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Crunch time

Hadyn Gill

Crunch time

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IF IT wasn’t obvious before, the reality has hit home – it’s do or die for Barbados’ cricketers.
For a nation that boasts  the most regional first-class titles and is steeped in a rich cricketing tradition, a one-from-bottom place midway into the WICB Regional Four-day Competition is unfamiliar territory.
The only path to the semi-finals appears to be via three successive victories, starting over the next four days in the fifth-round match against Windward Islands at Kensington Oval.
“Every match from here is a do-or-die situation,” Barbados captain Ryan Hinds admitted yesterday.
“We have assessed where we’re at. We understand that in order to qualify for the semi-finals we need to win our next three games. Hopefully, we can get out there and get 20 wickets and put a good score on the board.”
For four straight matches, Barbados conceded first innings points against Trinidad and Tobago, England Lions, Jamaica and Guyana – an unimpressive streak that has left them with 12 points in seventh place and with plenty of ground to make up on the front-runners.
The format of the competition in which the top four Caribbean teams will move to the semis, however, has given them something of a lifeline.
A ten-day break in between matches also provided them with ample time to reflect on their shortcomings and to sort out what needs to be done from here on.
“We need to show a bit more intensity in the field. We need to be a bit more consistent where we bowl. We need to be a bit tighter at the crease,” Hinds said.
“The tradition is that Barbados is known as a positive team. We always strive on winning. Hopefully, the 11 that goes out there will give 100 per cent.
“We are still confident. The team morale is there. We are very much aware of what we need to do. We’re playing home. Hopefully, we can use that to our advantage and produce some good cricket.”
During the break, they also enjoyed what Hinds called a “bonding session” where the players went to Browne’s Beach for training that was followed by a less informal “do” that included fish broth.
It is now back to serious business and they might take comfort that they enjoy an outstanding record against Windwards at this level. In 13 first-class matches between the two since 2000, Barbados have won nine times compared to the Windwards’ two victories.
Hinds and his men, however, are not relying on history.
Windwards occupy fifth spot in the table on 23 points and already have a victory against Guyana and took first innings points off Combined Campuses and Colleges and Trinidad and Tobago before losing both matches.
“I believe we are going into the match on even ground.  Windwards have always been a very good bowling side,” the skipper said.
“We are not going to take them lightly. We are going to go out there to focus on what we want to achieve.”
For the first time this season, Barbados’ 13-man squad will allow them the opportunity to field a four-prong pace attack. The return of Tino Best to join Pedro Collins, Fidel Edwards and Jason Holder could provide Barbados with the fire-power they have been lacking for most of the season. It isn’t a done deal that all four will be in the starting line-up.
“I believe that whatever combination we come up with, we will be looking to do the job well,” the skipper said.
“We have four fast bowlers. The three fast bowlers along with [Kevin] Stoute have been doing a tremendous job. If the chances were taken, Stoute would probably be the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.
“We have included Tino. He has a pretty good record. It seems as though he has put a lot of stuff that has gone on behind him and we are here to give him 100 per cent.”