Argentina tour the perfect kick-start for 2023 season
The new cricket season starts in England this week and I’m buzzing to get going. This has been a busier winter than normal because we’ve had the ICC T20 World Cup Americas Sub-Regional Qualifier in Argentina, which was a very successful tournament for Bermuda. Returning to Sussex on the back of that has provided a big lift and I’m looking forward to a productive summer.
It’s an honour to be named captain of your national team. As a young kid, it’s things like that you dream about but probably say to yourself, “I’ll never get there”. But it was a pleasure to lead the boys out, and for the most part they made it quite easy. It was nice to go down there and top the group; that’s what we set out to do. That may have been the expectation of quite a lot of people because of our ranking, but it was nice to get the job done in the manner that we did.
What was equally as pleasing was to put right the sentiment that Bermuda were a bunch of bad boys after a few run-ins we had on previous tours. In sport, you’re always going to have critics or people that are going to find something wrong in what’s going on in the programme. But like I said to the boys, they have my full backing. Any issues that happen, I’m happy to take the brunt as the captain.
Between myself and Niraj [Odedra], the coach, we’re starting to go in the right direction in terms of building a very good and strong culture among ourselves. The group that we had on this last tour, the togetherness was probably as good as I’ve ever seen in my ten years in the national set-up. It’s something to build on and that we need to continue as a group.
We know the next hurdle on home soil will be even bigger, with Canada joining us, Panama and Cayman Islands in the final qualifier in September. But we intend to make home-field advantage count in front of our passionate Bermuda fans in the pink and blue.
This will be one of the bigger tournaments that we as a nation have played in the past few years. Obviously, Canada are a cut above the teams that we played in Argentina, but they are definitely beatable. More than beatable. I’m feeling very confident in the group that we have, the plans that have been put in place, the way that training has been going, and the commitment the guys are showing.
We know Canada are involved right now in international cricket. Even though it is in the 50-overs format at the Cricket World Cup Qualifier Play-off in Namibia, they are going to come to Bermuda battle-tested and it is important that we can match that level and intensity. It is for that reason that I requested the Bermuda Cricket Board to get us some high-level cricket in between Argentina and September — and they are working very hard behind the scenes to sort out a tournament.
It’s an exciting time. If you can’t get yourself up to play a World Cup qualifier in your home country, I don’t think you should be playing the sport.
Here in Sussex, the atmosphere is similarly stimulating given the new signings of Test star Steve Smith and fast-bowling all-rounder Nathan McAndrew from Australia, and the return of Cheteshwar Pujara from India.
Steve Smith joining for a short spell before the Ashes this summer was the talk of the town, talk of the circuit and talk of the nation for a little while. It actually came as a surprise to us as players, as the news seemed to come out before it officially “came out”.
It’s exciting for us as a young group to have someone who has been at the top for so long in and among our ranks. It will be interesting to see how he goes about his work. Hopefully, he can also contribute to a few wins and help us to keep moving in the right direction.
Make no mistake, though, the signing that the members, the fans, and us as players wanted most was to get Puj back. He is a class act and he brings a wealth of experience, but also that leadership as captain of the four-day team. His calming influence and the way he goes about things is a real example for us and very healthy for a young group.
Personally, I will have a job on to get myself back into the first team after being left out for the season opener at home to Durham today. I wouldn’t say I was down about it. It's sport. Only 11 can play and obviously I’ve had a few chats with the new head coach [Paul Farbrace]. He explained his reasons and I see nothing wrong with what he said and how he wants to go about things to start with. It’s just about me putting in performances now, starting in the second team, to try and kick on and get in.
I feel like I’m in a very, very good place with my game, feeling pretty confident. I’m just looking forward to getting out on the park, starting next Tuesday in the second XI against Kent, and getting my name back in the hat for the first team.
• Delray Rawlins was talking to Dexter Smith
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