DEFENDING champions Queen’s Park open their campaign of the 2018 Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board’s season on Saturday with a first round match against Central Sports at Invaders Recreation Ground in Felicity.
The Parkites are looking to extend their domination of the National League, having swept both Premiership I and II competitions, with the first team copping the Dr Allen Sammy Trophy for being adjudged “Club of the Year.”
A strong season this year is on the cards as, for the first time in eight years, the Parkites will have at their disposal all of their leading players.
By virtue of not qualifying for the Regional Super50 Cup semi-finals currently underway in Antigua and Barbuda, local cricket has been given a big boost with the availability of the national stars to play for their clubs.
Coach of Queen’s Park, David Furlonge, on Tuesday confirmed that his top players will be in action when the local season bowls off.
Once again, the squad will be led by opening batsman Justin Guillen, who was their leading run-scorer last season. Their prospects have been strengthened by several Red Force cricketers including Yannick Cariah, Jeremy Solozano, Tion Webster, and Kharry Pierre.
Also expected to play a significant role in their bid to retain their championship title are Akeal Hosein, Kevon Cooper, Daron Cruickshank, and their wicketkeeper Anthony Balgobin.
“I believe that we have the right balance of batsmen, all-rounders and bowlers, so we are in a very good place having fine-tuned our preparation with several practice matches,” said Furlonge.
The top cricket coach said the only problem he foresees is the dilemma posed by the wealth of talent now available, and confesses that picking a final 11 will be a very difficult task.
Their opponents in the opening round, Central Sports, have also been going through their paces and have promised to put up a bigger fight than they did when the teams met last season.
“We are a young side, in terms of the age of the players this season, but we will certainly be competitive and improve on our fourth-place finish in 2017,” said club president Richard Ramkissoon.
He said the team’s two practice matches against Monroe Road and Prisons Sports Club gave them a clear indication of their strengths and weaknesses heading into the clash with the Parkites.
“We are looking forward to a very productive 2018 season, having reached the final of the TTCB T20 Festival, while bowing out of the UWI T20 after reaching the last four,” said Ramkissoon.
Once again Central Sports will be skippered by Kjorn Ottley and will have in their line-up last season’s first team “Cricketer of the Year” Shazan Babwah.
Also expected to play a leading role in the club’s challenge for top honours will be Kamil Pooran, Kissoondath Magram, ICC Under-19 World Cup winner Jyd Goolie, Aaron Alfred, Al Small and lone overseas player, all-rounder Alex Antoine of St Lucia.
Joining the team for the first time is talented batsman Adrian Ali, the local government councillor for Monroe Road in the Chaguanas Borough Corporation.
Ramkissoon said he was impressed with the commitment shown by the players and the objective is to win all the competitions that the team is involved in this season.
Premiership I (February 24 & 25)
Central Sports vs Queen’s Park I, Invaders Gd., Felicity
Queen’s Park II vs Victoria, QP Oval, Port-of-Spain
FCB Clarke Road vs Alescon Comets, Wilson Road, Penal
PowerGen Sports vs Merryboys, Syne Village, Penal
Canefarm vs Aranguez, Crown Street Rec. Gd, Tacarigua
BFL vs EYM, Gilbert Park, Couva
Monroe Road vs Caldrac, Monroe Road, Cunupia
Orangefield vs Tableland, Orange Field, Carapichaima