SHORT on competitive match practise and short on slow bowlers but seemingly high on confidence, Jamaica's Under-19 cricket team was scheduled to depart the island yesterday for the West Indies Regional Under-19 Tournament in Barbados.
The Jamaicans hold the three-day title and according to coach, Robert Samuels, will be hoping to add the 50-over crown to their trophy case despite having had only 10 days' preparation ahead of their journey to the Eastern Caribbean.
"We had 30 players, we had practise matches, we had trial games, and physical sessions and it was hard on the boys but I must commend them for the effort that they have shown, I must commend them for their determination in understanding that we only had 10 days and did the hard work," the former Jamaica captain-turned-coach told the Jamaica Observer.
"I don't think the players were treated fairly in terms of giving them an opportunity to show what it is that they have at this stage, but at the same time I think we did the best we could in terms of the selectors ,and came up with the best 14 that we could come up with," he added.
Samuels was coy when questioned as to the reason behind the limited time the team was given to prepare for the month-long tourney.
"I can't tell you that. That is something for the Jamaica Cricket Association to answer. I am only appointed and whatever time I am given I try to work with the best that I can and that's exactly what I did."
Samuels, however, admitted that he was familiar with the players either through the Supreme Ventures Courtney Walsh clinic or the Under-15 set, which made establishing a relationship easier.
He expressed concern, too, that there were no left arm or leg spinners in the squad following an injury to Fabian Allen in the Under-17 competition a few weeks ago.
"I'm a little bit concerned about that but not too much," he said.
Team captain, Oshane Walters, was not quite as reserved as Samuels in his predictions as he told the Observer that his team was adequately prepared for the task ahead.
"We're very confident. We are mentally prepared. We have been through a lot of match preparation leading up to this tournament. I don't think it's enough (but) it's adequate preparation time going to defend our title in Barbados. We're very, very confident to retain the three-day title and to claim the one-day title," Walters said.
The rest of the Gibbs Williams-managed squad includes vice-captain Tezwayne Creary, Tristan Coleman, Brian Gayle, Raghni Francis, Delbert Gayle, Aldaine Thomas, Odaine McCatty, Brandon King, James McDonald, Jermaine Levy, Ajahni Johnson, Kerry Holness and Christopher Powell.