BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Star-studded title-holders Barbados Pride are heavily tipped to successfully defend their Regional Super50 Cup but they will hold no terrors for perennial archrivals Trinidad and Tobago Red Force when the two teams clash on the opening day of the one-day tournament here today.
Pride boast 10 Test players in their squad and 12 who have already represented West Indies at international level. The two who have not yet played senior team cricket – Kevin Stoute and Shamarh Brooks – have both played for West Indies A.
Red Force, on the other hand, are missing most of their established players for varying reasons but will still pack a punch, with seven members of their squad having already played for West Indies as well.
And while former Test skipper, Denesh Ramdin, acknowledged the home-side’s strength, he said Red Force possessed a very good chance of winning once they produced their best game.
“We have a mixture of senior players and youngsters – exciting youngsters so it’s important that we stay focussed,” Ramdin told a media conference here yesterday.
“Our first game is against Barbados Pride – a very experienced team. We’re playing in their backyard so we need to come up with our ‘A’ game.
“If you look at all the teams this year they’re very strong teams, well balanced, so on any given day, any team can win but cricket plays on the day so we’re not going to take it lightly.
“It’s going to be an exciting tournament, young stars can come up. The most important thing is to qualify and get to Antigua … so hopefully all goes well.”
Ramdin, who recently plundered 799 runs in the Regional Four-Day Championship, leads a batting side that includes the likes of West Indies stars Evin Lewis and Jason Mohammed, with Twenty20 left-hander Nicholas Pooran also expected to feature.
Their bowling will be led by the Windies pair of fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and off-spinner Sunil Narine, with left-arm speedster Sheldon Cottrell also a lethal member of the attack.
Ramdin believes the combination of experienced and younger players provided a well-balanced unit for Red Force, which had the ability to stun the powerful Pride unit.
“They are strong on paper but cricket plays on the field. A bowler can come and bowl a good spell and knock over a few of them and put us in the box seat,” Ramdin stressed.
“We have some young exciting players. We have what we have and we have to make it do. Obviously some of them have to go off on West Indies duty and we have some replacements.
“We have Nicholas Pooran, Evin Lewis [and] Narine is back in our team and those guys are match-winners for us. [Pride] has some in their team.”
He continued: “It’s going to be good competitive game. At the end of the day, [cricket plays on the field] and it is about which team comes out and does well in all departments.”
Pride will enter the opening contest with a question mark over the fitness of Test and one-day captain, Jason Holder, who recently underwent elbow surgery and is still recovering.
However, they can easily compensate for his absence with the abundance of talent at their disposal, with Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich and company all in the line-up, and captain Kraigg Brathwaite said the side remained confident.
“It’s the first game for us. We’re looking forward to it. You know we always have a big rivalry against Trinidad, and the guys are very excited about the tournament,” said the Test opener.
“I think we’re quite ready. Obviously Jason had surgery on his elbow so he’s not a hundred per cent but as a team we’ll be ready to go.”
Like Red Force, several members of the team will head off on West Indies duty while the tournament is ongoing but Brathwaite said he did not envision it being a major blow to Pride’s title defence.
He said once the replacements remained in shape, the transition would be seamless.
“Obviously it will be tough but the guys who are coming in I have full confidence in them to do the job in terms of defending the title,” Brathwaite pointed out.
“What will be key for us is that for the five guys who are not playing that we keep them flowing with a few practice games and keep them practicing so that when they come in they are ready to roll.
“I don’t think it will hamper us because I have full confidence in the guys to represent Barbados.”
The contest will be a day/night affair, bowling off Kensington Oval at 2 pm.
Earlier in the day, Windward Islands Volcanoes and Combined Campuses and Colleges Marooners will raise the curtain on the tournament with a 9 am clash at 3Ws Oval at the UWI Cave Hill Campus.
Group A is being contested in Barbados and also includes English County Hampshire while Group B, staged in Antigua, bowls off tomorrow and sees competition among Jamaica Scorpions, Leeward Islands Hurricanes, Guyana Jaguars, United States and English side Kent.