T20 qualifiers chance for PNG to leave mark - Dikana
Rarva Dikana, the Papua New Guinea captain, hopes to use the World Twenty20 qualifiers in the UAE to announce his country's presence in world cricket. PNG are hoping to be one of two teams to qualify for the World T20 in Sri Lanka in September.
Dikana is positive about his side's chances and thinks T20 is the perfect form of the game for his players' style of cricket. But PNG have a tough ask to upset the odds and reach the final of the 16-team qualifying tournament.
"We see it as an opportunity to stamp our mark as a cricketing nation," Dikana said. "Natural flair is the trademark of the team and the T20 format suits our style. We also have a strong ground-fielding unit with very athletic young players."
Ten of PNG's squad have been playing club cricket in Australia. "Almost every player in the team has spent time playing cricket in Australia in the last two years which is in line with our preparation for the tournament.
The qualifiers mark a new era for PNG, with new coach Peter Anderson taking charge for the first time. Anderson replaced former Australia fast bowler Andy Bichel, who left to become an Australian national selector in November.
"Peter is a former first-class cricketer who played a lot for Queensland. He still plays at club level in Australia and is full of energy," Dikana said. "I'm sure that energy will be transferred onto the players."
Another new addition to the PNG squad is former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones. Having been born in PNG, Jones is going back to his roots to resume his international career after a six-year absence.
"The players are excited to meet him and can't wait to take the field alongside him," Dikana said. "We are training with Geraint in a five-day pre-tournament camp in Canberra.
"He is a good inclusion in the side, given his capabilities to perform at the highest levels of cricket, and pretty much balances our batting department. He will be the second-choice wicketkeeper for the tournament, he has been spoken to in that regard and he understands his role in the team."
Jones played in 34 Tests and helped England regain the Ashes in 2005. He will need to provide a significant contribution to help PNG qualify from Group A. Afghanistan and the Netherlands are the two highest-ranked sides in the group, which also contains Bermuda, Canada, Denmark, Hong Kong and Nepal.
PNG begin their World T20 qualifying campaign against Afghanistan on March 13 in Dubai.
Edited by Alex Winter