It’s Twenty20 time again; the West Indies Cricket Board version that is. Starting January 10 the seven regional teams will be joined by Canada, and English counties Somerset and Hampshire in the quest for supremacy. The highest finishing regional team will have the added incentive of being the WICB’s representative at this year’s Champions League.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan, two of Guyana's most experience cricketers. Photo by Shiek Mohamed

As we have seen in previous tournaments of this format favorites are not easy to choose. It is the nature of the game that a team could be playing the best cricket throughout and in a split second, when it matters most, lose it all. An example that comes to mind is that of Barbados in the last WICB competition in August. In my opinion they were great throughout and were all set to roll over Guyana when Jonathon Foo appeared and snatched their dream away with the help of the hapless Larry Babb.

Let me say however, that I don’t believe either of the county teams will win this, neither will the Windward Islands or the Combined Campuses. And of course I doubt anyone, not even the Canadians themselves, gives Canada a chance of even reaching the semi-finals. That leaves defending champions Guyana; the only other team to win a regional T20 tournament, Trinidad and Tobago; powerhouses Jamaica; the consistent Barbados; and the dangerous Leeward Islands.

The T20 was a novelty when Guyana won the Stanford tournament in 2006, so no one knew what to expect. By 2008 Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago were beginning to emerge as teams which had gotten the hang of the game’s shortest version. However, I still had my doubts about the Guyanese at the start of the 2010 competition – mainly because of the turmoil engulfing the GCB and their resultant poor showing in the other formats. It seems though the Guyanese just up the ante when it comes to T20, and with the experience of Chanderpaul and Sarwan, along with the youthful talent of Foo and all-rounder Chris Barnwell, you just cannot count them out – ever.

Jamaica, despite their abundance of talent, have yet to demonstrate they will not fold when confronted – in the pressure games – by the serious challengers. Their biggest win (could be only too) came in Stanford Edition 2 when they topped Guyana by one run in the semis, and that too after some serious misunderstanding by the Guyanese batsmen at the crease when the last ball was bowled. Having their most destructive batsman, Chris Gayle, unavailable would also not help the Jamaicans’ chances. However, their X-factor could be having Gus Logie as coach. He has proven his expertise elsewhere but can he catalyze the Jamaican juggernaut into transforming their dominance from four-day to three-hour cricket?

Barbados, although not winning many titles have been very consistent in recent years, in all three formats of the game and, like I mentioned above, I believe they were good enough to win last year’s tournament until Foo and Babb intervened. A team without stars (although Tino Best might beg to differ), they have learnt to depend on the collective and that should stand them in good stead. It’s only a matter of time before their luck changes.

Trinidad and Tobago, in the previous tournaments – including the 2009 Champions Trophy – seemed the most adept at this form of the game, even giving their fans a sense of entitlement to the extent they figured it was a foregone conclusion they would have been going to South Africa last year. The Guyanese burst their bubble then, just like they did in 2006.

And while the Trinis may have gotten a leg up on the other territories in the earlier competitions I believe they others are catching up. That, and the absence of Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard, would make it double difficult for the boys from the land of the humming bird to go all the way.

We now come to the Leeward Islands, as talented a team as any of the others. Their downfall in recent years has been inadequate preparation. The Leewards’ authorities have consistently been naming their teams long after the other territories have submitted theirs, with the latest squad being released a week before the WICB T20 starts. Time spent together is important for a team and thus, given their talent, the longer the tournament the more dangerous the Leewards become. That is why I believe that if they can make it to the semi-finals I have no doubt that the Leeward Islands can go all the way.

Blog: Balgo’s Blog
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