After an inconsistent first-class season in 2013, a lot of changes were made to the Trinidad and Tobago senior cricket team.
Among the changes were Kelvin Williams replacing David Williams as coach. Manohar Ramsaran taking over as manager from Omar Khan as manager.
The T&T Cricket Board (TTCB) also had a core group of players preparing since late last year, knowing they would be without some of their senior players for most of the season.
Whether or not those measures will improve the national team’s fortunes in 2014 could be determined over the next four days when T&T tackle the Windward Islands in their first game of the four-day tournament at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain bowling off today at 10 a.m.
T&T skipper Rayad Emrit, who leads the side in the absence of regular skipper Denesh Ramdin, who is currently on West Indies duties, knows that the hosts will be in for a tough fight against the Windwards.
The Windwards beat T&T by ten wickets inside three days in St Vincent last year, finishing the round robin phase of the tournament in second place while T&T were fourth.
While T&T will again be without some of their seniors--Ravi Rampaul, Lendl Simmons, Sunil Narine, Dwayne Bravo, Ramdin and Kieron Pollard--Emrit is confident that the “younger guys” can step up and fill the void.
“We have a lot of senior guys missing but the younger guys are up for it. They are excited to be here. They want to be here and really want to do well,” Emrit told the media following a training session at the match venue yesterday.
“We know the Windwards Islands are a tough side. They beat the defending champs (Barbados) in their first match this year. They beat us last year so we know we are in for a tough game but we have home advantage and hopefully we can use it to come out on top,” said Emrit.
The captain is also aware of T&T’s past batting problems which saw them collapse to 86 all out in their loss to the Windwards in 2013.
He said that the team had been doing a lot of mental preparation ahead of the season. He is also encouraged by the form of his batsmen in the T&T practice games leading up to the opening match.
The Liam Sebastien-led Windwards are also very confident heading into the game following their nine-wicket win over the Bajans in their opening encounter.
Windwards manager Lockhart Sebastien said the victory against the defending champions, who beat T&T in last year’s final, was a total team effort which is exactly what they will be looking to replicate when they face T&T.
He also noted that former West Indies under-19 wicketkeeper Sunil Ambris and batsman Romel Currency were the two players joining the squad ahead of round two as replacements for Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher who left the camp to join the West Indies side ahead of the three-match Twenty20 series against England.
Looking ahead Emrit said: “Our main focus this time around is to try and win as many games as possible because there is a league trophy and a cup as well. We have a young team but we know we have the guys who can go all the way and win the tournament.”
Among the youngsters in the side are opening batsmen Evin Lewis who will most likely partner Adrian Barath at the top of the batting order, wicketkeeper Steven Katwaroo, left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein and leg-spinner Yannic Cariah.
Middle order batsman Jonathan Augustus, who plays club cricket with Queen’s Park Cricket Club, is the only new face in the four-day team and could make his debut on his home ground.
“We have not fielded our strongest team for quite a while but I think there is a lot of talent in T&T and if the youngers guys can step up to the plate and do their job, I think we can go far,” the T&T skipper said of the players at his disposal.
Asked about the inclusion of Augustus, Emrit said: “Jonny has scored a lot of runs and he has been batting well. Hopefully he can take that form into the game. He is matured now and I think if given the chance he can produce the goods.”
T&T (from): Rayad Emrit (captain), Evin Lewis, Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, Jason Mohammed, Jonathan Augustus, Steven Katwaroo (wicket-keeper), Imran Khan, Marlon Richards, Akeal Hosein, Shannon Gabriel, Kavesh, Kantasingh, Yannic Cariah.
Kelvin Williams (coach), Manohar Ramsaran (manager).
Windward Islands (from): Liam Sebastien (captain), Sunil Ambris, Alston Bobb, Romel Currency, Lindon James, Delorn Johnson, Keddy Lesporis, Mervin Matthew, Nelon Pascal, Kenroy Peters, Dalton Polius, Devon Smith, Tyrone Theophile.
Ian Allen (coach), Lockhart Sebastien (manager)
Regional 4-Day fixtures
T&T vs Windward Islands, Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad (10 a.m daily)
Guyana vs Barbados, Guyana National Stadium, Guyana (3 p.m. daily)
Leeward Islands vs Jamaica, Warner Park, St Kitts (3 p.m. daily)