Dwayne?Smith’s name has been on the lips of local cricket fans for the past month.
And they could be eating out of his hands tonight when they journey to Kensington Oval to see Barbados’ first home match of the 2012 Caribbean Twenty20 against English county Sussex.
After two big victories in the Antigua first leg over the Netherlands and Jamaica, the Kirk Edwards-led Barbados outfit have romped to the top of Group B?with a superior net run rate.
The big-hitting Smith, 28, who has rebranded his batting with a lot more selective stroke-play, has been instrumental in those triumphs and is promising to continue to spearhead Barbados’ bid for their first regional T20 title.
After a breezy unbeaten 49 against the Dutchmen, he was in scintillating form against the Jamiacans, lashing seven fours and six sixes in an entertaining 86.
These knocks followed a century in the Sagicor T20 Cup and three half-centuries in a post-tournament festival when Barbados whipped defending champs Trinidad and Tobago twice.
“Looking at my game in the last few months, I would have to say I’m mentally tougher than at any other stage in my career,” Smith said on the eve of the 8 p.m. encounter.
“I’m a lot smarter and I don’t go chasing runs. Before, when I batted in the middle, I had to come in and look to push from the get-go. I always tell myself not to get out and leave it for the others. I take it upon myself to do the job for the team.”
Smith, who made a successful transition to the opening position in the T20 format last year, said he is able to pace his innings.
“I took the opportunity to move up to the top of the order and that has given me the chance to get myself in and then look for the big shots later on,” he said.
“This has worked really well for me. I like to go in when the ball is hard and coming onto the bat.”
While the Smith-Edwards opening combination may continue, Barbados may make two changes to their winning starting 11.
The experienced Dale Richards is expected to replace his St Andrew parishioner Jonathan Carter and West Indies pacer Fidel Edwards could come in for Kevin Stoute to take advantage of the bouncier Kensington pitch.
But Smith, who has struck 23 sixes in 13 T20 matches for Barbados and has a strike rate of 150.42, acknowledged that he has the power to dismantle any bowling attack.
“I know I have the ability to clear the boundaries, so once I am patient and smart at the beginning. I can make up at the back end. Twenty overs equal 120 balls – that’s a lot of time if you play it smart,” he said.
He also concedes that there was still room for improvement in his batting.
“There is still a long way to go for me, but I have been working very closely with Emmerson Trotman, our batting coach. That has worked very well for me. He is doing a very good job. This Barbados team is up for it this year.”
After coming up short in the inaugural Caribbean T20 in 2010, Smith said his teammates were ready.
“I have never seen a Barbados team like this – so focused and full of confidence. We aim to keep it up and go all the way.”
Meanwhile, former Barbados leg-spinner Dave Marshall has been drafted into the Netherlands’ camp for their two matches in?Barbados as assistant coach to Peter Drinnen.
The Netherlands play the Barbadian-based Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) in the opening match of the double header at 4 p.m. and will also oppose Jamaica on Friday.
Marshall says his knowledge of the local conditions and the CCC?players should assist the Dutch in getting their first victory.
“I know the playing conditions here in Barbados and I have played against the majority of the players involved in the competition, so I shoud be able to pass on some tips,” the Spartan coach/player told NATIONSPORT yesterday.
“I feel very honoured to get this opportunity as it is a pleasure to work with a foreign team in a professional setting.
“It is a learning experience, working with different players with different backgrounds and nationalities,” he noted.