Barnwell wants to shrug off T20 tag
GEORGETOWN, GUYANA - Guyana and West Indies all-rounder Christopher Barnwell said that while he is satisfied with his exploits in the recently concluded Caribbean T20 competition, his ultimate aim is to produce with bat and ball in all three formats of the game.
The 26-year-old right-handed batsman and medium pacer scored a tournament-high 245 runs and captured six wickets in eight games, but was surprisingly denied the Most Valuable Player award, which went to batsman Darren Bravo (225 runs) of champion team, Trinidad and Tobago.
Barnwell’s consistent performances helped Guyana to qualify for the final, which they lost to Trinidad and Tobago by nine wickets in a one-sided encounter on Sunday evening at the Beausejour Stadium in St Lucia.
While he was Guyana’s marquee player in the competition, Barnwell is keen on spending more time in the middle and his focus is currently on the Regional Four-Day and 50-over tournaments, which bowl off on February 9 and 7 respectively.
“I just hope that I can find favour with the selectors to play both formats and I would like to continue the good form and make the best use of the opportunities,” he said during an interview with this publication on Tuesday at the Everest Cricket Club ground.
“People have always been saying I’m a 20/20 player, but I’m a more capable batsman and all-rounder that I could play all three versions of the game, so I just want to go out there and get the opportunity to bat long and continue with the same form that I’m having at the moment.”
Barnwell, who played four T20 Internationals for the West Indies, followed up his unbeaten 61 in the preliminary stage of the Caribbean T20 against the Leeward Islands, with a blistering 88 that upstaged Chris Gayle’s belligerent 122 not out, as Guyana qualified for the final against Trinidad and Tobago with a stunning victory against Jamaica in the Playoff last Saturday. Speaking on his personal performance in the tournament, Barnwell said he was quite pleased to contribute with bat and ball to the team’s cause.
“I think overall it was a good performance. At the start of the tournament I didn’t get the sort of scores I was looking for, but when we went St Lucia I knew I had to come with some big innings for my team, and at the end of the day I did. I must say overall it was a good tournament for me; I’m satisfied with the way I batted and the way I bowled,” the Demerara Cricket Club member commented.
In the playoff, Jamaica racked up 183-6 with Gayle belting a record 12 sixes, but the Guyanese responded in stunning fashion, knocking off the target with six wickets standing, and eight balls to spare.
Barnwell, who orchestrated the run-chase after coach Esaun Crandon granted his request to bat at number four, said the players were confident of chasing down the target, noting that it was just a matter of doing the basics, and playing every ball on its merit.
“From the start, we always believed and backed ourselves to the end, and we knew that the way the wicket was playing, we just needed to go out there and play positive cricket, and back ourselves right down to the end. We always knew that once we got off to a good start, and not lose many wickets up front, we were in with a good chance. I asked the coach to bat at four and I just went out there and grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I just played the ball as I saw it and just backed myself, and took calculated risks when I needed to, so I think at the end of the day it paid off for us.”
Earlier in the evening, Barnwell and the rest of the Guyana team had the best seat in the house, viewing at close range, a brutal Gayle at his very best, smashing his way to first hundred in the history of the competition.
“We all know that Chris is a dangerous player. We bowled well up front to keep him in check, but you know the way he plays; he always has the ability to make up, and I think he chose the bowlers to target, so I think it was a fantastic innings from him,” Barnwell said.
Guyana had Jamaica in a spot of bother at 49-3 after 11 overs, but the complexion of the innings changed drastically when Gayle smashed left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul for 28 runs in the 12th over. The last nine overs produced a staggering 134 runs.
Barnwell was again amongst the runs in the final, topscoring for Guyana with 32 as the South Americans struggled to 116-6, to which TT replied with 120-1 halfway through the 13th over.
Questioned on what might have gone wrong, apart from losing a crucial toss, Barnwell said the batsmen found it tough against some good bowling at the start of the innings.
“I think in the final we all knew we wanted to chase, but the toss didn’t go our way. The way we started to bat, we lost early wickets and that gave Trinidad the momentum and they are a team that thrives on momentum. Myself and Trevon [Griffith], we had to rebuild the innings and that took a few overs because we didn’t want to lose more wickets and put more pressure on the team. Picking up those early wickets gave them the momentum to keep on top of us,” Barnwell explained.
Guyana had a horrendous start to the final with leg-spinner Samuel Badree removing opener Derwin Christian and fast bowler Shannon Gabriel outfoxing the team’s two most experienced batsmen, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Narsingh Deonarine.
With the Guyanese being reduced to 15-3 in the fifth over, TT were on top and they stayed that way until Kieron Pollard deposited Deonarine for a six to seal the game.
While Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed a four-day rest leading into the final, the Guyanese were forced to play four games on the trot, prompting many to speculate that the players may have been taxed both physically and psychologically.
Trinidad and Tobago, now three-time champions of the tournament, benefitted from the break after topping the preliminary phase and earning a straight place to the final, while Guyana had to play three must-win games in order to challenge for the trophy.