Analysis: Decoding the Guyana Jaguars Super50 squad
By Akeem Greene
According to the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board, the Regional Super50 will be held from February 2-27 in Antigua and Barbuda.
They have also announced West Indies limited-overs captain, Kieron Pollard, will lead the Red Force, and they have also started having practice matches in which the likes of current West Indies batsman Evin Lewis and former pacer Ravi Rampaul have found form.
It is understood the Guyana Jaguars players have been in constant training and some even recently got some match time since the Caribbean Premier League when they played in the US Open T20 Cup, which concluded last Sunday.
Now while the Jaguars have hugged the limelight for Four-Day success in recent years, having won five of the six titles in the era of the Professional Cricket League, they have struggled to replicate that form in the 50-over format.
Actually, the struggles date back much longer, as since October 2005, they last won a Regional 50-over title when they lifted the KFC Cup in a rain-affected final against Barbados at Bourda.
That year, Ramnaresh Sarwan scored the most runs (462) in the tournament, which included three centuries, while Mahendra Nagamootoo took the most wickets (12) for Guyana.
Recent tournament record
November 2019: Guyana failed to qualify for semis (finished third in the group)
February 2018: Lost semi-final to Windward Volcanoes by 52 runs (D/L Method)
October 2018: Lost final to Combined Campuses and Colleges by six wickets
The question now is who will Chairman of Selectors Rayon Griffith pick for this campaign? Let’s look at some prospects.
Had there not been COVID-19, there would have probably been the Cricket Guyana Inc. 50-over tournament, which would have allowed most to better gauge who merits a spot, based on form.
With West Indies touring Bangladesh for three One-Day Internationals and two Test matches, the last of which starts February 11, the likes of Keemo Paul and Shimron Hetmyer will probably miss matches in the first half of the Super50, since they have become regular faces in both squads.
A combined squad of approximately 25 persons is expected to be selected next week for that tour.
Now back to the Jaguars.
West Indies ODI batsman Chandrapaul Hemraj, once fully fit, should virtually pick himself. He is the only player with more than one century in the last three editions (October and February 2018, and November 2019), and without question adds impetus to the batting.
Over those tournaments, he averages 30.05, having accumulated 571 runs, in 20 innings, one of which was an unbeaten 103* in October 2018.
In the last tournament he made 202 runs, of which he made an even hundred, but his strike rate, unlike the two previous seasons where it was in excess of 90, was 68.47.
Tagenarine Chanderpaul and newcomer Kemol Savory were given the responsibility at the top of the order, and while both managed some degree of success, their strike rates were the main concern- both were under 50.
Trevon Griffith, who last played during the October 2018 tournament, is an option the selectors have chosen, and there is the left-field choice of asking wicket-keeper batsman Anthony Bramble to open the batting or offer a fresh in the form of West Indies Under-19 opener Raymond Perez.
Another name worthy of mention is West Indies Under-19 player, Kevlon Anderson.
At some point in time, there will be a need for the injection of the younger blossoming talents from the CGI Academy to learn while the seniors are still present.
Since it is highly unlikely Hetmyer will be available, at least for the first round of matches, the 33-year-old Leon Johnson will become a key figure, as both likely captain and batsman.
Interestingly, Johnson is the only other player with a century in the last three tournaments – he made 101 in the October 2018 tournament- but has a lean patch given his experience and class.
In that 2018 tournament, he made 222 runs at an average of 31.71 and a decent strike rate of 73.02.
During the February 2018 outing, he got 193 runs at an average of 27.57 with a highest of 99, however, last year, his best score after eight innings was 43 out of the 147 runs accumulated at an average of 18.37.
Some have called for a change in the guard of leadership to possibly bring a change in fortunes, but if you are looking at the long-term development of a leader, the options are limited with Hetmyer’s potential absence.
The 30-year-old Bramble is usually the vice-captain, while Veerasammy Permaul and Christopher Barnwell have captained in the past. Given the current circumstances, it is improbable those calls will be answered.
Barnwell seems to be another automatic pick in this squad.
Over the last three seasons, the 33-year-old has been by far, the team’s most productive and consistent batsman.
His aggregate from 2018 is 873 runs at an average of 45.94 and highest of 99* and a strike rate in excess of 88, to go along with seven half-centuries.
Last season he topped the Jaguars’ batting charts with 351 runs at an average of 43.87 and strike of 99.71.
A more measured approach has brought him success, but for sure with some of those half-centuries bordering on the 100-mark, he would want to score a maiden List A century this upcoming tournament.
West Indies player Sherfane Rutherford is not contracted by the Jaguars, but can still represent on a pay-for-play basis.
He was absent from last year’s tournament, but in the two previous editions, he has been an impactful player with all-round skill and floater in the batting order.
A total of 321 runs at an average of 29.18, a strike rate of over 88 along with six wickets over those two seasons, makes him another valuable player if the selectors take that route. That average is one area he would want to improve.
Johnathon Foo would feel he has done enough to retain a place given his heroics last season.
He averaged 55.56 – best for the team– and was the second leading run-scorer – 331 runs – which came at a strike rate of 113.12.
The Berbican cracked an unbeaten 97 from 92 balls with six fours and four maximums in a losing cause against Trinidad and Tobago Red Force.
The All-rounders and Bowlers
Raymon Reifer has been a constant in the West Indies Test group, but over the last two tours, he has been in the reserves.
However, for this tour to Bangladesh, there won’t be any separate reserve squad, as they will utilise the ODI players to cover if there are injuries to the Test players.
It implies, Reifer could be present for the entire tournament, and certainly a player with his experience would be valued.
In seven matches last year, he got 172 runs and took 10 wickets, the second-most for Jaguars.
Romario Shepherd’s exploits against New Zealand A in the two Four-Day matches might see him breaking into the Test squad, or he could be on the 50-over side and be asked to stay on as a cover.
In the event the latter does not happen, Shepherd’s selection for this tournament is a no-brainer given his pedigree.
If absent, it could pave the way for a return of fellow all-rounder Clinton Pestano, would missed the entire 2020 Four-Day season due to a knee injury.
Over the last couple of months, he has been seen increasing his level of output in gym work, noting that he is back to full fitness, at least for white-ball cricket.
He only played four matches last season and got two wickets, but it was October 2018, where he showed his worth with 15 wickets at 18.00 and an economy rate of 4.21
Off-spinning all-rounder Kevin Sinclair is another trump card in his format.
The 21-year-old offers the ability to bowl in the Powerplay with the new-ball and be miserly as seen last year when he played for eventual champions, West Indies Emerging Players.
He had the best economy me in the entire tournament – 2.87 – and took 13 wickets at an average of 14.69. He also made 132 runs in seven innings.
The ever-consistent Veerasammy Permaul, who took the most wickets -11 – for Jaguars last season, will spearhead the attack, unless he gets a surprise call-up for the Test tour, given it is sub-continent conditions.
Gudakesh Motie or Ramaal Lewis? That must be a question that pops up in the selection meeting.
On numbers alone, the former would be hard-pressed since the Jamaican Lewis, who is an off-spinner and handy lower-order batsman, has taken 28 wickets in his last 20 innings (the last three seasons), and done so at an average of under 21 and economy rate of under five.
Motie missed both tournaments in 2018, but played four matches last year and took two wickets.
It will be an interesting call on either one since there are already two frontline starters, who offer the said skillset.
One must note, Ashmead Nedd will be playing for contracted franchise Leeward Island Hurricanes.
Nail Smith, who made his debut last year, is one of the options for the express seamer position as Keon Joseph has not played List A cricket since 2010.
Ronsford Beaton, who played in six matches last year and got seven wickets, before his action was reported and found to be illegal, seems to have cleared that hurdle as he recently played in an ICC sanctioned US Open T20 Cup.
However, no official announcement has been made whether he is cleared to bowl.
Ronaldo Alimohamed, who is another youngster with potential, made his debut last season when he replaced Beaton.
There are some experiments the selectors might take in looking at the likes of a Quinton Sampson, who scored some explosive runs in the last domestic 50-over for Essequibo or a recall of all-rounder Ricardo Adams, who played in both 2018 tournaments.
The headache lies with the unlikelihood of any domestic 50-over tournament prior to February, which makes past success the key to selection.
There is still uncertainty as to who is actually available for selection, but whenever that is revealed, it will be interesting to see who makes the 14-man squad.