Bajans must be cautious
Barbados must guard against complacency and over-confidence in the 2012 Caribbean Twenty20 when they begin their campaign against the Netherlands at the Sir Vivian Richards Grounds in Antigua, tomorrow.
After defeating defending champions Trinidad and Tobago twice en route to winning the inaugural UWI Cave Hill T20 Festival, the Barbados cricketers will no doubt be feeling that this could be their year to take the title.
But while it is always good to get into the habit of winning, especially against a formidable outfit like the Trinis, the Barbados management of team director Henderson Springer, batting coach Emmerson Trotman and bowling coach Vasbert Drakes should not rest on their laurels.
It must be noted Trinidad and Tobago were without the inspirational trio of Dwayne Bravo, Ravi Rampaul and Kieron Pollard while Barbados were without Fidel Edwards.
Four times in regional T20 competition, the Barbados cricketers, like the Jamaicans, the Leewards and the Windwards, have returned home empty-handed with no silverware. Only Guyana (2006 and 2010) and Trinidad and Tobago (2008 and 2011) have tasted championship champagne.
Twice in the Stanford20/20 in 2006 and 2008, Barbados fell short and in the first two editions of the Caribbean T20 in 2010 and 2011, the Bajans simply flattered to deceive. The loss to Guyana in the 2010 final when Jonathan Foo snatched victory from the jaws of defeat for the Guyanese, is still a bitter pill to swallow.
Barbados’ batting seems to rely heavily on converted opener Dwayne Smith, who smashed three consecutive half-centuries but failed in the final of the UWI Festival.
That failure was a blessing in disguise as it made the other batsmen buckle down and bat with more responsibility. It was indeed encouraging to see captain Kirk Edwards play a decent hand and anchor the team to victory with a gritty unbeaten 42. He is definitely not a free-scoring batsman, like most West Indians against quality bowling but still has a role to play in a team, bereft of classy batsmen.
In the first two matches when he was out to sea, mustering seven runs off 15 balls and nine off 29 balls, I thought he was trying too hard to show that he’s capable of playing the T20 format.
Instead of trying to knock the cover off the ball as the ole-timers used to say, and hitting the ball straight to fielders, especially when cutting and driving against the spinners, it would be more advisable to play with soft hands, and put the ball into the gaps and pick up singles as the boundaries will come along.
Tactics are going to be critical.
The million-dollar question is whether Edwards will now open the innings even with the experienced Dale Richards in the squad.
In those four tune-up matches, Barbados unbelievably tried three different openers with Richards, Kevin Stoute and Edwards all partnering Smith.
There is also a school of thought that impressive young wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich, who was a hit when opening for St James in the parish tournament, could also be asked to do the job. But whatever positions he bats in, he must aim for more than cameos.
The experienced Ryan Hinds also needs to recognize that he is not a slogger. Instead of going for the adventurous big heaves, Hinds should be looking to penetrate the field with drives and cuts for boundaries. After all, if he can get two fours in an over or even one and a couple of singles, that would be okay depending on the situation. I just hope he and Edwards won’t be batting together in the first six overs of the batting power play. One expects the bowlers to hold their own.
All in all, no praise is too high for Steven Leslie, the sports coordinator of the Academy of Sports at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus for staging the four-team festival, on the eve of the Caribbean T20 so that the team could get some further match play.
But it is a shame that no one in the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) seems to have convinced many people they have the imagination and vision for creative cricketing initiatives.
“The tournament achieved its objective by exposing Barbados and West Indies cricketers to additional T20 cricket. I am pleased that Trinidad and Tobago participated. This added to the overall competitive nature of the matches,” Leslie said.