Cayman fired up for Stanford challenge

When the Clico-sponsored Cayman cricket team heads for the Stanford 20/20 tournament in Antigua next week, it will be the fittest, best prepared one that has ever represented these islands.

Clico Cayman

Clico Cayman are full of confidence for the Antigua tournament

Months of hard work will be distilled into those couple of hours on 26 January when they face St Lucia at the Stanford Cricket Ground, aka Sticky Wicket in St John’s. Half the Clico Cayman team consists of policemen and prison officers so they will be an arresting sight no matter what happens.

Led by policeman Pearson Best, this team is determined to repeat their success at the inaugural Stanford 20/20 tournament in 2006 when they beat Bahamas by 40 runs in the first round. A tantalizing match against Trinidad and Tobago beckons for the winners. The Trinis beat Cayman by nine wickets last time.

Coached by Cayman’s technical director Theo Cuffy and managed by Stephen Best, Clico Cayman are pumped up for the challenge. All the hype and speculation has made them keener than ever to grab some respect for these little islands, hitherto considered a cricketing backwater.

Clico Cayman opener Ainsley Hall said: ‘I went to the first Stanford and so have some of the others and we’re fully aware of what we have to do. We’re going down there to do our best again and hopefully beat St Lucia and think about Trinidad and Tobago after. In recent games I’ve been in my best form for a 20/20 tournament and I want to take it over to Antigua.’

Brilliant all-rounder Brian Bovell said: ‘My preparation has gone pretty well and we’re going to do well against St Lucia. I had a pretty good 2007 and I’m starting 2008 on better things. I’ve done some good work with the personal trainer David Ross, shed a few pounds and I’m a lot lighter and faster.’

Prison officer Kevin Bazil is another crowd-pleasing all-rounder. ‘Personally, I’m not where I want to be in terms of preparation, but at least the team is getting together as one unit,’ he said. ‘Basically, I haven’t had enough time to train because of work commitments. I’m disappointed that Kevon (his twin) didn’t make it in the team but one of these days he will make it.’ Is he confident of beating St Lucia? ‘All I’ll say is that after St Lucia we’ll have Trinidad to play the following weekend.’

Flamboyant batsman Saheed Mohamed said: ‘I think we’ll do well. Our first time in the tournament everything was new to us so this time we’re better. St Lucia are bound to be tough but I believe we’re well enough prepared this time to beat them. I played in that tournament and against Trinidad I feel we got caught up in the limelight but this time we’re more focused on what we have to do so I think it’ll be a better game for us and this time we’ll come out victorious.’

SQUAD

PEARSON BEST (Captain)

AGE: 45

CLUB: Police

ROLE: Batsman and occasional medium pace bowler

STRENGTHS: His appetite for big scores and powers of concentration makes him the island’s top batsman. He once scored five centuries in a row at club level. Had a great 2007 and will handle the responsibility of skippering the side well.

STEVE GORDON (Vice-captain)

AGE: 40

CLUB: Prison

ROLE: Opening batsman and occasional medium pace bowler

STRENGTHS: Difficult to get out and once he plays himself in is a wonderful striker of the ball. Very disciplined and determined. Has shown in recent weeks his batting form is better than ever.

KEVIN BAZIL

AGE: 26

CLUB: Prison

ROLE: Bowling all-rounder, specialising in off-spin

STRENGTHS: Good team man who makes a contribution in every aspect of the game. Stanford 20/20 will suit his temperament for the big occasion as he loves playing to the crowd and won’t be intimidated by being in the spotlight.

RYAN BOVELL

AGE: 34

CLUB: Police

ROLE: Bowling all-rounder, medium-fast bowler and occasional spin

STRENGTHS: Cayman’s best all-rounder. Captain of Police and national captain for the past five years. The selectors think he will play better without the burden of captaincy in Antigua. Has worked hard on his fitness and is anxious to make an impression.

MARLON BRYAN

AGE: 21

CLUB: Police

ROLE: Medium-fast bowler

STRENGTHS: His enthusiasm has no limits. Always ready to work through tiredness and pain for the benefit of the team. He played so well on a Police team of England last summer that he was offered two contracts but turned them down to continue his studies at UCCI.

AINSLEY HALL

AGE: 35

CLUB: By Rite

ROLE: Wicket-keeper opening batsman

STRENGTHS: Technically very correct. Although already very fit, he has trained exceptionally hard for this. Experienced, reliable and burning to prove that he can compete at the highest level. Made big scores last weekend with Gordon and is confident he can carry that form into the Stanford tournament.

ALISTAIR IFILL

AGE: 29

CLUB: Police

ROLE: Bowling all-rounder, right-arm leg spin

STRENGTHS: A bundle of energy, he’s always involved in the game and his will to win is infectious. Brilliant in the field too, fast and agile and his batting skills are not fully appreciated. Ifill has the ability to turn the match within a couple of overs, whether it’s with bat or ball.

KENEIL IRVING

AGE: 26

CLUB: By Rite

ROLE: Middle order batsman who can also open

STRENGTHS: Bats with a lot of flair, great variety and hits with tremendous power despite his slight frame. Always liable to get runs under pressure so is perfectly suited to the 20/20 game.

SAHEED MOHAMED

AGE: 30

CLUB: Prison

ROLE: Batsman and off spin bowler

STRENGTHS: Mohamed wants to succeed so badly that he never gives up – even on seemingly lost causes. That’s what makes him such an invaluable member of the side. Has made some spectacular innings over the years and could turn out to be Cayman’s match-winner.

RAMON SEALY

AGE: 16

CLUB: Police (Division 1) and Cable & Wireless Schools (Div 2)

ROLE: Opening batsman and wicket-keeper

STRENGTHS: Matured from promising schoolboy into accomplished young man last year. Made his maiden century and hit a series of 50s. Amazingly level headed for a youngster with so much talent, he is also an exceptional wicket-keeper and fielder. Voted Most Valuable Player at the Caribbean youth championships in August.

KENUTE ‘GARY’ TULLOCH

AGE: 41

CLUB: By Rite

ROLE: Fast bowler

STRENGTHS: Cayman’s most experienced bowler. Been in the national team since 1997 and been an automatic choice since 2000. Always gives 100 per cent. Tulloch took five wickets in the Stanford 20/20 match against Bahamas last time and on current form could repeat that feat.

MICHAEL WIGHT

AGE: 42

CLUB: By Rite

ROLE: Batsman and spin bowler

STRENGTHS: Wight is Cayman’s longest-serving and most experienced cricketer. One of the celebrated Wight brothers, all the other four siblings have played for the national side. Technically exceptional good, bowls leg spin, googlys and is an excellent fielder. He too has worked exceptionally hard to make the side and on his day can hit the ball as hard and as far as anyone.

CONROY WRIGHT

AGE: 21

CLUB: By Rite

ROLE: Fast bowler

STRENGTHS: Exceptionally fast with good line and length. Great stamina, can bowl for long periods. Good out fielder too. Still learning his trade but is already a very accomplished speed merchant.

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