If ever a good start to a tournament was crucial, it is Trinidad and Tobago's Karbonn Smart Champions League T20 Pool Two qualifying opener against English County side Yorkshire, today, bowling off at 11.30 a.m. (T&T Time).
T&T need to top the group to qualify for the preliminary round, and they will have to do so against a buoyant Yorkshire, who won their opener against Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Uva Next, the Sri Lanka Premier League (SLPL) champions and the third team in that group. See Page 58
T&T will have the benefit of five West Indies players, captain Denesh Ramdin, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Samuel Badree and Darren Bravo.
The other three, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo have opted to represent their IPL franchises, Mumbai Indians, Kolkata Knight Riders and Chennai Super Kings, respectively. Dwayne Bravo, however, has been ruled out of the tournament due to a thigh injury picked up during the West Indies' winning run at the recently-concluded ICC World T20.
T&T will be relying on their previous experience in the tournament, where they reached the 2009 final, and then narrowly failed to make the knockout round of the 2011 edition.
Coach David Williams is hoping T&T will get some inspiration from the Windies' first world cricket tournament win since 2004.
"This competition is important to all aspects of cricket in West Indies," Williams was quoted as saying on espncricinfo.com, yesterday. "The guys look forward to this and our regional competition is so hyped up because of this T20 tournament."
Williams pointed out that T&T successfully negotiated the qualifiers, last year. He would like his team to repeat that performance.
"We know it's going to be tough. But we did extremely well in the tournaments in the Caribbean and we played a few extra matches so we are in good stead."
The former West Indies wicketkeeper also pointed out that the five returning players would all have benefitted from being in the World T20. He hopes they will bring good form with them to South Africa.
"They have been playing T20 cricket over in Sri Lanka so that will be good for us," he said. "Someone like Darren Bravo will have got a lot of experience from there. He is going from strength to strength and is an important member of the team, we're hoping he is going to do well for us."
Despite missing Pollard and company, T&T still have a good range of choices in the bowling department, which he feels will augur well for T&T's upcoming campaign.
"We've got a lot to choose from," Williams said. "We don't know if Shannon (Gabriel) is going to get in, if he does I know he is going to do well. He has been training for a long time and he is fit and ready to go."
Still, the real test for this team will come in the form of Yorkshire, today, and with a high premium placed on the two remaining spots for the main tournament, Ramdin's side have little margin for error.
Denesh Ramdin (captain/wicketkeeper), Rayad Emrit, Jason Mohammed, William Perkins, Evin Lewis, Samuel Badree, Kevon Cooper, Yannick Ottley, Sherwin Ganga, Adrian Barath, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul, Darren Bravo, Navin Stewart, Shannon Gabriel; Omar Khan (manager), David Williams (coach), Kelvin Williams (assistant coach), Oba Gulston (physiotherapist)