Colin Thompson, The Royal Gazette
Darren Sammy, the West Indies all-rounder, believes Bermuda have what it takes to qualify for a second straight World Cup. And he sees no reason why the leading ICC Associate cannot reap success at April's qualifiers in South Africa.
Bermuda's national squad are now entering the final phase of a whirlwind training exercise in the Caribbean where they have so far compiled an impressive 5-2 record, including back-to-back wins over a Sammy-led St.Lucia President's XI last week in St.Lucia, where the Windies player had the opportunity to make a thorough assessment of the tourists' strengths and weaknesses.
Apart from Bermuda's general fitness and a top order that has struggled for consistency on tour, Sammy, who claimed eight wickets against England on his Test debut for the Windies, reckons Bermuda have all the ingredients to evolve into a "reckoning force".
Speaking exclusively to The Royal Gazette, the 25-year old said: "I see no reason why Bermuda cannot qualify for the 2011 World Cup as long as they play as a team. When Bermuda were in St.Lucia you could see improvement from them in each match and they looked like they were a happy unit. And whenever the guys are happy you always tend to perform much better."
Bermuda lost their opening match in St.Lucia by 51 runs against district champions South Castries, but came back strongly to win their remaining two.
"The very first game they (Bermuda) played in St.Lucia, I guess they were not used to the conditions of the wicket. But after that they really played well as a unit," Sammy added. "It was not like a one-man show; everyone chipped in and that's good cricket because if you can pull your resources together as a team, then you can always get results doing that."
As far as the batting was concerned, the St. Lucian cricketer believes Bermuda's order boasts the necessary depth but lacks the consistency at the top to lay the platform for potential match-winning scores, often leaving the middle and lower batsmen to pull the slack.
"In a couple of the games they (Bermuda) lost early wickets which set them back and in one-day cricket it is almost like a rule that one of the top four batsmen must bat right through the innings," he said.
Only the destructive force that is Lionel Cann and Sammy's former University of West Indies and MCC Young Cricketer classmate, Stephen Outerbridge, have consistently posted good numbers so far on tour.
The Windies cricketer believes University of Wales Institute (UWIC) Cardiff student Outerbridge, who scored a maiden first class century against Scotland last summer in the Intercontinental Cup, has the potential to be a class batsman, more than capable of glueing together Bermuda's top order and anchoring the innings.
"I know Stephen works hard at his game and that's the advice we both received at Lords (MCC Young Cricketer). He's a talented cricketer who works very hard and definitely has potential," said Sammy. "I think if guys like Stephen batting at the top of the order can turn good starts into big scores, like half-centuries and centuries, then I'm sure it will make Bermuda into a force to reckoned with.
"At the international level you must go on and get a big 80 or hundred in the one-day version of the game, and whenever you get good starts you have to bat through."
In terms of Bermuda's bowling, Sammy is convinced the Islanders' attack has the capability to dismantle any Associate batting line-up and singled out burly left-arm spinner Dwayne Leverock as the trump card.
"Leverock, who is a world class bowler to me, is the strength of the Bermuda bowling," he insisted.
However, when it comes to Bermuda's fitness, which has come under scrutiny in the past, the Test player reckons there's room for improvement.
"In any sport you've got to be fit to play. And as long as these guys are willing to work hard at their fitness, they will be more mentally stronger. The fitter you are, the better you can perform on the pitch," he noted.
Sammy was a member of the Windies' squad that won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2004 under current Bermuda coach, Gus Logie, who he rates highly.
"Bermuda have a very good coach in Gus (Logie) and as long as the guys put their heads down and work as a unit all will augur well for them," he said. "The last time I worked with Gus, the West Indies won the ICC Champions Trophy and so I know what he is capable of."
The St.Lucian also played under Logie as a member of the Windies' 2002 Under-19 World Cup squad that lost to India in the semi-finals in New Zealand.
In more recent times, Sammy has been left out of the West Indies' set-up since last June's home series with Australia but hopes to earn a recall in the not-too-distant future.
The all-rounder has scored over 200 runs and claimed 15 wickets in recent regional competition, statistics he hopes will catch the eyes of the Windies' selectors.
"I am looking to see if I can break into the one-day set-up again," he said. "And so I am hoping my current form and past performances will give me the nod."
Bermuda, meanwhile, are scheduled to play their final World Cup qualifying warm-up match in St. Vincent today possibly against a President's XI before heading off to Grenada on Sunday.
Logie's men lost their opening match in the Windward Island earlier this week by six wickets, but bounced back with an eight-wicket win over St.Vincent's Under-23 squad in a rain-hit match, with Outerbridge leading the run chase with an unbeaten 46.