Cayman’s cricketers returned from a triumphant tour of Argentina this week and immediately set their sights on the next destination – Australia in 2020.
Three wins in four games in South America was enough to secure safe passage to the next phase of qualifying for the Twenty20 World Cup.
Now the Cayman Islands will need to come through a four-team tournament, expected to feature the US, Canada and Bermuda, in 2019 to get a ticket to Australia the following year.
“This tournament is an indication of just how far we have come,” said Hector Robinson, vice president of Cayman Cricket at a press conference at the headquarters of team sponsor Digicel on Thursday.
“We feel like T20 is our format. The guys have really got the skills that are suited to the short format of the game.”
He said reaching the World Cup, or at least the final qualifier, which takes place in Australia immediately prior to the tournament and features the best teams outside of the Test playing nations, was a realistic target.
“We dare to dream, but it is not just dreaming. We have every intention to put in the commitment and the work it will require.”
Coach Peter Anderson shares those ambitions.
Formerly a coach of Afghanistan, who was recently granted Test status and is now ranked 8th in the world in T20, and Papua New Guinea, currently competing respectably against the West Indies, Anderson said history showed that anything was possible for the associate nations.
“Afghanistan were the real Cinderella story of world cricket and PNG are doing pretty well too.
“I saw those countries come from nowhere. We don’t have the depth of population here but if we can get the best out of the players that we have, then we can still go far.”
He said the US, Bermuda and Canada – the likely opponents in the next round – would provide stiff opposition, but the odds were not insurmountable.
He said he was impressed with how the team had collectively stepped up in Argentina, with several players contributing key performances at various times throughout the tournament.
“We have got a good spin bowling attack, a good mix of different cricketers. We are going to surprise a lot of teams.”
Skipper Ramon Sealy said the coach had instilled a more professional mindest in his players.
He said, “People used to get away with a lackadaisical approach. Now everyone knows, you put in the work or you are not going to get picked.”
He hopes that commitment can take them all the way to Australia.
“It would be a dream to get to face and even compete against some of those countries. The talent is here in Cayman we just have to have the drive and commitment to work for it.”
Vice-captain Alessandro Morris, one of the leading wicket takers for Cayman, said the team had been inspired by the backing they received.
“For the first time heading to Argentina, we felt we had more support from the community. It’s reassuring to have Digicel supporting us, the media supporting and covering us – it gives us a real sense of purpose when we go to perform for Cayman.”
The Cayman squad faced a backlash after a disappointing performance at the ICC world Cricket League Division 5 tournament in South Africa last year.
But coach Anderson says he is not affected by the criticism
“I am very happy for people to have an opinion. I would rather people come out and criticize than say nothing because deep down these people care about cricket. I’d be happier if they came on board to help us. We know we have got to get better and I believe we can improve another 20 percent.”
He said Twenty20 was the ideal format for Cayman to excel because it was less time consuming for amateur players and more exciting.
“The guys really enjoy it and if you enjoy your cricket you can bring your best game. That’s how we grew up playing – street cricket, back yard cricket.”
Raul Nicholson-Coe, CEO of Digicel, said it was supporting cricket as a way of giving back to the community.
“We didn’t expect this level of success. But we always love to support winners and we are extremely proud of the team,” he said.