THE PUFFINS ARE READY TO FLY

Owner Abhi Chauhan

Coach Nolan Williams

Captain David Cook

Vice-Captain Abhi Chauhan


What they’re like


The strongest and most accomplished team in Iceland. Once the pushy upstarts threatening the old guard of Reykjavík, they are now getting as good as they give from those marauding Vikings, and the on-field battles of temper between Abhi Chauhan and Sadun Lankathilaka are the staple cabaret of cricket in the Arctic. David Cook has taken over as captain, but it remains to be seen whether he can keep a lid on Chauhan’s desperate histrionics whenever the smallest call goes against his beloved Puffins.


The batsmen


Bala Kamallakharan is a class act and it will fall to him to lead a much-depleted batting order. He may have only mustered a few appearances in recent times, but his signing in a key position at Kópavogur thrusts him into a critical role. Jakob Robertson has probably batted in every position during his long time as an Icelandic cricketer, and he will also be a key part of the Puffins’ plans. He is also, still, one of the best fielders in the Arctic. Hoping to fulfil his undoubted potential will be Riaan Dreyer, who is now playing in a different team from his son Sebastiaan, and that gives him the chance to narrow his eyes and focus on himself for a change. Then there’s the newcomer Uthaya Rupan, whom Reykjavík desperately wanted. Chauhan is convinced that he is a batsman of genuine quality, hence his decision to steal him from right under Lankathilaka’s nose at the auction.


The wicketkeeper


This is the chance David Abew-Baidoo has been waiting for. Having moved from Hafnarfjörður, where he was Lee Nelson’s understudy, he is now not just the Puffins’ senior wicketkeeper, but their only one. He has the opportunity to don the gloves and bat in the top five; coming to Kópavogur was a great move for him.


The all-rounder


David Cook is going to be absolutely crucial. Other than Dushan Bandara, he is the only player in Iceland to have scored a century while maintaining a career bowling average under 20. His English-style left-arm finger-spinners take stacks of wickets up here, albeit at occasional expense. It’s worth it. Even the country’s best batsmen hate facing him, since he possesses the one trait every other player lacks: patience. Try and hit him for six if you can. He doesn’t mind. He knows he’ll get you in the end.


The seamers


Though age and fitness are just beginning to count against him, Nolan Williams is still the most textbook-perfect fast-medium bowler yet to appear in any Icelandic team. His spells for Essex 2nd XI may be a distant memory – he dismissed England player Jamie Dalrymple and international umpire Richard Kettleborough – but when it all clicks and he bangs it in, he is gorgeous to watch. Abdur Rehman, his most likely new-ball partner, can produce quick spells and he’s at his best when he pitches it full and straight. You’d expect to see Jegadeesh Subramaniyam coming on first change; he is a huge asset with his metronomic accuracy and he will be crucial when he brings the ball into the left handers. Chauhan staked a whopping 18,000 krónur to wrest him from Lankathilaka’s formidable Reykjavík attack. Abhi Chauhan, with his swinging left-arm all-sorts would be a wonderful bowler if he decided to try for consistency, which he doesn’t, but he still manages to sneak the wicket of the unwary. The seam-bowling quintet is completed by Vikram Kadan, a new signing in whom the Puffins have placed considerable faith, since they believe him to be a decent quick up-front (Cook describes him as ‘fast’). There is a sixth option, too, in Rajesh Paul, an inexperienced but keen backup seamer who is still learning his trade.


The spinners


There are two specialist spinners in the squad, both of whom are of comparatively advanced years. Ólafur Briem is the only Icelandic-born player currently registered, and he has developed the knack of tossing up cross-seamers to intriguing and successful effect. Then there’s the evergreen Lal Mahagoda, purloined from Reykjavík, who can still send down neat little off-breaks even though the spirit is perhaps more willing than the flesh these days.


What they said


“If we’re targeting one trophy, to be honest I’d rather we won the Sixes than successfully defended the others. It’s the only trophy we haven’t ever won.” Abhi Chauhan


“They key objective is to strengthen the batting department. If we manage that, I have no doubt we’ll give the other clubs a run for their money, in all the competitions.” Nolan Williams


“We know we’ll be underdogs in every game, but I think we may have the most potent fast bowling attack in the land. We won’t score 150 often, if at all, but will it matter?” David Cook


Kit Harris’s prediction


With three left-handers in the top six – Cook, Chauhan and Robertson – the objective must be to try and mix them up with the right handers. They could earn a lot of wides that way, and as we always see in Iceland, wides are a team’s 12th player. I predict Cook will promote himself to open. Don’t forget, that’s where he scored that famous century. I think Chauhan could be a vastly better batsman than he is a bowler, if only he could keep still. I’d also have a look at promoting Williams. He’s always saying that’s what he wants, and he’s the only player in Iceland to have faced international-quality bowling outdoors (Martin McCague, Paul Taylor, Gareth Batty, Tim Murtagh and Peter Such, for example). Why the locals won’t let him have a hit against freezing-cold bit-part players is, frankly, baffling.


Bowling-wise, they’re going to do it very differently from how I would do it. After Williams, Rehman and Subramaniyam have bowled, I would be using Robertson – a hugely underrated bowler who would make a massive contribution with the ball if he could find a captain who’d back him – and Cook, who is an enormous asset. Instead, I predict they’ll eschew the slow stuff and go with a five-man seam attack, preferring Kadan and Chauhan.


Probable XI: 1 David Cook (c), 2 David Abew-Baidoo (w), 3 Bala Kamallakharan, 4 Jakob Robertson, 5 Riaan Dreyer, 6 Abhi Chauhan, 7 Uthaya Rupan, 8 Nolan Williams, 9 Vikram Kadan, 10 Jegadeesh Subramaniyam, 11 Abdur Rehman.


On the bench: Rajesh Paul (seamer); Ólafur Briem, Lal Mahagoda (spinners).

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