ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – Another season packed with bright prospects and great opportunities for the region’s best players begins when the WICB Professional Cricket League Regional 4-Day Tournament opens on Friday.
It’s the second straight season of the R4Day under the franchise format, featuring 10 rounds of matches – the same as last season – played over the next five months between franchises drawn from the six territorial boards of the WICB.
The other teams will all be looking to unseat reigning champions Guyana Jaguars, last season’s most improved side, and claim the Headley/Weekes Trophy, the symbol of regional supremacy, as they try to develop the playing talent required for international competition for West Indies.
“We’re excited going into the second season of the PCL R4Day,” said WICB director of cricket Richard Pybus. “We want to see how much progress the franchise teams have made having had an off-season with their squads to work on their preparation and fitness, as well as team and individual game plans.
“Last season, the teams didn’t have the off-season to get their squads settled, and for the coaches and support staff to challenge the players to grow their games, so this year will be an opportunity to evaluate the quality of the off-season work put in by the players and coaches.”
The Jaguars are expected to face a typically stout challenge, when they face Windward Islands Volcanoes at the Guyana National Stadium.
It will be a hard act for the Jaguars to follow up from last season, after they became the first side to claim the Headley-Weekes Trophy, symbol of regional supremacy, in the franchise era of the R4Day by topping the table, following victories in eight of their matches including a 92-run win in the corresponding fixture last season.
A reinvigorated Leeward Islands Hurricanes host Trinidad & Tobago Red Force at Warner Park in Basseterre, St. Kitts.
The Hurricanes – under new management – will be hoping to continue to build on their growing confidence from the tail-end of last season, which they ended with two straight victories including a stunning, come-from-behind win in the backyard of their opponents for this weekend.
The match-of-the-round is however, shaping up to be at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown.
It features Barbados Pride, last year’s second-placed team, with a handful of Test stars including captain Kraigg Brathwaite, batsmen Shane Dowrich and Shai Hope, fast bowler Kemar Roach and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican, and their long-standing rivals Jamaica Scorpions boosted by Barbadian draft pick Kirk Edwards.
“The Selection Panel of the WICB will be watching to see who can produce consistent results to force their way into the picture for selection to the West Indies Test side,” said Pybus.
“Some of the promising young talent from last season, who got opportunities through their performance in the PCL R4Day, has discovered it is quite a jump to the Test level and will be seeking to consolidate last season’s performance to ensure that they stay in the selectors’ thoughts.”
Pybus said he was also looking forward to viewing the quality of the pitches that will be produced throughout the season, which has been a major talking point in recent seasons, as spinners have flourished.
“Regional curator Kent Crafton has been supporting the stadium curators to improve the pitches for the coming season,” said Pybus.
“There was much debate during the off-season about whether fast bowling should be incentivised in the R4Day to ensure that the fast bowlers deliver more overs.
He said: “We wanted to see fast bowlers have more dominant roles in the R4Day with the goal of creating greater competition for West Indies fast bowling spots.
“The trend has been for spinners to dominate, but the franchise coaches – at their meeting during the off season – all felt that if the pitches improve, the captains will use their fast bowlers more and asked that Kent and the curators be given the chance to work on them.”
Jaguars vs Volcanoes
(AT GUYANA NATIONAL STADIUM, GUYANA)
JAGUARS (from): Leon Johnson (captain), Chris Barnwell, Ronsford Beaton, Anthony Bramble, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Rajendra Chandrika, Assad Fudadin, Shemron Hetymer, Steven Jacobs, Keon Joseph, Gudakesh Motie, Raymon Reifer, Vishaul Singh
VOLCANOES (from): Liam Sebastien (captain), Sunil Ambris, Alston Bobb, Miles Bascombe, Keddy Lesporis, Mervyn Matthew, Kyle Mayers, Kevin McClean, Kenroy Peters, Dalton Polius, Shane Shillingford, Devon Smith, Tyrone Theophile
UMPIRES: Nandkumar Shivsankar, Joel Wilson (Trinidad & Tobago)
MATCH REFEREE: Reon King
RESERVE UMPIRE: Imran Moakan
Hurricanes vs Red Force
(AT WARNER PARK, ST. KITTS)
HURRICANES (from): Steve Liburd (captain), Nelson Boland, Nkrumah Bonner, Kacey Carty, Rahkeem Cornwall, Daron Cruickshank, Alzarri Joseph, Shane Jeffers, Jaison Peters, Orlando Peters, Sherwin Peters, Jacques Taylor, Gavin Tonge
RED FORCE (from): Rayad Emrit (captain), Yannic Cariah, Bryan Charles, Narsingh Deonarine, Shannon Gabriel, Kyle Hope, Kavesh Kantasingh, Steven Katwaroo, Imran Khan, Evin Lewis, Kjorn Ottley, Yannick Ottley, Daniel St. Clair
UMPIRES: Gregory Brathwaite (Barbados), Carl Tuckett
MATCH REFEREE: Stewart Rawlins
RESERVE UMPIRE: Bernard Joseph
Pride vs Scorpions
(AT KENSINGTON OVAL, BARBADOS)
PRIDE (from): Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Kemar Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Kyle Corbin, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Justin Greaves, Shai Hope, Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Kevin Stoute, Jomel Warrican
SCORPIONS (from): Paul Palmer Jr (captain), Carlton Baugh Jr, Dave Bernard Jr, John Campbell, Jason Dawes, Kirk Edwards, Damion Jacobs, Brandon King, Andre McCarthy, Nikita Miller, Marquino Mindley, Nicholson Gordon, Chadwick Walton
UMPIRES: Jonathan Blades, Peter Nero (Trinidad & Tobago)
MATCH REFEREE: Mervyn Jones
RESERVE UMPIRE: Ryan Willoughby