BY JOSH BALL
In the past 12 months the PNG Cricket Board contracted 22 players, installed turf wickets and artificial practice facilities, and sent most of their national squad to Australia to play club cricket - all part of a bid to break into the world top 20.
The Hebou Barramundis reached their first target when they qualified from the Division 3 tournament in Hong Kong in January.
Andy Bichel, PNG director of cricket, is targetting a top two finish in Dubai and said Bermuda should fear his side when the two teams meet on the opening day 8 April.
“The draw is kind to us in that we play some teams who we believe are very similar to us in the first few rounds,” said Bichel, “and this, combined with the serious preparation that the team have had should mean a good start to the event.
“The team is fast becoming a team to fear, I have high expectations and so do the players.” The team, according to Bichel, will be ready to go from the first ball, and, the former Australian fast bowler believes his side’s hard work is about to pay off.
As part of the contracts, which were put in place last November, the squad committed to training five days a week, as well as undergoing a rigorous strength and conditioning program.
“We are looking forward to Dubai, hopefully all the work as a group that we have done over the last 12 months repays us,” said Bichel. “Cricket PNG has come a long way in a short space of time, and all the players that are involved with us are improving.”
As well as the step-up in training, the PNG team have been exposed to a large amount of international cricket recently, as well as a large proportion of the squad plying their trade with club sides in Australia.
All that has made the team much better than it might otherwise have been, according to Bichel, as well as creating a healthily competitive atmosphere within the squad.
“Our national team have played more cricket than they have played normally in last 12 months,” said the PNG coach. “This has been good for our players to develop their games as individuals, and really work as a group to develop those partnerships and understanding of each other’s game.
“Most of our team have been on scholarship in Australia playing club cricket week in week out. For me this has really helped all our players with their games and personal development off field, which is such an important part for us at an important tournament like this.
“All the players have earned their spot through performances at club and international level which creates a healthy environment. PNG are ready for this tournament. It will be a big step up as a nation, (but) we have the players, it’s now just about consistent performances.”
PNG will begin their preparations for next month’s tournament with a five-day camp in Singapore. They will play the hosts twice in two 50 over matches, before flying to Dubai.
“Singapore has fantastic first class facilities and geographically allows the trip to Dubai to be broken up into shorter flights which have less impact on the players and keep them fresh,” said Bichel.
“The Hebou Barramundi’s will be using the five days in Singapore to complete preparations for our biggest ever challenge,” said Bichel.
Photo: PNG batsman Jack Vare cuts the ball away for four on his way to making 48 against Hong Kong in the Division 3 tournament in January
Source: Bermuda Royal Gazette