ST. JOHN’S, Antigua – New West Indies Cricket Board Director of Cricket Richard Pybus said recently that he was looking forward to this year’s Regional 4-Day Tournament to further understand the depth of talent in the Caribbean.

The WICB advised on Saturday that the West Indies first-class championship will begin this coming Friday, February 28 with two matches.

Jamaica will open the season on home soil, when they face Guyana at Sabina Park, four hours later Windward Islands host defending champions Barbados at the Beausejour Cricket Ground in St. Lucia in the first of nine day/night matches to be played this season.

Leeward Islands and Combined Campuses & Colleges then start their season the following day at Warner Park in St. Kitts.

Pybus said the new first-class season will be a chance for him to further devise a strategy to bring the best talent to the surface in a bid to take the West Indies team back to the pinnacle of the game.

“My initial concern coming out to the Caribbean was what is the depth in first-class cricket in the Caribbean,” said Pybus at a WICB media conference last Monday in Trinidad.

“Having watched the NAGICO Super50 Tournament over the last few weeks, the depth in the fast and spin bowling departments is exceptional, but what I will say is that where we need to improve is how we are managing and developing our talent.”

Pybus said part of the plan to assist with the improvement in the quality of play is to professionalise the first-class game in the short term.

“We want to have core groups of players regionally who will be afforded the opportunity to be fully professional cricketers,” he said.

“We want to have professional set-ups like there are overseas in county cricket, state cricket and franchise cricket. We want to have professional set-ups where we have full-time staff who are supporting full-time players and that is the ultimate goal.”

He added: “All that is going to allow us to do over the next three years is to actually get the West Indies team on a level playing field with the top sides in the World.

“That is not going to make us the best side in the World. If we were running a race it will be like us catching up to the top sides in the World. That is a key priority for us – to actually get to the starting line, so we can run an equal race.”

Pybus said one of his recommendations was the need for regional players to play more matches and identifying a clear pathway for players to move the system from age group player to club amateur to regional and then international cricket.

“We want to have a clear avenue for players who are playing first-class cricket to go on to play international cricket,” he said.

“First-class cricket is not the finishing school for international cricket. Our players need to be learning and growing their game so by the time they get to the international set-up, they will be up to the fitness standard, the skill-sets and the understanding of what is being a professional player.”

He added: “In the past, the great players from the region would play the domestic season and then go over to the United Kingdom and play for the county teams and in league cricket as overseas professionals, so they had six months of cricket.

“So the better players in the region would have a season which was nine to 10 months long. As we stand now, the current season is three months long and then we have the shorter formats.”

Pybus concluded: “We need enough volume of games. The NAGICO Super50 was very exciting, but in reality, we need more games to give players more opportunities to put the numbers together in terms of volume of runs and volume of wickets taken, so they can put pressure on the incumbents in the West Indies set-up and put the selectors under pressure. That is a huge priority for us.”

This year, the Tournament will see the introduction of a batting and bowling points system in an effort to encourage and incentivise positive play.

Teams will be awarded batting and bowling points for performances in the first 110 overs of each first innings only and retained whatever the result of the match.

A maximum of five batting points will be awarded based on runs scored by each team as follows:
200 to 249 runs – 1 point
250 to 299 runs – 2 points
300 to 349 runs – 3 points
350 to 399 runs – 4 points
400 runs or over – 5 points

A maximum of three batting points will be awarded based on wickets taken by each team as follows:
3 to 5 wickets taken – 1 point
6 to 8 wickets taken – 2 points
9 to 10 wickets taken – 3 points

The WICB also advised that the teams will be playing for two trophies this year. The team that accumulates the most points following the seven preliminary round matches will be awarded the WICB President’s Trophy and will qualify as one of four teams for the semi-finals of the Tournament to play for the George Headley/Everton Weekes Trophy.

Barbados claimed an unprecedented 21st regional first-class title, following an innings and 22 runs victory over long-standing, sporting arch-rivals Trinidad & Tobago with a day-and-a-half remaining in the Final last May on home soil at Kensington Oval.

Friday, February 28 to Monday, March 3
Windward Islands vs Barbados – Beausejour Cricket Ground, St. Lucia (3 pm daily)
Jamaica vs Guyana – Sabina Park, Jamaica (10 am daily)
Saturday, March 1 to Tuesday, March 4
Leeward Islands vs Combined Campuses & Colleges – Warner Park, St. Kitts (10 am daily)

Friday, March 7 to Monday, March 10
Trinidad & Tobago vs Windward Islands – Queen’s Park Oval, Trinidad (10 am daily)
Guyana vs Barbados – Guyana National Stadium, Guyana (3 pm daily)
Leeward Islands vs Jamaica – Warner Park, St. Kitts (3 pm daily)

Thursday, March 13 to Sunday, March 16
Guyana vs Windward Islands – Guyana National Stadium (10 am daily)
Friday, March 14 to Monday, March 17
Combined Campuses & Colleges vs Barbados – Three Ws Oval, Barbados (3 pm daily)
Trinidad & Tobago vs Leeward Islands – Queen’s Park Oval (3 pm daily)

Friday, March 21 to Monday, March 24
Combined Campuses & Colleges vs Guyana – Three Ws Oval (3 pm daily)
Jamaica vs Windward Islands – Sabina Park (10 am daily)
Barbados vs Trinidad & Tobago – Kensington Oval, Barbados (10 am daily)

Friday, March 28 to Monday, March 31
Jamaica vs Barbados – Sabina Park (10 am daily)
Trinidad & Tobago vs Jamaica – Queen’s Park Oval (3 pm daily)
Windward Islands vs Leeward Islands – Queen’s Park, Grenada (10 am daily)

Friday, April 4 to Monday, April 7
Trinidad & Tobago vs Jamaica – Queen’s Park Oval (3 pm daily)
Windward Islands vs Combined Campuses & Colleges – Arnos Vale Multiplex, St. Vincent (10 am daily)
Leeward Islands vs Guyana – Vivian Richards Cricket Ground, Antigua (10 am daily)

Friday, April 11 to Monday, April 14
Guyana vs Trinidad & Tobago – Guyana National Stadium (10 am daily)
Leeward Islands vs Barbados – Vivian Richards Cricket Ground (3 pm daily)
Combined Campuses & Colleges vs Jamaica – Three Ws Oval (10 am daily)

Saturday, April 19 to Tuesday, April 22
Semi-final 1: 1st vs 4th – To be hosted in the territory of 1st
Semi-final 2: 2nd vs 3rd – To be hosted in the territory of 2nd

Friday, April 25 to Monday, April 28
Winner Semi-final 1 vs Winner Semi-final 2 – To be hosted by higher placed team from the preliminary round