“Can’t keep looking back to go forward”- Jaguars captain Johnson


By Akeem Greene

By now it has become a stuck record- Guyana not winning a Regional 50-over title since success at home in October 2005.

Now Head Coach, Esuan Crandon, was a part of that feat, and Guyana Jaguars skipper Leon Johnson had not made his List A debut as yet. So indeed, quite a long time.

The quandary over the elusive 50-over title is exacerbated due to their string of titles in the Four-Day format- five titles in six seasons.

This year’s squad has some fresh young faces and the skipper felt they have done enough reflections of the past wrongdoings and it is time to have a fresh mindset and approach.

“We can’t keep looking back if we want to go forward. People always talk about how it is 16 years that we have not won a tournament and you don’t want to keep lamenting on that. I always talk about the process, but if we plan right, execute well, we are playing against opposition that we played against year in year out so I think it comes down to execution,” Johnson related to News Room Sport during an exclusive interview on Wednesday.

Title success in 50-over cricket has been eluding Guyana for well over a decade

In the last six Super50 tournaments, Jaguars have reached the knockout stages on four occasions, two of which were in the final.

Johnson took over the 50-over leadership from Christopher Barnwell in January 2016, the year after Guyana were bundled out for 65 in the final in pursuit of Trinidad and Tobago Red Force’s 200-8.

In all those knockout matches, it was their batting that faltered, especially while chasing under pressure, and the skipper was pellucid in the need for the batters to step up now.

“I think in the knockout games over the years, our batting has let us down and I have said that more than once publicly. The bowlers have always held their own and it is time for the batters to make a conscious effort in those games and click as they would say.”

In March 2020, Cricket West Indies had to stop the Regional Four-Day championship at eight rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The only major tournament played in the Caribbean since then was the Caribbean Premier League, under the new bio-secure environment method.

The CG Insurance Super50 Cup will be the first CWI organised tournament and they too will adopt some strict guidelines.

However, in the lead up to the tournament, all the franchises had varying degrees of complications in accessing training or getting match time.

Thus far, Barbados Pride and the Guyana Jaguars, have suffered already with players being recalled from squads due to positive COVID-19 results.

Leon Johnson, who is also one of the main batsmen, said they have to step up and support the bowlers
Photo by WICB Media/Randy Brooks of Brooks Latouche Photography

Johnson felt the short nature of the tournament, along with fitness levels of teams will be factored into who starts best.

“The fitter teams and the teams with guys who are in a better mental place are probably the teams that will start the tournament well. Having it be such a short tournament in the rounds, just five games, if you look at it in a positive way, guys or teams who are in good form, it is a short time for them to keep that form.”

He added, “There are some very good squads out there and once you are able to perform around these guys you definitely put your name up for international selection, but it is a process. You have to be aware of your conditions and just execute.”

The international player described the situation with opener Trevon Griffith, who returned a positive COVID-19 result, and had to be withdrawn from the squad, as unfortunate.

However, the return of West Indies players, Shimron Hetmyer and Romario Shepherd, are seen as a major boost.

After a fitness test on January 14, the players were engaged in three practice matches at the newly renovated La Bonne Intention ground.

The only Jaguars’ batsman to consistently show good form was opener Chandrapaul Hemraj, and the skipper said they wanted more from the main batters, but the lack of cricket played a factor.

“It is unusual circumstances; a lot of the guys would have been away from the game for six-seven months. It was difficult at the start, we started indoor then we progressed outdoor to train in small groups and were getting accustomed to the new way of doing things.”

The 33-year-old further stated: “The pitch [at LBI] is a bit docile and is not probably what we are going to expect in Antigua, nevertheless it is what is in front of us. We had the opportunity to play three practice games and I know the scores would not reflect the talent and potential of our side, but some guys had not played cricket for 10 months.”

“Those guys are experienced and confident enough, and they know what is needed to perform at the next level. I would have liked more preparation for myself and the team, but with what was available I think we did our best.”

Jaguars depart Guyana on Saturday and will play their first match against Pride on February 8 at the Coolidge Cricket Ground in Antigua.

Upon arrival in Antigua, the Jaguars will undergo two-day room isolation, after which they will do the third test on February 2 and the fourth test on February 6, between which players will be allowed to practice a group.

The tournament runs from February 7-27, and the top four teams will qualify for the semi-finals.

Guyana Jaguars: Chandrapaul Hemraj, Kemol Savory, Christopher Barnwell, Leon Johnson (Captain), Shimron Hetmyer (Vice-captain), Assad Fudadin, Keon Joseph, Romario Shepherd, Kevin Sinclair, Ramaal Lewis, Nial Smith, Gudakesh Motie, Anthony Bramble, Akshaya Persaud and Tevin Imlach.

Management: Esuan Crandon (Head Coach), Shivnarine Chanderpaul (Manager/Assistant Coach) and Ernesto Campo Gonzalez (Physiotherapist).

Guyana Jaguars last six Super50 tournaments

January 2015: Final-  lost to Trinidad by 135 runs (bowled out for 65 in 23.5 overs)

January 2016: Semi-final- lost to Trinidad and Tobago Red Force by 54 runs

January 2017: Finished third in group (did not qualify for semi-finals)

January 2018: Semi-final- lost to Windward Volcanoes by 52 runs (DLS method)

October 2018: Final- lost to Combined Campuses and Colleges by six wickets

November 2019: Finished third in group (did not qualify for semi-finals)

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