Colin Thompson, The Royal Gazette
Bermuda's national cricket team will journey into the unknown in Florida later this month yet the mission remains the same – defend the Americas Division One title at all costs.
The islanders will put their Americas crown on the line in the Sunshine State in unfamiliar settings and against unfamiliar opposition such as tournament newcomers Suriname as well as old rivals Canada and USA.
Bermuda won a maiden Americas title two years ago in Toronto where Irving Romaine's team were unbeaten. But since then Bermuda have undergone a transformation with stalwarts such as Janeiro Tucker, Dean Minors and Saleem Mukuddem no longer a part of the set-up.
Yet despite these omissions skipper Romaine is backing his team to retain their title.
"I think if we can play good cricket in Florida we should win the Americas again. Of course teams will be gunning for us because we are the defending champions," said Romaine, speaking from Australia.
"But we are not going there (Florida) to give anything up easily and I think the team the selectors have picked a team that should do well."
In their quest to defend their title the Bermuda selectors have called upon English County player David Hemp and the explosiveness of stylish left-hander Glenn Blakeney who is back in the national fold after a four-year hiatus.
Having blasted a Bermuda-best 247 not out against the Netherlands in South Africa two years ago (Intercontinental Cup) and a battling 76 against Rahul Dravid's India at the 2007 World Cup, Hemp's record speaks for itself.
"It's always a boost to have Hemp's experience in the team. Hemp is eager to play cricket which is good for Bermuda. He can help us win the Americas," Romaine said.
"As for Glenn, his interest and dedication to the team has been amazing and it's good to have him back. He is one of Bermuda's best batsman who is eager to play for his country again."
Incidentally, Blakeney last represented his country during the 2004 Americas Championship which saw Bermuda finish third on local soil behind winners Canada and runner up America.
"Glenn has been out of the team for awhile and so our opponents won't know him," Romaine said.
"But when they see him they will realise he is a class player and hopefully by the time they realise his class he will have a couple of hundreds on the board." While Romaine is confident his team can deliver the goods in Florida, he is also wary of the magnitude of the daunting task that lies ahead.
The veteran allrounder also admits defending their Americas crown could prove just as difficult as winning it.
"It's definitely going to be a little different going in as the defending champions. But we are there to do a job," he declared.
"We don't know much about where we are playing or what the new stadium (Broward County Stadium) looks like. But we can handle our own and we have to because we are the defending Americas champions."
Bermuda will officially launch the defence when they take on a Cayman Islands coached by former Trinidad skipper and coach Theo Cuffy on November 25 and will then face an unknown quantity in Suriname who were recently promoted to the Americas Division One on November 26.
The islanders will then face a Steve Messiah-led USA on November 27, tackle Argentina on November 29 and then close out against Canada in what has been classified as an official ODI on November 30.
Accompanying Bermuda's squad to Florida later this month is former skipper Clay Smith who has been appointed as assistant to national coach Gus Logie in the absence of Herbie Bascome. Bascome is now understood to have taken up residence with his wife and family in the UK.
"Clay is a bonus as he is a former captain who mentally does a lot for us," Romaine said.
"He expresses himself well and really knows how to motivate the people around him, has the passion and is certainly a bonus to have on tour."
Romaine and national squad team-mates Rodney Trott, Kyle Hodsoll, Chris Douglas, Oronde Bascome and Tamauri Tucker are all currently attending a six-week training camp at the Brisbane Academy in Australia.
The Bermuda skipper, nephew of legendary St.George's Cup Match skipper Cal (Bummy) Symonds, reckons the experience Down Under will enhance the Island's chances of retaining their Americas crown.
"The guys have worked hard here (Australia) and share a common goal to win the Americas. These guys have matured a great deal since arriving in Australia which has brought a new outlook." Romaine said.
"The guys are eager to show what they have learned and are also eager to lock down their places in the national team. They are super excited and ready to go."