Ganga gears up for 'top final'
"It's going to be a very competitive game; it's going to be a top final."
Should the weather permit the KFC Cup regional 50-overs final to be played at the 3Ws Oval, the words of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) captain Daren Ganga may well ring true. This lacklustre series certainly needs such a finale. And the Jamaicans look fit to play their part.
Against the Chris Gayle-led challengers, defending champions T&T will face the most searching examination of their quality that any team in this tournament can give them. A third one-day crown in four years will be well earned.
Jamaica enter the final with four wins on the trot, including a cool, workmanlike seven-wicket win over Guyana in the semi-finals. They have the tournament's best record - an asset that will work in their favour if today's encounter ends in a no-result, as did T&T's semi-final against Barbados, or even a tie, like T&T's first game of the competition against the Combined Colleges and Campuses (CCC).
In Gayle, the West Indies opener, and middle-order batsman Shaun Findlay, Jamaica have the tournament's leading batsmen (159 and 152 runs, respectively). West Indies fast bowlers Darren Powell and Jerome Taylor are potentially among the most destructive new-ball pairs in the series. And in Australia-born allrounder Brendan Nash, Jamaica have the surprise package of the tournament.
"He's a pretty confident player, good all-round player and he knows the game well," Gayle said. "He's been an asset to us and he's been doing a wonderful job."
Attacking opener Brenton Parchment is partial to T&T bowling and on the evidence, especially of their semi-final performance, the Jamaicans are playing with enough purpose to capitalise on an off-colour T&T in this day-night affair.
T&T come into this match short on time in the middle. The damp conditions prior to yesterday made batting practice impossible and Friday's washout of their semi-final denied Ganga and his side a chance to get going under the lights in Bajan conditions. T&T have done little of substance for a week and it is a concern for Ganga.
"Not having the opportunity to practice out in the middle is difficult," he told the Sunday Express. "But, again, cricket is a mental game. You've got to be prepared mentally. That is one of the things we are stressing in our team. I think all the guys have got the talent, they've got the ability, so we are looking forward to that game against Jamaica."
In the circumstances, the maturity of the T&T players will be put to the test by opponents who have evidently responded to Gayle's leadership by getting to and past their first semi-final in four seasons.
"I think it's very important for us to play well in all our departments," Ganga said. "Jamaica showed they are an all-round team. I think they've got some strength in their bowling, they've got some strength in their batting, their top order. What they lack is probably a little bit of experience in their batting."
The consistency of the batsmen is also a concern of Gayle's.
"Our problem has been mainly our batting for the last couple of years," he said. "It let us down on quite a few occasions, so we are still trying to rebuild our batting department and try and capitalise on starts when we get them."
Whether Ganga's observation translates into T&T playing the extra bowler as opposed to the extra batsman, as was the case in their Zone A decider against Guyana, remains to be seen. What is more certain, however, is that Kieron Pollard will get the chance to put his budding all-round skills to use against Jamaica.
"When the trainer gave me the news that Pollard would be fit, that was a huge burden off my shoulders," Ganga said.
Averaging 79 from three innings and with five wickets to his name, Pollard, overlooked for West Indies Twenty20 action since his brief World Cup appearance, is proving that he is, according to his skipper, "definitely an asset to our team, like everyone else".
T&T's previous final triumphs, in 2004 against Guyana and earlier this year against the Windward Islands, were both marked by individuals coming to the team's aid at vital stages of the game. This afternoon is likely to be no different if the champs are to remain standing, with title number nine in Ganga's hands.
Trinidad and Tobago: Daren Ganga (capt), Lendl Simmons, Mario Belcon, Sherwin Ganga, Denesh Ramdin, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo, Rayad Emrit, Ravi Rampaul, Mervyn Dillon, Samuel Badree, Amit Jaggernauth, Jason Mohammed, Andre Browne.
Jamaica: Chris Gayle (capt), Brenton Parchment, Danza Hyatt, Shawn Findlay, Brendon Nash, Tamar Lambert, Carlton Baugh, Nikita Miller, Daren Powell, Jerome Taylor, Donovan Sinclair, Krishmar Santokie, Xavier Marshall, Andrew Richardson.