THE HAMMERS CAN BREAK NEW GROUND

Owner Mohammad Younas

Coach Keenan Botha

Captain Samuel Gill

Vice-Captain not yet appointed


What they’re like


The good guys who would have won the ‘spirit of cricket’ award last season, had anyone thought of having one. They won the Summer Solstice Sixes in 2018 under Sadun Lankathilaka, but have had a lean period since he moved his carnival to Reykjavík. Now under the command of the ‘old guard’, Mohammad Younas and Samuel Gill, they are looking to push harder and reach finals once more, having lost group games to Kópavogur from the last ball on three separate occasions in 2020. Three big-money signings have massively boosted their chances this time around.


The batsmen


Derick Deonarain’s domestic and international record speaks for itself. He was the big-ticket purchase at the auction. Backing him up will be Leslie Dcunha, poached from Kópavogur where he proved a match-winner with his cool head and smart tempo at the top of the order. He now spends much of his time working in Norway, as does Samuel Gill, who begins his 22nd season in Icelandic cricket. For the first time, at long last, he has been appointed the permanent captain of an Icelandic side. There is a novice player, too, in the form of his son-in-law Sunil Dumbris, of whom it might be unreasonable to expect great things straight away.


The wicketkeeper


Another superb signing came in the form of Chamley Fernando, who had a breakthrough season with the bat last year. He can reliably score fast runs and makes match-winning fifties, though he isn’t quite so brilliant when the pace is taken off the ball. His glovework gets better and better. He is a smashing stumper now, and he’s almost as good as Vesturbær’s Lee Nelson standing back.


The all-rounder


Mohammad Younas is going to have a lot of work. He’s the only Hafnarfjörður player, other than Deonarain, to have scored a century in Iceland, and he also bowls very tidy medium pacers. He may find himself having to open the batting when Dcunha and Gill aren’t available, and since his economy is so good he’ll usually have to bowl his full set of overs as well. Given this, he’s now handed the captaincy to Gill, for the breathing space if nothing else.


The seamers


A trio of seamers should be available throughout the season. Spearheading the attack is Javed Khan, whose permanent residency in Iceland has come through, making him a valuable asset and well worth the cash Hafnarfjörður had to pay to get him. He is perhaps the quickest bowler in Iceland at the moment, and a potent strike force. Backing him up will be Agha Khan, who awaits his own residency decision. While not as sharp as Javed, he’s certainly nippy. The word is that newcomer Mehmood Tariq will impress for the Hammers. Early showings indoors have earned him the admiration of the team management, and this raises the genuinely alluring prospect of three young guns steaming in for Hafnarjörður this season.


The spinners


If anything, the Hammers have an embarrassment of riches in the spin department. Their pre-eminent specialist, Sulaman Nawaz, has a whippy action which is ideally suited to the artificial pitch at Víðistaðatún, and he will cause problems as the first-choice spinner. It’s possible that Deonarain may also put in some overs, though as a ‘classical’ off-spinner who gives the ball flight, he is far more effective on turf pitches overseas. Then there are the four part-time offies. Two of them, Fida Wur and Kali Nazar, have had only occasional opportunities but have done all that could have been asked of them when their turn came. The other two are imponderables. Javed Hussain is rarely available and has made only one appearance in the last few seasons. Junaid Raja has a shoulder injury and could miss the whole season.


What they said


“We played very well last year and it was a good season to be a player, though a little hard as a captain. That’s why we’re going to try something new.” Mohammad Younas


“I was surprised and happy to be named captain at the age of 48. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting it. If we practice and train in an organised way, we’ll win games.” Samuel Gill


“It’s about confidence. We need to work with our players, especially the new recruits, and just build and build. It’s great to be working in a genuinely positive team environment.” Keenan Botha


Kit Harris’s prediction


The recruitment of Deonarain was massive. Had he gone to Reykjavík, then the Vikings might have been unbeatable, but picking up such a talented opening batsman gives Hafnarfjörður a great opportunity. Fernando is almost as valuable, and when the two of them come off, the Hammers will likely win.


The Hammers’ strength in depth may hinge upon their availability. Of the four specialist batsmen, two will be away in Norway at times, and even accounting for Fernando and Younas, that’s still a scant batting order. There is a scenario – perhaps not an ideal one, but an eminently possible one – in which two players of minor roles have to be promoted into the top seven. These are most likely to be Wur and Nazar, both technically capable batsmen but neither with any run-scoring accomplishments as yet. They’ve floated up and down the order in previous years while also bowling a little off-spin. This may be the year in which they’re required to specialise and nail down a permanent berth in the batting order.


The seam bowling looks really promising, but Hafnarfjörður have got to find some way of utilising all their off-spinners; there are six of them including Deonarain. I’d go for Deonarain, Wur and Nazar batting, I’d bet on Hussain and Raja not playing, and I’d rely on Nawaz bowling. You really do need only one spinner up here in the Arctic, anyway.


Probable XI: 1 Derick Deonarain, 2 Leslie Dcunha, 3 Chamley Fernando (w), 4 Samuel Gill (c), 5 Mohammad Younas, 6 Fida Wur, 7 Kali Nazar, 8 Sulaman Nawaz, 9 Agha Khan, 10 Mehmood Tariq, 11 Javed Khan.


On the bench: Javed Hussain, Junaid Raja (spinners); Sunil Dumbris (novice).

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