Wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin has been ruled out of Trinidad & Tobago's KFC Cup one-day opener in Guyana with a viral flu. Ramdin's absence takes away an all-round talent both behind the stumps and with the bat. Lendl Simmons is expected to fill in as wicketkeeper-batsman for his West Indies team-mate.
Daren Ganga and his men, aiming to defend their title, will be disappointed with anything less than a victory against the Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) outfit at the National Stadium at Providence. In the other match in the group, hosts Guyana, led by Ramnaresh Sarwan, take on last season's beaten finalists, the Windward Islands, at Albion.
At Providence, the CCC, captained by middle-order batsman Shirley Clarke, a player with regional youth and senior experience for Barbados, are one of two developmental teams in this year's competition, the other being the West Indies Under-19 squad. But the university boys will benefit from the considerable know-how of Barbados veteran Floyd Reifer. He will be supported by fellow batsmen Romel Currency and Craig Emmanuel, who are both seasoned representatives of the Windward Islands.
T&T, on a roll of seven straight wins in this competition stretching back to last season, are looking to extend their streak to 12 by the end of this tournament and Ganga sees no room for complacency. "We have basically decided that this competition is going to be a competition of five finals, three in Guyana (group matches) and two in Barbados (semi-finals and final). And one of our biggest objectives as a team is to maintain our winning ways throughout this entire competition," he told the Express.
"We have prepared with the mindset that we need to improve and lift our standard in every aspect of our game. It is a given fact that as defending champions, teams will obviously be gunning for us and coming at us very hard. That is why it's so very important for us to train in a manner where we are always challenging ourselves and lifting our standards when it comes to the actual batting, bowling and fielding."
And following trial matches in which different batsmen scored centuries, Ganga felt that this unit was "better prepared in comparison to other Trinidad and Tobago teams, even in recent times. "I think there is a very good balance in terms of our versatility," he said. "And this as captain, especially in a one-day game, will give me a lot of options.
"We have definitely seen a dramatic improvement in individual players and in the manner in which we play as a team. I think it's a matter of development of the individuals, exposure, maturity and being in a winning culture. Guys are aware of the opportunity to go on and play at the higher level. So a lot of the young T&T players are very hungry, are very eager to be around a winning T&T team."
Given their pre-tournament preparation, the T&T camp will not be overly concerned either that the recent performances of all-rounder and team regular Richard Kelly did not warrant his selection, or that West Indies Under-19 duty has robbed them of two other members of last season's winning outfit, Adrian Barath and Darren Bravo.
And while Ganga conceded that the good pre-season form lasting throughout the Cup was "something you can't predict as captain", he said: "We are very capable as a team in this version of the game and there is no reason why, given the sort of quality of cricket we have been playing, we should not be successful in this competition."