Two-time reigning champions Guyana Jaguars will launch the defence of their regional four-day title when the WICB’s Professional Cricket League bowls off across the region with the opening round starting Friday.
Jaguars take on Jamaica Scorpions at the Guyana National Stadium in a morning start, confident of making a winning start and setting the tone for another title-winning campaign.
And even though the hosts have been successful against their opponents in their last four outings, skipper Leon Johnson said they were taking nothing for granted.
“I think our chances of defending our title this season are very good. Of the 13 players that have been selected, 11 have been with us for the last two seasons and make up the core of our team so those players have gained a lot of experience and were previously experienced,” the Test opener said.
“Recently we’ve been having the better of the Scorpions but traditionally Jamaica have always performed well at the regional level. We’re all starting back at zero points. Everybody starts the same this season so we just have to go out and play good cricket.
“We obviously plan well. One of the strengths of the Jaguars over the last couple of seasons is our planning and we have been able to execute those plans.”
Scorpions, meanwhile, finished third last year and new captain Nikita Miller said he was confident his side could improve on that finish.
He also said Scorpions would not be intimidated by facing the reigning champions.
“I think we have improved a lot as a unit from last year. A few guys have moved on … but in terms of the batting unit and on the whole, I think we have improved and I hope that can manifest itself in our play this coming season and enhance our chances of finishing higher,” said the seasoned campaigner.
“Being in that position before, I have prepared myself on how to deal with Guyana as champions for two years running. It will be a challenge because their confidence is very high being champions for two years but I believe we have the players to put up a big challenge but hopefully in the end we can come out with the most points.”
In another morning fixture, Leeward Islands Hurricanes host Barbados Pride at Warner Park, with newly-installed skipper Kieran Powell attempting to prevent the 10th straight defeat at the hands of the powerhouses.
“Obviously it is important to break any losing streak but we are quietly confident going into this season,” Powell said.
“We’ve got the best spinner in the Caribbean in Rahkeem Cornwall, we’ve got Quinton Boatswain and Gavin Tonge leading our seam attack and we’ve got a good batting line up this season. There are a great set of guys, guys who are experienced.
“We’ve got Chesney Hughes coming in from England and myself coming back so we’re looking good this year and we are very positive about our chances, not just against Barbados Pride but against every team.”
While Hurricanes finished bottom of the table last year, Pride were second, just seven points off the winners, and captain Kevin Stoute said they were focussed on being consistent again.
“We’ve been playing consistent throughout the last couple of years. Sometimes, at the end of the day, you need the luck going with you as well as it doesn’t always work out that you come out on top in every game you play,” the all-rounder noted.
“But if the guys give a hundred per cent and play to their full ability, then hopefully we should come out as champions this year.”
The day/night game of the round, which bowls off at 3 pm, will see Trinidad and Tobago Red Force hosting Windward Islands Volcanoes, hoping to end a run of three defeats to the visitors at Queen’s Park Oval.