Junior Bennett and Esuan Crandon quotes | Countdown to start of PCL R4Day Tournament

ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – This year’s West Indies Cricket Board Professional Cricket League Regional 4-Day Tournament opens this coming Friday, and two teams with contrasting performances last season and in recent years will be looking to make a bright start to the new season.

Following five straight seasons as overall R4Day champions and the 2013 season when they played unbeaten in the preliminary competition, but failed to lift the overall title, Jamaica had to settle for being winners of the just Final Challenge last season, earning the Headley/Weekes Trophy.

With the Trophy being restored to being the symbol of R4Day supremacy in the coming season, the Jamaicans will be looking to reclaim it as overall champions when the long season comes to a close next March.

Guyana Jaguars, once a powerhouse in the regional game, have not had such success in recent years and they finished bottom of the table last season.

They will be looking to find confidence and turn things around, so they can recapture some of the old fire that made them one of the consistently, tough opponents in the regional game.

Both teams open the season on home soil – Jamaica face Windward Islands Volcanoes at Sabina Park in a repeat of last season’s Final Challenge, and Guyana Jaguars host Leeward Islands at the Guyana National Stadium in a battle between last season’s two strugglers.

WICB Media continues its countdown to the start of the tournament, presenting key quotes from head coaches Junior Bennett of Jamaica and Esuan Crandon of Guyana Jaguars.


On trying to reclaim the Headley/Weekes Trophy as overall champions:
We are looking forward to the new season. Our preparations have been going well. The players have been putting in some creditable performances in local matches, so we are hoping to make a positive start to the new season this coming weekend and in the matches before the Christmas break – and that our senior players can lead from the front.

On the stumbles from last season:
We had a lot of young players and they took a long time to settle down, so towards the back-end of the tournament they began to play more consistently. We are hoping that they can all make a better start to the tournament in this new season and we can get some positive results early. Once we play consistently well, we will again be competitive.

On maintaining intensity throughout the long season:
The players are in good physical condition. We have managed over the last few seasons to stay relatively injury-free. This season should not be too difficult. I remember the last time the season was contested over 10 rounds, we played all of the matches back-to-back without any break. This time, we play four matches and have a month-long break to play the NAGICO Super50 Tournament and then get back to the first-class matches and there is another break after the seventh round, so I think it will be much easier going this season.

On the 10-round format:
I think it is something we should have been doing for a long time. Five or six first-class matches a season are definitely not enough. Under this format, you give players more opportunities. If a player starts a season not doing well, he has a chance to return at the back-end of the tournament and put together a few good performances, so I really welcome this new format.

On players he wants to see take a big leap this season:
Jermaine Blackwood came good towards the end of last season and also made his Test debut, so we hope carries on from there. Nkrumah Bonner has shown a lot of potential and was a graduate of the Sagicor West Indies High Performance Centre and it’s time that he starts to deliver. Andre McCarthy is another player with potential that also has to become a match-winner for us.


On trying to finish in a higher position:
Our performance last season was very disappointing. We will have to put it behind us and seek to improve, try for greater consistency moving forward. We have done a lot of soul-searching and planning after last season and in our preparations for this season. With this new franchise system in place and a longer season ahead, the players are all eager to go.

On what needs to be fixed:
We realised that one of our main problems was our opening pairs have not performed as consistently as we would like them and this has meant that we have not the base for big first innings totals to put our opponents under pressure. We have also been working hard on situational-awareness in the hope that the thought processes of the players would improve and we will be able to endure and come out on top during those pressure moments in the game. We have had a number of young players and we have asked them to learn the game – and quickly – prior to this season when they were only five or six matches, but this season presents a good opportunity and we have asked them to prepare themselves in every area, so they can perform well for the team, themselves and Guyana. We have a pretty good balance for the first few matches – no less than six Test players are available to us – a pretty good range of players from which to choose. It looks good on paper, but we have to prove it on the field. We are hoping that we can make full use of home advantage, something which we have failed to do in the recent past, and I think the players are all in the right frame of mind approaching the start of the new season.

On maintaining intensity throughout the long season:
Fitness will be vitally important and we will have to manage their workloads throughout the season, specifically the bowlers, so that they can sustain the level of performance that is required to make us a competitive force. It will also call for players to be honest with the management team about the nature of their injuries. Some players can play through the pain barrier and through their injuries, but others cannot, so we need to know to be able manage them properly.

On the presence of Barbadian all-rounder Raymon Reifer in the squad:
He is fitting in very well and getting accustomed to our playing conditions in Guyana. The pitches play much lower and slower and favour the spin bowlers than they do in Barbados, but we have been talking to him about the lengths he has to bowl and how he will need to adjust his stroke-play as a batsman coming from Barbados where the pitches offer more pace and bounce. He is coping well and the players are making him feel welcomed. He has a key role to play as a batting all-rounder and we are looking forward for his contribution throughout this tournament.

On players he is keen to see make a big leap:
Rajindra Chandrika scored a double-hundred in our Inter-County championship and we are expecting big things from him, seeing he was also a graduate of the Sagicor West Indies High Performance Centre. He has gotten a few good starts in previous matches, but we are hoping he can help solve our problem at the top of the order. Further down the order, we have Vishal Singh and we are hoping with the presence of experienced batsman like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine and Leon Johnson that he could add some depth to his game. We also expect Ronsford Beaton to play that leading role for us with the new-ball with our traditional strength in the spin bowling department to offer support.