Getting set for PCL
Though rain impacted heavily on Barbados’ preparations for the regional first-class championship, now dubbed the Professional Cricket League (PCL) and which starts next Friday, there is some comfort in the fact that the local season is still alive and several of those expected to be in the national squad have been in fine form.
With the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Elite Division Championship ending just two weeks ago and the Sagicor General Super Cup Tournament about to go into the quarter-finals next Sunday, November 16, there are a few players who have shown consistently good form throughout the BCA domestic season since the start in May.
Immediately, the names of Shai Hope, Kyle Corbin and Jomel Warrican come to mind. All three are in the 15-man Barbados Franchise squad, to be named Barbados Pride, and even though the availability of West Indies players who were part of Dwayne Bravo’s One-Day squad, who sadly aborted the tour of India three weeks ago, would give the national selectors a stern test, such can only be healthy for the first-class Championship.
Hope, the talented ESA Field Pickwick wicket-keeper/batsman, who celebrates his 21st birthday on Monday, scored a solid century in the four-day practice match, which ended at Pine Basin today with no play on the last two days because of puddles of water on the outfield.
Having been privileged to see his knock of 122 for Kevin Stoute’s XI against Omar Phillips’ XI, and against the background of his consistently good form ever since May in the Sagicor General Twenty20 Championship, there is no doubt that he must be in the starting XI for the opening clash with arch-rivals Trinidad & Tobago in Port-of-Spain.
Hope has played only five first-class matches since his debut in 2013 and has little to show with the bat, scoring 96 runs (ave: 13.71). But there is no question about his talent, which came significantly to the fore during the 2012 regional Under-19 Championship in Barbados when as captain, he not only led the side to the three-day title but also hit three centuries. And to boot, he made another hundred in the one-day tournament.
Hope is arguably the most consistent local batsman this season. He amassed the most runs –– 346 –– at an average of 69.20 in the Sagicor General T20 Championship, and was the second highest run-getter with 331, while boasting of the best average of a remarkable 165.50, at the end of the preliminaries in the Sagicor General Super Cup.
His aggregate in the Super Cup is just seven runs behind Rashidi Boucher, the Massy Stores Spartan opening batsman, another player with first-class experience, who is also vying for a place in the national team.
And in the Elite division competition, Hope made 428 runs (ave: 42.80).
The century in the four-day practice match would have been of great satisfaction for Hope as he did not manage one in any of the three major versions in the BCA season this year. He had three half-centuries in the T20 – 82, 82 not out and 92 not out; four in the Elite division – 63, 59 not out, 64 not out and 87; and three in Super Cup – 82 not out, 56 and 96 not out.
And though Pickwick are in the quarter-finals of the Super Cup, Hope’s season in that competition has ended, barring some strange happening, as the dates for the rest of the season clash with the regional first-class Championship.
He would have had a chance this Sunday against Sagicor Life UWI at the 3Ws Oval but all of the quarter-final matches have been pushed back until November 16 because three of the venues are in use for the climax of Series 9 in the Intermediate division.
The 22-year-old Warrican has also played five first-class matches since his debut in 2012 and has shown promise with 14 wickets at 18.42 runs apiece.
Warrican was the only bowler to take over 50 wickets in the Elite division for new champions ICBL Empire. Not only did he grab 59 scalps including six ‘five-fors’ and two ten-wicket hauls, but he also had the best average of 10.54 among only 14 bowlers who managed at least 20 wickets.
He was also outstanding in the Super Cup with 17 wickets –– the joint most with another left-arm spinner, the veteran Derick Bishop of Brathwaite Construction/Republic Bank St Catherine.
Again, the edge went to Warrican with an outstanding average of 7.82 and an economy rate of 2.41.
Corbin, 24, who plays for UWI, boasted of the highest aggregate of 752 runs (ave: 53.77) including three centuries in the Elite division and 320 (ave: 45.71) with one hundred in the Super Cup.
He is a far more experienced first-class player than Hope and Warrican, having turned out in 42 matches and scored 2042 runs (ave: 25.84) with one century since his debut in 2009.
It is a pity that Hope, Corbin and Warrican, like some of the other players who are sure to be picked in the Barbados team, will not be available for the rest of the Sagicor Super Cup Championship.
Their showing in the 2014 BCA domestic season would have, however, given them the confidence to produce in the regional four-day tournament which runs until March 23, as well as the NAGICO Super50 Championship which is scheduled for Trinidad & Tobago for the second straight season, in January.
Just a reminder of the Barbados Franchise squad: Carlos Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Kyle Corbin, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Ashley Nurse, Kevin Stoute, Omar Phillips, Jomel Warrican, Tino Best, Shai Hope, Kenroy Williams, Ryan Hinds, Roston Chase and Kyle Hope.
Then the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite, who led Barbados to the four-day title this year, Dwayne Smith, Kirk Edwards, Sulieman Benn, Kemar Roach and Jason Holder, are all available for at least the first two rounds of the first-class Championship, though there are niggling injuries affecting Edwards (back) and Benn (foot) and a couple of the others, namely Corbin and Kyle Hope, have been hit by illness, reportedly Chikungunya.
By now, the Barbados squad should have been announced with the departure for Port-of-Spain set for Tuesday.
It is about time we all start to focus of the regional domestic season, even though the saga with the West Indies Cricket Board, West Indies Players Association and those players who were on the aborted tour to India continues to make headlines, leaving one to wonder when will the theatre end.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for over three decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder.@gmail.com