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Bennett urges regional cricketers to make best of prep opportunities

Senior staff reporter

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

JAMAICA Cricket Association (JCA) lead selector Junior Bennett is urging regional players to make the best of preparation opportunities that might come their way, with the traditional four-day competition looking certain to be cancelled.

Cricket West Indies (CWI) is considering a proposal to have intra-squad matches within each of the six territories to keep players active and give regional selectors the chance to make assessments.

“If the regional tournament is not held then these games are important, because some of the players are in the West Indies set-up and the games will provide welcomed practice for them. The games would give exposure to other players so we have to make sure the matches are competitive and taken seriously, like a regional game,” Bennett told the Jamaica Observer.

“There are more reasons than one for players to take them very seriously. I was told that the West Indies selectors might watch some of them, so players have to go out and put their best foot forward,” the former Jamaica senior team coach said.

West Indies, who hosted Sri Lanka a few weeks ago, have a packed home schedule this year. South Africa are to visit the Caribbean in June, followed by Australia and Pakistan later in the summer. While the South Africa and Pakistan visits are to include Test matches, the Australia leg is expected to feature only white-ball cricket.

The regional four-day competition usually starts late in the year and approximately ends after the first quarter of the new calendar year. However, because of logistical challenges and safety concerns brought on by the novel coronavirus pandemic there has been uncertainty about the staging of the competition.

Last season's four-day tournament was called off after the eighth round — short of the scheduled 10 rounds — due to the outbreak of coronavirus in the region. Barbados Pride, who were runaway leaders at the time of the curtailment, were declared the winners.

Trinidad & Tobago Red Force were second, while Guyana Jaguars and Jamaica Scorpions ended joint third. Windward Islands Volcanoes and Leeward Islands Hurricanes finished fifth and last, srespectively.

Against that backdrop, Bennett reiterated the significance of competitive contests for regional players.

“The last first class season was not completed, and probably none this year, so that's almost two seasons without the full complement of matches, so even the 'best of the best' within each island we'd have to welcome that,” he said.

“Nothing within the region could really replace the regional four-day cricket [tournament] but if it's possible for us to have each territory picking the best from within their islands to play some cricket then we definitely would have to welcome it. It's best to have some cricket being played than to have no cricket whatsoever,” Bennett, one of the most successful coaches in regional cricket, added.

CWI held the Super50 Cup in Antigua in February, which was followed by Sri Lanka's tour of the Caribbean.

With all matches hosted in Antigua, West Indies beat Sri Lanka 2-1 and 3-0 in the respective Twenty20 and One Day Internationals but were held to nil-all result in the two-Test series.