By E. Glenford Prescott
St. Vincent and the Grenadines senior cricket captain Sunil Ambris said that he achieved the three objectives he set himself prior to leaving the country for the Windwards tournament in Dominica.
Speaking to iWitness News in Wednesday, Ambris said that winning the tournament, getting among the runs, and getting between five and six of his players in contention to be in the Windwards team were the goals he set himself.
“I wanted us to make a statement by winning the tournament since we had not done so for a couple of years and we left fully focussed on that. We were an inexperienced team and knew it was not going to be easy but we also knew that once we played to our true potential we would do very well and so we did,” explained Ambris, who was appointed SVG’s captain last year.
SVG defeated St. Lucia by an innings and two runs, lost to host Dominica on first innings and took first innings points from Grenada.
In the match against Dominica, SVG were forced to follow on after being shot out for 103, replying to their opponents’ 256. The Vincentians had gone to the close at 58/2 but suffered a collapse on day two — losing their last 8wickets for 45 runs. Donwell Hector (29) being the topscorer.
“The pitch was very difficult on the second morning and it offered the bowlers a lot as against the first day and we really struggled and ended up having to follow on but that was my most enjoyable game, as we were able to play for a draw after being in that position and that showed our fighting spirit”.
SVG, batting a second time, reached 285/6 with Miles Bascombe (103*) hitting a 71- ball century, Ambris 80 and Gidron Pope 67 batting them to safety.
Ambris, who was dismissed for 96 in the opening match, eventually got to three figures in the final match with a brilliant 114 against Grenada, which took his competition tally to 298 at an average of 74.5. In addition to the highest aggregate, he also ended with the highest average.
His returns with the bat followed his over 400 runs in the 2017 Regional Super50 and over 500 in the 2016/17 regional four-day tournament for the Windwards Volcanoes, which included a record-breaking 231 against the Leewards. It was the highest score by a Windwards batsman in regional cricket. He also hit 188 for Guardian General Saints against Victors 1, in the NLA Premier Division, two weeks before the Windwards tournament and so said he was in good form.
“I really felt good at the crease and knew I had to contribute with the bat being captain and one of the top batsmen so it was just a matter of playing responsibly and for the team.”
Ambris said that while there was a possibility that he could have ended up with three centuries in the tournament, he only felt that there was one occasion when he gifted his wicket away and that was in his innings of 96 against St. Lucia, when he was caught trying to get a boundary.
SVG had three century-makers in the tournament in Ambris (114) Bascombe (103*) and Hector (129) and the captain was happy that the experienced players were able to get some runs while not as much as the team would have wanted.
In the bowling, Ambris lauded the efforts of all the bowlers but even moreso offspinner Kenneth Dember, who collected 17 wickets in the tournament — joint leading wickettaker — at 14.12 apiece.
“I knew that Dember was going to do well in this tournament and I was even looking for him to do even better because he was bowling well all season. Ray (Jordan) was the one who really impressed. He bowled with real pace and control and every time I wanted a wicket and handed the ball to him he came through. He really stood up”.
Ambris said that vice-captain Delorn Johnson was his go-to man when he needed a tight spell and left-arm spinner Asif Hooper picked up crucial wickets as well throughout the tournament with West Indies U19 pacer and pacer Shacquille Browne who played a solitary match also holding their own.
He said that based on the performance of the individual players, he is confident that SVG could end up with no less than five players and possibly six on the 15-man squad, which will be offered contracts for the next season as part of the Volcanoes Franchise.
The support from the team and the togetherness made him extremely comfortable and it helped him with his captaincy, Ambris said.
Ambris was named captain of the Volcanoes for the final match of the regional four-day season against champions Guyana Jaguars and has been tipped to be handed the job, full time.
“I was honoured to have been given the opportunity to captain the team in the last match but as far as I am aware, the captain (Liam Sebastien) is fit again. But if I am chosen to lead the team, I recognise the responsibility that comes with it but feel I am capable of handling that responsibility,” said Ambris, who is SVG’s youngest ever senior captain.
Reports say that Sebastien could be hard-pressed to maintain a place in the team without captaincy and the selectors may find it difficult to recommend him to retain the position.
This comes against the background of him reportedly destroying a window pane at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex in a fit of anger over a difference with selection in the PCL Windwards/Jamaica match.