Trinidad and Tobago start this weekend's Twenty20 for 50 Cricket Festival as favourites to walk away with the US$20,000 first prize, but Brian Lara, Daren Ganga and Tamar Lambert—captains of the three other teams in the competition—have all promised they will do everything in their power to prevent that from happening.
Lara and Ganga will captain two All Star squads while Lambert skippers Jamaica in the three-day tournament, which takes place at Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain.
The tournament bowls off today, with T&T, led by Denesh Ramdin, taking on the Brian Lara All Star team in the feature 7 p.m. match, while Jamaica and the Daren Ganga All Star team clash in the 2:30 p.m. fixture.
Lara, Ganga and Lambert were confident of their team's chances when they spoke to the media at the pre-tournament captains' press conference at Hyatt Regency, Port of Spain yesterday.
Ramdin was unable to attend because of flooding caused by yesterday's heavy rain.
Lara believes he has a "pretty good" team capable of stopping Caribbean T20 champions Trinidad and Tobago.
The "Prince of Port of Spain" recruited the likes of former South Africa batsman Herschelle Gibbs and Indian Premier League (IPL) stars Dwayne Bravo, Sunil Narine and Dwayne Smith.
"We expect to be very competitive, we are playing to win. T&T, who are preparing for the Champions League in South Africa...they are expected to be favorites, but I am sure that Daren and myself have put together two teams that will be very competitive," said Lara.
Of the players in his squad, Lara said: "I have selected a lot of regional talent. The fact that guys like Sunil Narine and Dwayne Bravo will not be playing with the Trinidad and Tobago team in the Champions League--they are playing with their (IPL) franchise team--they will be part of my squad."
Lara noted that Australia superstar Shane Warne had to pull out of the competition at the last minute and Makhaya Ntini will also out due to visa issues.
Lara also has former Soca Warriors footballer Dwight Yorke in his line-up, along with Barbados and West Indies pacer Fidel Edwards and former T&T and WI spinner Dinanath Ramnarine.
Trinidad and Tobago also have a formidable squad with West Indies T20 players Ramdin, Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo and Samuel Badree in the mix.
Adrian Barath is also in the national squad and all-rounder Kevon Cooper is expected to be back from the Sri Lanka Premier League T20 to take the field in tonight's match.
Ravi Rampaul is nursing an injury and will miss the tournament, while Kieron Pollard is getting married this weekend and is unavailable.
Ganga said he was honoured to lead one of the All Star teams and also believes he has a strong selection.
"I am very confident with my squad," Ganga said yesterday. "I have a very formidable squad. We have Justin Kemp, the captain of the Cape Cobras team, Loots Bosman, we have two T&T seasoned players, Lincoln Roberts and Mervyn Dillon, and wicket-keeper/batsman Andrew Puttick from South Africa."
Though Jamaica do not have the services of Chris Gayle, Lambert still has high hopes about their chances and said they are using the tournament to kick-start their preparations for next year's Caribbean T20.
"We know it's going to be a tough competition and we are looking forward to it. It is always competitive when you are playing against Trinidad. The Brian Lara invitational team...they have some good players, but we are prepared for it," said Lambert.
Nizam Saladeen, CEO of Infinite Possibilities, the event coordinators, revealed that some top local artistes will be performing between matches each day.
There will be two games played each day, the first at 2:30 p.m. and the second from 7 p.m.
Among the artistes expected to perform are Shal, TC, Rikki Jai, Raymond Ramnarine, Fay-Ann Lyons, Shurwayne Winchester, Ravi B and Nisha B and Kes Dieffenthaller.
T&T—Denesh Ramdin (captain), Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Darren Bravo, William Perkins, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Yannick Ottley, Kevon Cooper, Rayad Emrit, Navin Stewart, Samuel Badree, Sherwin Ganga, Dave Mohammed
David Williams (coach), Omar Khan (manager)
Jamaica—Tamar Lambert (captain), Nkrumah Bonner, David Bernard Jr., Zenieffe Fowler, Damion Jacobs, Kenar Lewis, Xavier Marshall, Andre McCarthy, Jamie Merchant, Horace Miller, Nikita Miller, Andrew Richardson, Andre Russell, Krishmar Santokie
Management staff: Donovan Bennett, Junior Bennett, Dave Bernard Sr., Donovan Senior.
Daren Ganga All Stars—Daren Ganga (captain), Justin Kemp, Devon Smith, Loots Bosman, Lincoln Roberts, Assad Fudadin, Andrew Puttick, Sulieman Benn, Kevin Stoute, Ryan Hinds, Mervyn Dillon, Khary Pierre
Chaitram Ramjitsingh (manager).
Brian Lara All Stars—Brian Lara (captain), Herschelle Gibbs, Dwyane Bravo, Richard Smith, Courtney Browne, Sunil Narine, Pedro Collins, Dinanath Ramnarine, Fidel Edwards, Kenneth Hazel, Dwayne Smith, Dwight Yorke, Mario Belcon, Justin Guillen
Sir Garfield Sobers (Manager/Ambassador).
T20 for 50 Cricket Festival Fixtures
(All matches take place at Queen's Park Oval)
Jamaica vs Daren Ganga XI, 2.30 p.m.
T&T vs Brian Lara XI, 7 p.m.
T&T vs Daren Ganga XI, 2.30 p.m.
Jamaica vs Brian Lara XI, 7 p.m.
3rd Place Play-off, 2.30 p.m.
Final, 7 p.m.