By Ravi Madholall
Since the introduction of the West Indies Cricket Board Professional Cricket League (PCL) four-day tournament in 2014, Guyana Jaguars have been the championship side on both occasions.
Former Guyana opening batsman Krishna Arjune is backing his country’s boys to come out on top again and highly confident they could do it in 2016/2017 edition.
The action is set to bowl off on Friday with three matches playing simultaneously as Guyana Jaguars hosting Jamaica Scorpions while last year’s runners Barbados Pride traveling to St. Kitts and Nevis to clash with the Leeward Islands Hurricanes.
In the other fixture, Trinidad and Tobago Red Force will entertain Windward Islands Volcanoes at the Queen’s Park Oval, Port-of-Spain.
Guyana Jaguars ended with a whopping 149 points after the double-round format from 10 matches winning eight games and ended up with two drawn encounters.
Those figures the last time gave Arjune greater hopes that the men from the land of many waters should be inspired to retain the coveted regional four-day cup.
“I think the way Guyana Jaguars played in the two previous seasons showed that they are eager to dominate in this version; the experience is there especially with the presence of veteran batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul,” the 36-year-old right-handed batsman Arjune commented.
The Guyanese team will once again be led by test batsman Leon Johnson while opener Rajindra Chandrika, spinners Devendra Bishoo and Veerasammy Permaul along with Chanderpaul are the men with test exposure.
“Looking at the team and with all these senior players available also demonstrated that the selectors are serious to go out there and fire in all cylinders,” Arjune asserted.
Johnson, who recently returned with the Caribbean team from Dubai, has been consistently since the PCL competition launched while left-handed Vishal Singh was prolific too in the last two seasons.
Singh also had a wonderful A team tour last month in Sri Lanka and might be anxious to make another impression having knocked very hard at the selectors door for an international call-up.
Arjune, who featured in 40 first-class matches, feels that the youngsters in the team are capable of being impressive and it shows that the national selectors have shown faith in them to prove their talent.
Young West Indies world cup skipper Shimron Hetmyer, opening batsman Tagenarine Chanderpaul and left-arm orthodox spinner Gudakesh Motie have been in superb form.
“Well, that the good thing about this squad, you have got the experience and the youth, two things I believe the Guyanese can be proud of to showcase against the other competitors.
Meanwhile, Arjune stated that looking back at the four-day history, Jamaica have been a powerhouse country since the inauguration of the competition in 1965/66. The reggae boys had a streak of winning the tournament from 2008 to 2012 and that might be a psychological advantage for them, according to Arjune.
“Jamaica is known to be very competitive at this level but I am confident the Guyanese can start off things on a positive note against them; they have some quality players too but Guyana have got winning momentum and that is very important,” the elder Arjune related. His younger brother Vishaul Arjune would have also represented Guyana at the youth level.
Guyana Jaguars who defeated Jamaica Scorpions at Providence by an innings and 55 runs should commence the season as a firm favorite. Guyana Jaguars won eight of their ten matches the last season with the other two encounters were drawn.
The full squad reads: Leon Johnson (Capt), Vishaul Singh (V-Capt), Rajendra Chandrika, Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Shimron Hetmyer, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Raymon Reifer, Anthony Bramble, Veerasammy Permaul, Devendra Bishoo, Gudakesh Motie, Keon Joseph and Christopher Barnwell.