(T&T Newsday) Chairman of the National Cricket Selectors Dudnath Ramkessoon said yesterday that Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana have much to play for in the forthcoming four-team T20 Cricket Festival.
Scheduled for Guaracara Park, Pointe-a-Pierre tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday, both teams are hoping to score a useful psychological advantage ahead of the Caribbean tournament from January 9 to 24 in Antigua/Barbuda and Barbados.
Ramkessoon said yesterday he expected a competitive series which quite apart from the TT$20,000 first prize will provide an accurate assessment of the quality of the players of both teams who have been recently starved of valuable onfield practice because of persistent rain.
When the teams last met in the shortest form of the game, Guyana defeated the homesters in a lopsided semi-final match on the way to winning the inaugural Caribbean T20 competition under lights last August at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port-of- Spain.
Ramkessoon said the TT players, in the absence of key players Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard must lift their game and produce match- winning performances if they are to seriously stake claims for selection on the West Indies team.
“It is an excellent opportunity for the players on the national team, several of whom have been around for some time to raise the bar and also advertise their skills on the international stage in order to secure valuable contracts in the T20 leagues of the major Test playing countries of the world,’’ said Ramkessoon.
“That alone should motivate them. But you must remember that it is only 20 overs and the national team must hit the ground running in all departments of the game to ensure victory in the long run,” said Ramkessoon.
He said TT team despite their nine major regional championships under Ganga will not start among the favourites in 2011 but could use the outsider tag to great benefit by playing well enough to beat their better fancied opponents
TT will be counting heavily on the experience of recalled allrounder Richard Kelly as well as the natural talent of former Leewards Island captain Runako Morton along with regular stand-outs Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and fast bowler Ravi Rampaul.
The chief selector who was captain of the first West Youth team on tour in England in the 1970s bemoaned the poor weather which has seriously hampered the local team’s onfield practice leading up to the regional T20 in early January.
He praised the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board’s initiative in organising the T20 Cricket Festival which has attracted a strong Guyana team, the reigning T20 Caribbean champions who will be led by stylish batsman Ramnaresh Sarwan and the evergreen Shivnarine Chanderpaul in their line-up.
Ramkessoon said the captaincy of Daren Ganga has never been placed in any doubt as the Barrackpore opener has proven himself as a match- winning captain and a more than able batsman in the line-up.
He said Ganga, who led the TT team to a sensational Airtel Champions League T20 final two years ago in India faces a major challenge to break the 12-month drought of regional silverware.
Ramkessoon stressed however that shrewd captaincy alone will not return Trinidad and Tobago back on top the regional ladder but that all players in the team must pull their weight and make a significant contribution which could lead to overall success.
He said the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board had provided the ideal opportunity for close to four dozen of the leading young cricketers to address the national selectors with a view to gaining selection for the other top regional competitions of the forthcoming 2011 season.
Apart from TT and Guyana, the two other teams in the T20 Cricket Festival are a national “B” selection and the Under-23s of the National Cricket Academy at Balmain in Couva.
“At least 42 of the cream of the crop in local cricket will be on show and cricket fans should not miss out on this golden opportunity to feast on the wealth of talent and the national selectors will be taking a close look at the depth of the game and observe what is in the cupboard,”said Ramkessoon.
“The players who were unfortunate in not being selected on the national team should take heart that they can force themselves into contention with impressive performances against their rivals in the T20 Cricket Festival,” said Ramkessoon.