WEST INDIES "B" may be languishing rock bottom of the Carib Beer Series standings, but team coach Roddy Estwick is heartened by some of the emerging talent among the region's territorial reserves.

As the competition enters the final round of preliminary matches, the West Indies Under-23s have no chance of reaching the semifinals of the International Challenge, even if they beat newly-crowed Cup champions Barbados.

They have lost three matches and drawn the other two but their six points might not be an accurate reflection of the quality of cricket they have displayed.

"There are a lot of encouraging signs. Most of the players have made contributions," Estwick told WEEKENDSPORT yesterday. "They are working hard, and the experience of having played first-class cricket is going to serve them in good stead."

His major disappointment was the inability of the youngsters to press for victories when they were in positions to do so.

"I don't think the boys are strong enough to bowl consistently well for two innings. That has been a disappointment, but hopefully, they can learn from this," he said. "They can go back to the drawing board and work on the areas of trying to get fitter and stronger."

Estwick, a first-time West Indies "B" coach who is cricket master at Combermere School, identified Trinidad batsman Aneil Kanhai, Guyanese Narsingh Deonarine, Jamaican Carlton Baugh and Barbadian Jason Bennett as the players who have made the most strides.

"They performed well, but we didn't perform well as a unit," the coach said. "We had good individual performances. We are working on it. We are trying to get them to be consistent; but at that age, consistency is the biggest problem."

Kanhai, a tall, left-handed attacking batsman, has scored 397 runs (ave. 44.11) and is one of only two players in the competition with two centuries, while Deonarine, another left-hander who captained the West Indies Under-19 team at last year's Youth World Cup in New Zealand, has 328 runs (ave. 36.44).

Wicket-keeper Baugh has commanded the most attention because of his consistency in front of the stumps. He has five half-centuries in an aggregate of 370 runs (ave. 41.11) and some are even labelling him as a contender for imminent West Indies selection.

"I'm not prepared to go that far, but from what I've seen, he looks to be one of the better 'keepers in the Caribbean," Estwick said. "If he keeps improving on his batting, I don't see why in the near future he shouldn't be playing."

This is the third season the West Indies "B" have been playing at this level, but it is the first time one of the Under-23s has been asked to captain the side with a view to developing leaders for the future and the job was given to Kittitian opening batsman Shane Jeffers.

"He is doing a good job. He is making one or two mistakes, but we sit down after the game and we have a chat with him. We try to discuss the areas that he can improve on," Estwick said.

"We are allowing him to have his head and go out there and make decisions. All the time, you can see improvements."

Bennett has been the most impressive of the three Barbadians, capturing 17 wickets in four matches after missing the team's first game.

"He's been a success. He has probably been our best bowler in the last three or four games," Estwick said. "He has bowled with a lot of control and he is moving the old ball around."

Fellow Barbadians, Patrick Browne and Martin Nurse have had mixed returns.

Teenager Nurse, who played two matches for Barbados last season, was dropped from the West Indies "B" after three matches in which he managed only 83 runs (ave. 13.83).

"Martin has been a little disappointing. He is working hard at his game," Estwick said. "He is trying to improve all the time. People tend to forget he is only 17. He's still learning the art of first-class cricket."

Since replacing Nurse at the top of the order, Browne has had a few useful scores on the way to 251 runs (ave. 25.10) in his second successive season in West Indies "B".