PCL: Scrutiny looms over might of Guyana Jaguars’ bench strength

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By Akeem Greene

In an ideal world and starting a high-profile tournament – by regional standards – as defending champions, you would want your best players available to reassert the authority of who is boss. After all, teams will have you locked on their radar.

But with cricket, the sport pundits coined as one filled with glorious uncertainties, chances of forging perfection is limited and it is a reality the Guyana Jaguars Four-day unit will have to contend with in the hunt for their fifth consecutive Professional Cricket League (PCL) title.

First on their plate will be Windward Islands Volcanoes, whom they play in a day/night affair from December 6 in St. Lucia, however, six first-choice players will be unavailable due to international commitments.

While Shimron Hetmyer and Devendra Bishoo are constants for Windies duties, that list now stretches to Keemo Paul, Sherfane Rutherford, Chandrapaul Hemraj and Raymon Reifer, at least for the first two rounds.

As such, Assistant Coach, Rayon Griffith expects the incoming players to fortify the team.

“Bench strength is always strong in Guyana. I believe we have quality players that could represent this Jaguars side. We always have quality players and we have been playing good cricket for the past years and you found that some players struggled to get into the team, but now they will get the chance. There are many spots to grab, especially in these first two rounds,” Griffith underscored.

Seamer Clinton Pestano impressed in the recent Super50 and might get the nod to add to his two First-Class matches

While the coach did not divulge who may be those getting the nod, judging from performances in the local franchises and fringe players in the previous seasons, Ronaldo Alimohamed, Anthony Adams, Christopher Barnwell, Clinton Pestano, Trevon Griffith and Akshaya Persaud are some names to consider as replacements.

Whoever gets the green cap, the former national fast-bowler emphasised, the application of patience is vital.

“It will be a test of patience. This is four-day cricket and you got to be patient, which is one our strengths and it helped us dominate for the past four years. Definitely it will be tested again and it is an area we have to focus on [in the remaining practice matches] before we play these two rounds,” Griffith stressed.

There is no reason to panic, since the pillars of success in captain Leon Johnson, Vishaul Singh, Veerasammy Permaul, Anthony Bramble and Keon Joseph are readily available.

One should still bear in mind, all is not a bed of roses, with thorns pocking at selectors on finding a reliable opening pair. In the previous season, four opening pairs were used in the 10 matches, with the most stable being Hemraj and Tagenarine Chanderpaul.

For Hemraj, who spent most of his playing career in the middle-order, the upward move was fruitful with him earning a spot in the Windies team.

“The spot we have to keep improving on is the opening pair. It has been a challenge for many years. We did fairly well last season, but we will be missing Hemraj, so there is a gap and we need to ensure the gap is bridged properly,” Griffith explained.

Last season, Jaguars ended with 166.8 points, 52.4 more than second-place Barbados Pride. After clashing with Volcanoes, they play Leeward Islands Hurricanes from December 13 in Antigua before the designated Christmas break.

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