Another few days- and the summer cricket season 2023 in Iceland will be underway. This season is going to be unique in many accounts. For the first time, five teams from five independent clubs will be participating in the domestic tournaments as Hafnarfjordur Hammers, Reykjavik Vikings, Kopavogur Puffins and Vesturbaer Volcanos will be joined by Gardabaer Glaciers. In addition to the 10 overs (T10) and 20 overs (T20) formats, last year, the 40 overs format was introduced for the first time, however, just for a tournament with three knock-out matches. This year, the 40 overs tournament (Valhalla Cup) will be played in a league format, followed by the final between the top two teams. All these inclusions mean that Iceland will witness a record 47 matches in next 4 months and the Iceland cricket will expand to multiple new cricket grounds in addition to the usual Vidistadatun ground.
Reykjavik Vikings managed to win only four out of the sixteen outings last season. They are very determined to change the outcomes this year and with addition of Chamley Fernando and Dushan Bandara, on paper, Vikings are by far the strongest team in 2023. On a good day, a team consisting of the two best batters of Iceland (Chamley and Derick Deonarain), the best allrounder (Dushan) and the best spinner (Prabhat Weerasooriya) of Iceland and the captain of the Iceland National team, Lakmal Bandara, can put up a strong fight against some of the teams participating in the international premier leagues across the world. With this distinguished star cast, along with a strong supportive cast comprising Sadun Lankathilaka, Lakshita Bimsara, Lal Mahagoda and Lakmal Amartunga, Vikings are favourites to win all the four tournaments this year.
The Kopavogur Puffins are the most disciplined and prepared side this season as well. They have trained regularly and rigorously for last six months and expected to perform strongly throughout the summer. With Sai Padamata, Jakob Robertson, Ben Rayner, David Cook, Keenan Botha, Sivkrishna Madduri and Abdur Rehman, Puffins have a very strong bowling attack. With the inclusion of Ravi Rawat, Abhishek Chauhan is also expected to give up the gloves and get back to the left arm fast bowling he is known for. However, transfer of Navas Khan and Jegadeesh Subraminiyam to the newly formed Glaciers team implies that the Puffins batting will be heavily dependent on the experienced hands of Keenan Botha, Bala Kamallakharan and David Cook. Puffins will hope that Ravi Rawat can replicate the impact Navas Khan had with the bat last year and Abhishek and Samuel Gill can can find the hard-hitting mojo they are famous for. Puffins also have a long list of young, enthusiastic players in their squad, roaring to get into the field. Overall, if the batters can perform well, Puffins are strong contender for at least one championship this year, if not more.
Vesturbaer Volcanos are the most unprepared side this year. They could have only few training sessions and that too with very limited resources. They have lost their regular captain and star bowler Sampath Nagarajan as he moved out of Iceland. Four of their players moved to the Gardabaer Glaciers and they have recruited few new players who would be exposed to the Icelandic conditions for the first time, without much training. Some of their key players will not be available throughout the summer and their captain Avik Ghosh may not be available for bulk of the season due to a knee injury. As usual, Volcanoes have a quite strong bowling attack with the top two wicket takers from the last year, Vaibhab Anandgaonkar and Kathir Narayanan, along with Senthil Kumar, Sunil Tandra, Ram Gujappan, Saravanan Shanmugam and Mohit Kotian. Volcanoes batting has always been dependent on Sebastiaan Dreyer, Lee Nelson and Avik Ghosh and last year Nikhil Nekram entered the clan. This year also Volcanoes will be looking forward to these four for the big scores. However, Avik´s injury means that at least one of the top three has to score really big and Kathir, Sunil, Senthil, Vaibhab and some of the new recruits also have to contribute substantially. Overall, significantly suffered by lack of training, injury and unavailability of the key players throughout the season, Volcanoes have to perform miraculously well to even get to the final of any of the tournaments.
Hafnarfjordur Hammers has the longest squad this season, listing 28 players, against 22, 21, 19 and 22 of Puffins, Vikings, Volcanoes and Glaciers, respectively. However, apart from the captain Muhammad Younas, best bowler from the last season, Tajdar Khan, Sulaman Nawaz, Saeed Shehzad, Mehmood Tariq and Kamal Muhammad, most of the players are relatively new and it would be a tall ask for them start performing well right from the word go. With so many new faces it is difficult to predict how Hammers will perform this year. However, to make any significant impact, in absence of any match winner, except Tajdar, Hammers must play exceptionally well as a team.
The newbies, Gardabaer Glaciers, have developed quite a formidable team in their first year. Navas Khan will lead their batting efforts, with strong supports from Javed Miakhalil, Jegadeesh and Nolan Williams. Their bowling will led by these three as well, along with Francies Xavier, Sreejith Jayabhavan and Sathiya Rupan. Glaciers also recruited a bunch of new players who will be tested under the tough Icelandic conditions for the first time. Although it is difficult to predict whether Glaciers can reach to the finals of any of the tournaments, they are considered as the dark horse this season and expected to turn the tables on multiple occasions throughout the season.
The predicted probability of winning the T10, T20 and 40 overs tournaments for the five teams are shown here-