Guyana top-order batsman Travis Dowlin said there was a great sense of anticipation in the country ahead of their side's campaign in the Champions League 2010 which he termed "a wonderful journey into the unknown".
Guyana surprised cricket watchers in the Caribbean by beating more fancied sides to win the Caribbean T20 and gain entry into the Champions League. Dowlin top-scored in the biggest of those upsets - a semi-final win against tournament favourites Trinidad and Tobago - before they rose from the dumps to beat Barbados in the final. The team has been training hard for the event under coach Ravindranauth Sreeram and captain Ramnaresh Sarwan, and have some warm-up games before the prestigious tournament.
"There are very high levels of enthusiasm in the squad," Dowlin said after Wednesday's training. "Everyone is really excited now we have this great opportunity to play in the Champions League and represent our beloved country on the international stage. There is real expectation among the people of Guyana.
"Everywhere you turn, people including the taxi drives, bus drivers… just about everyone has been congratulating us for our performance in winning the Caribbean T20 and also wishing us all the best as we prepare for South Africa. It feels really good to see that people here paid so much attention to our performances. We hope to maintain that same level of intensity and commitment to the cause," Dowlin said.
Guyana's campaign will be closely monitored, following T&T's memorable run to the finals in the 2009 event. Dowlin insisted that, like their predecessors, Guyana hoped to leave a lasting impression on the competition. "As a Guyana team we want to bring our own brand of cricket. We want to create our own legacy. Trinidad and Tobago had a great legacy. Last year they did really well for the region, reaching the final, and everyone is expecting us to play a similar sort of game. In many ways we are similar to the Trinidadians in terms of the make-up of our squad, but what we want to do is to have people see us as the Guyana team playing the game in our way, workman-like and efficient and enjoying what we do," he said.
Guyana's trump card, going into an event featuring several superstars, is the relative anonymity of their players, such as Jonathan Foo, Lennox Cush and Devendra Bishoo, who came to the fore during the Caribbean T20. "We have the element of surprise. We have a number of new players - several players who have never yet played at the international level - so this can very well work in our favour. We have some players who can hit the ball powerfully including Jonathan Foo, Christopher Barnwell, and the Crandon brothers (Royston and Esaun) and we also have myself, Sarwan and Narsingh Deonarine, who are 'workers' of the ball.
For a side heavily reliant on spin, Dowlin admitted that bowling in the end overs was a concern. "The one major area we have been working hard on is our bowling at the death. We have to sharpen up in that department as that is one area that can hurt any team in this version of the game," he said.
In the Caribbean, the build-up to the event has been marred by an ongoing dispute between the WICB and the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) over splitting the $500,000 participation fee paid by the Champions League organisers. On Wednesday WIPA disagreed with the board's claim to a third of the amount on the grounds that there was no such precedent from the other international boards.
"WIPA is of the view that retaining such a large sum could have a direct negative impact on Guyanese cricket and its players. In fact, WIPA understands that no monies were deducted from the TTCB (the T&T board) for last year's participation," the WIPA release said.
The WICB's argument was that it needed the money to recover costs to the tune of $2 million incurred in staging the Caribbean T20. WIPA, however, held that it had not been presented with any financial figures validating the costs. "If the WICB has made a loss for organizing the recent tournament they should place all the financial information into the public domain to confirm their commitment to transparency and good governance," the WIPA release said.
The Guyana players have also been distracted by contractual disputes between the WIPA and GCB. WIPA entered negotiations over the side's participation between GCB and WICB on behalf of the players, but Guyana's board did not accede to some of their demands, leading to rumours of a legal wrangle. Guyanese officials have dismissed reports that they are considering filing an injunction against the WIPA.