Today the Express begins profiling the teams participating in the Caribbean T20 series, starting with defending champions Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana and Barbados.
Trinidad & Tobago
Like in previous years, T&T will start 2013 as favourites to win the Caribbean Twenty20.
It is a position Denesh Ramdin's team has grown accustomed to over the years and with the battles in the 2013 edition taking place on home turf, the stakes will be a bit higher.
T&T have an enviable record of domination in the regional T20 series. Only Guyana and the Windward Islands have defeated them in the three previous tournaments and after those defeats, T&T have always surged back stronger and more determined.
In the inaugural tournament in 2010, Guyana overcame them by four runs in the semi-final at the Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain and the next year, the Daren Ganga-led team defeated all comers to win the title in impressive style.
A year later in 2012, an 11-run loss to the Windward Islands in their opening match at North Sound, Antigua again awoke the sleeping giants as the T&T players stepped up their performances to dominate their remaining matches including the final where they defeated Jamaica by 63 runs at Kensington Oval, Barbados.
T&T are again coming off a big loss. They crashed out of the Champions League T20 after losing their opening match to Yorkshire.
A total of 148—a total most T&T's fans would have backed their team to defend--was just not enough on that occasion as the English team reached their target with seven balls to spare and with six wickets in hand.
Now after a failed Champions League campaign, and big expectations to live up to, can Ramdin's men deliver?
They certainly have the personnel to do it. Senior players Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo will again anchor the side. But T&T also have regulars in fellow World T20-winning players Darren Bravo, Samuel Badree, Lendl Simmons and wicketkeeper/batsman Ramdin to call upon. Add to that list a fully-fit Kevon Cooper and an in-form William Perkins and Jason Mohammed and T&T look like the best team on paper. And that is without the likes of Adrian Barath who was T&T's leading run-scorer in the inaugural competition in 2010.
Although pacer Ravi Rampaul was pulled from the squad at the last minute due to injury, his replacement all-rounder Rayad Emrit is more than capable of delivering the goods having been part of T&T's Champions League T20 side for the last two years.
Anything is possible in T20 cricket, but T&T should be good for a repeat.
T&T squad: Denesh Ramdin (Captain), Darren Bravo (Vice Captain), Samuel Badree, Dwayne Bravo, Kevon Cooper, Shannon Gabriel, Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Yannick Ottley, Evin Lewis, William Perkins, Kieron Pollard, Rayad Emrit, Lendl Simmons.
T&T Fact Box
Won the Caribbean T20 in 2011 and 2012.
T&T have only lost two out of 17 matches in the CT20s.
The only teams to have beaten T&T are Guyana and Windwards.
T&T have the highest score in the competition—211/3 vs the Leewards.
With Ramnaresh Sarwan, Devendra Bishoo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Jonathan Foo, Trevon Griffith and Steven Jacobs in their ranks, Guyana look like they have what it takes, at least on paper, to give T&T a run for their money.
They are the only Caribbean side to beat T&T in T20s twice--in the inaugural Stanford T20 final and in the semi-final of the first Caribbean T20 tournament and the team still has match-winners in their ranks.
Cricket fans in T&T will know of Trevon Griffith and Steven Jacobs, two hard-hitting batsmen who have been impressive in the T&T Cricket Board Premiership T20 competition.
Bishoo, Foo, Sarwan, Chanderpaul, the skipper Veerasammy Permaul and Deonarine have all played for West Indies and will be keen on booking a second trip to the lucrative Champions League T20 which will go to the winners of the Caribbean T20.
Local fans could still probably recall the exploits of Foo in Guyana's one-wicket win over Barbados in the 2010 final.
He has not had the same impact since scoring 42 off 17 balls to bring his team back from the brink of defeat then, but that is the kind of match-winning performance Guyana will be expecting from their experienced line-up.
Bishoo is another one to watch. He has had a tough year, making room for Sunil Narine in the West Indies line-up. But the Caribbean T20 could be the perfect opportunity for the leg-spinner to get back on the radar of the West Indies selectors.
Much like T&T, the Guyanese public will have a lot of faith in their team to deliver even as their domestic cricket seems to be in chaos after Guyana's government replaced the Guyana Cricket Board with an Interim Management Committee.
The two sides meet in the final match of the Trinidad phase of the tournament next Sunday.
Guyana squad: Veerasammy Permaul (Captain), Christopher Barnwell (Vice Captain), Ronsford Beaton, Devendra Bishoo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Derwin Christian, Royston Crandon, Narsingh Deonarine, Jonathan Foo, Trevon Griffith, Steven Jacobs, Leon Johnson, Rajiv Ivan, Ramnaresh Sarwan.
Guyana Fact Box
Won the inaugural tournament in 2010
Failed to make it out of the Group stage in 2011 & 2012
Out of 13 CT20 matches, Guyana have won eight, lost four and had one no-result
Highest score: 178/8 vs CCC in 2011
Barbados have come close to winning the Caribbean Twenty20 title but just have not yet got over the finish line.
In 2010, it was Guyana standing in their way in the final and in 2012, they were sent packing by T&T in the semi-finals.
This year the Bajans will be hoping for something different. This time they have put in a lot of extra work which started months ago and are confident of going all the way.
Yesterday they won a warm-up match against T&T "A" at the National Cricket Centre, with skipper Dwayne Smith top-scoring with 71 and their coach Emmerson Trotman is happy with the build-up so far and is confident they can step up and win the tournament this year.
"Preparations have been going very well," he told the Express yesterday.
"We started a few months ago and we have put a lot of plans in place due to the simple fact that we got so close a couple of times. I am quite happy with all the plans and all the hard work the boys have put in and the boys are eager and good to go and I am quite confident," the Barbados coach said.
"We are a very confident team. We are here to win the competition. That is our goal," he insisted.
And Trotman says success this time around requires more toughness and a bit more commitment from his players.
"The guys understand their roles a lot better and they are well prepared," Trotman added.
Asked about who are Barbados' biggest threats, the coach said: "In Twenty20 anything can happen.
"We are not really focusing on any particular team. What we do is focus on our own strengths and weaknesses and we all know that T&T are the team (to beat) but in T20 anybody can win. We are just going to do what we have to do and then see what will happen," the coach insisted.
Speaking about the composition of his squad which will see a few changes from last year team, Trotman said: "It is a balanced side."
This year, Alcindo Holder, Kevin Stoute, Dale Richards and Kirk Edwards have been dropped and Shamarh Brooks, Kyle Mayers, Rolston Chase and Justin Brathwaite added to the squad which will be captained by Smith.
"We have Dwayne Smith the captain and Fidel Edwards who have played a lot of T20s around. They are very experienced in that field and they are very helpful. We have a good combination and good balance right now. The youngsters are ready to listen and the experienced guys are willing to share their knowledge," the coach explained.
Speaking about the injury of T&T's Ravi Rampaul, Trotman said although they will feel sorry for the pacer, his absence will improve his team's chances of coming out on top against the defending champions.
"Everybody knows he is a good bowler and for any opposition to hear that Ravi Rampaul is not playing will obviously give them a bit of a boost. He is a top class bowler. We feel sorry for the lad but at the same time it gives you a better chance as well," he added.
Barbados face T&T on January 16 at Beausejour Cricket Ground, Gros Islet, St Lucia.
Barbados: Dwayne Smith (Captain), Sulieman Benn, Tino Best, Carlos Brathwaite, Justin Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, Jonathan Carter, Rolston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Fidel Edwards, Ryan Hinds, Kyle Mayers, Ashley Nurse, Javon Searles.
Barbados Fact Box
Losing finalists in 2010.
Failed to get out of the group stage in 2011.
Placed fourth in the 2012 tournament.
Out of 15 CT20 matches, Barbados have won nine, lost five and had one no-result.
Highest Score: 180/6 vs CCC in 2010