions Trophy in 2009 during the contracts crisis, and impressed against Pakistan, bagging 4 for 25, in an incisive spell. He bowled with decent pace, varied his lengths well and remains an asset for Leewards in their pace arsenal. Shane Jeffers is another name to look out for.
JamaicaSquad: Tamar Lambert (capt), Nikita Miller, Danza Hyatt, Marlon Samuels, Xavier Marshall, Chris Gayle, Brenton Parchment, Wavell Hinds, David Bernard, Odean Brown, Krishmar Santokie, Andrew Richardson, Andre Russell, Carlton Baugh (wk), Junior Bennett (coach)
Player to watch out: There is Chris Gayle of course. The captaincy has been given to Tamar Lambert and whatever be the reason, it's bound to free up Gayle to focus on his batting. But the man to watch out for is Marlon Samuels. This is a huge tournament for him as he continues his comeback after serving a two-year ban for allegedly providing information to a bookmaker.
Trinidad and TobagoSquad: Daren Ganga (capt), Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, William Perkins, Kieron Pollard, Kevon Cooper, Imran Khan, Samuel Badree, Sherwin Ganga, Navin Stewart, Dave Mohammed, Denesh Ramdin.
Player to watch out for: The team that captivated everyone in the Champions League held in India. Kieron Pollard has become a huge Twenty20 star since but the form of young Adrian Barath, coming back from a knee injury, will be crucial if T&T are to qualify for the Champions League again. Barath's aggression at the top of the order gained international attention when he struck a stunning century on Test debut against Australia at the Gabba.
BarbadosSquad: Ryan Hinds (capt), Jason Hinds, Alcindo Holder, Javon Searles, Kevin Stoute, Larry Babb, Sulieman Benn, Jonathan Carter, Kirk Edwards, Kemar Roach, Carlo Morris, Dale Richards, Ashley Nurse, Dwayne Smith; Desmond Haynes (manager), Emmerson Trotman (coach), Vasbert Drakes (assistant coach), Jacqui King-Mowatt (physiotherapist).
Player to watch out for: Kemar Roach was the stand-out talent in the second-rung side West Indies fielded when Gayle & Co went on strike in 2009. His electric pace brought him big money in the IPL, but there haven't been any eye-catching performances in the Twenty20 format so far. This is his chance to correct that. The locals feel that Kevin Stoute could star as an allrounder.
Combined Campuses and CollegesSquad: Omar Phillips (capt), Floyd Reifer (player/coach), Ryan Austin, Miles Bascombe, Ruel Brathwaite, Romel Currency, Kavesh Kantasingh, Gilford Moore, Kjorn Ottley, Nekoli Parris, Raymon Reifer, Marlon Richards, Chadwick Walton, Ryan Wiggins, Barrington Yearwood.
Player to watch out for Chadwick Walton was among the members of the depleted West Indies team during the 2009's contracts crisis, but failed to make a mark against Bangladesh at home. He left much to be desired with the bat but had a much improved tour of Bangladesh with the A team. He will be keen to make a mark in the Caribbean T20, and fight his way back into contention.Raymon Reifer too could make a name for himself in this tourney.
CanadaSquad: Rizwan Cheema (capt), Harvir Baidwan, Trevin Bastiampillai, Geoff Barnett, Umar Bhatti, Hemnarine Chattergoon, Parth Desai, Tyson Gordon, Hamza Tariq (wk), Calvert Hooper, Henry Osinde, Hiral Patel, Zubin Sarkari, Usman Limbada.
Player to watch out for Canada's chances took a huge hit with the loss of their best player, wicketkeeper-batsman Ashish Bagai, to a knee injury. The fans will hope that Rizwan Cheema, who caught the eye after smashing ten sixes in a Twenty20 tournament - the most in that competition - in Canada two years ago also involving Sri Lanka and Pakistan in 2008, can turn in a repeat performance.
Sriram Veera is a staff writer at Cricinfo