Barbados, T&T lift veil on historic tournament
The most bitter rivalry in regional first class cricket is set to highlight the dawn of the historic WICB Professional League, as Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago go head-to-head in the opening series of matches starting tomorrow in Port of Spain.
Neither side is expected is to give an inch in the contest at Queen’s Park Oval, as they look to begin the revamped first class champion on a high note.
Barbados are defending champions having dominated last year’s tournament, and will have recent history on their side.
They have won the last five matches on the trot between the two sides including contests at the same venue two years ago and last year. To go with the stats, Barbados will boast a strong side, with no less than six players with Test experience involved.
They will be led by rookie Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite with Jason Holder, Ryan Hinds, Omar Phillips, Dwayne Smith and Kemar Roach all in the line up.
Further, all-rounder and West Indies A team captain Carlos Brathwaite is also in the squad along with A team off-spinner Ashley Nurse and fast bowler Miguel Cummins.
Brathwaite said yesterday he was confident Barbados would play up to their usual high standard during the new season.
“I can see our side doing quite well this season. We have a strong team, especially for this first match against the Red Force [Trinidad], and it is just about the ‘fellas’ going out there and working hard and gelling together as a team,” said Brathwaite.
“With the ten matches, this season will be interesting. Around the world, this is the way it is done and it will be very helpful and allow us to play more matches and give us more opportunity to improve.”
Trinidad and Tobago, whose franchise will be known as Red Force, will be missing several of their key players this season with West Indies players Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, all unavailable.
However, they still boast the likes of West Indies Test captain Denesh Ramdin, veteran international player Ramnaresh Sarwan and attacking opener Lendl Simmons.
Captain Rayad Emrit, one of the seasoned campaigners in the squad, said beating Barbados in the first round would be a good way to start the new season.
“We came second to them in this competition earlier this year by two points, so I think the combination of players that we should be able to put on the park should give us a good chance of beating them and going on to capture the title next March,” said the wiry all-rounder.
“We are starting the season on home soil and Barbados are one of our toughest opponents every season. Hopefully, we can get things right this time and build the momentum for the rest of the season.”
For the first time in its history, the regional first class championship will be played under a franchise system in a professional set up.
Teams representing the Barbados Pride, Guyana Jaguars, Trinidad & Tobago Red Force, Windward Islands Volcanoes, Jamaica and Leeward Islands will embark upon a gruelling, four-month schedule to be crowned the new regional champions and claim the Headley/Weekes Trophy.
This season will feature ten rounds of matches with teams playing home-and-away fixtures.
Richard Pybus, the WICB’s Director of Cricket, said the new-look tournament representing a watershed moment in West Indies cricket.
“The beginning of a new season is always an incredibly exciting time, even more so with the move to professional cricket and our first tournament of the year, the PCL R4Day,” said Pybus.
Other opening day clashes will see Jamaica host Windward Islands at Sabina Park while Leeward Islands take on Guyana at the National Stadium at Providence.
Trinidad & Tobago Red Force (from): Rayad Emrit (captain), Bryan Charles, Yannic Cariah, Shannon Gabriel, Akeal Hosein, Imran Khan, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Yannick Ottley, Denesh Ramdin, Marlon Richards, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons
Barbados (from): Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Carlos Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Ryan Hinds, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Omar Phillips, Kemar Roach, Dwayne Smith, Jomel Warrican.