Owner Kathir Narayanan
Coach Avik Ghosh
Captain Sampath Nagarajan
Vice-Captain Sebastiaan Dreyer
What they’re like
A new team based around the Alvotech company, and the spiritual sister of Knattspyrnufélag Reykjavíkur, the football club located in Vesturbær. The club is the brainchild of Kathir Narayanan, who has brought in a number of key players from other clubs: Lee Nelson from Hafnarfjörður, Ramachandran Gujapan from Reykjavík, Sebastiaan Dreyer and Sampath Kumar from Kópavogur. This quartet will form a core around which the new outfit will be stitched.
Lee Nelson is the first name on the list in more ways than one. An outstanding opening batsman at international level, his recruitment is a significant coup for Narayanan. It is widely known that he has been looking for an opportunity to relinquish the gloves and his transfer to Vesturbær, where he lives, will enable him to open the batting without being tired from keeping. It will also be exciting to see the quality of the most experienced of the newcomers, Avik Ghosh, who has been playing league cricket in the USA. The word is that he’s a typical number three who keeps the scoreboard ticking and nails down the innings while others strike. Kathir Narayanan himself knows Icelandic conditions and should waste no time in giving impetus to the innings; his long-term knee injury means he can focus on his batting this season. Sreejith Jayabhavan has been described as an unorthodox hitter with something of Steve Smith in his method, which will be fun to watch. Another good though possibly slightly unrefined hitter, Sunil Tandra, completes the likely top six. There is also an up-and-coming batsman, Abhijit Butti, who is strong and likes to hit out, but he is still learning his game at the moment.
Another successfully-signed target for the Volcano was Sebastiaan Dreyer, who was signed at quite some cost from Kópavogur at the insistence of the Vesturbær captain. They have great confidence in the 17-year-old’s all-round gifts and have even named him as Vice-Captain. It’s likely he will open the batting with Nelson, who is the best mentor a young wicketkeeper-batsman could have. Given Dreyer’s central role and Nelson’s ability to don the gloves if necessary, it seems that Lakshitha Bimsara may be surplus to requirements at times.
Some spin will have to come from somewhere, sooner or later, and the one man who’s known to be able to supply some tweak reliably is Anantha Krishnan who can also wield the bat. He may not have the glamour of some of the other teams’ all-rounders, but in a seam-heavy attack his ability to take the pace off the ball may prove very useful, especially indoors in the Volcanic Ashes, where spin bowling always prospers.
It seems likely, if not certain, that the Vesturbær attack will be based almost entirely around seam. The five strongest bowlers are all medium-pacers. The known quantities, who will open and dominate the bowling, are Ramachandran Gujapan, another target signing, and the captain Sampath Nagarajan. They were both very impressive last season, and will form a formidable opening pair for the Volcano. Supporting them will be the diminutive but nippy Mohit Kotian, who was on the verge of signing for Kópavogur last year, only to be ruled out of the entire season by injury. The traits of two debutants will provide a little contrast: the tall, bouncy action of Ramji Navapara and the nagging accuracy of Kuldeep Jha. There is a sixth seamer, too, in the form of the near-novice Mahendra Suthar, who may get opportunities as the summer comes on.
It remains to be seen whether Rishabh Mishra will bowl a lot of overs with his off-breaks. The reliance on seam may see him on the bench initially, especially if Krishnan’s finger-spin proves sufficient for the team’s needs.
What they said
“It’s quite a leap from playing United States league cricket with the likes of Clayton Lambert to training in the middle of the Icelandic winter. I only moved here three months ago and, to be honest, it never even occurred to me that there would be cricket here.” Avik Ghosh
“Kathir and I went into the auction knowing our main targets were Ram, Lee and Sebastiaan. I know some people were surprised how much we spent on Sebastiaan. But I played alongside him at Kópavogur and as soon as I was signed as captain here, I told Kathir we must sign him. He’s always in the game, he’s very motivating and I want him in my team.” Sampath Nagarajan
“To be honest, I was surprised to move clubs, and when I saw the price, I thought: Wow! Okay! I didn’t expect that, for sure. It doesn’t really translate into pressure; it’s more that I’m pleased to have had such a big vote of confidence, and that they see my potential.” Sebastiaan Dreyer
Kit Harris’s prediction
It’s going to be fun to watch this team, because nobody really knows which way it will go. They have made three great signings in Nelson, Gupajan and Nagarajan, who were keenly wanted at other clubs, and I absolutely adore how much love they’ve shown to Dreyer, who only moved to Iceland last summer. He hasn’t yet got a stranglehold on any game, but they believe in him and they want him to play a central role, and I think that’s just brilliant. They could turn him into a future Iceland captain.
Ghosh is obviously one to watch in the batting order, because he’s played with and against several USA international players and, lest we forget, that team reached the ICC Champions Trophy. Even if he doesn’t turn out to be a brilliant player, his experience will be enviable. It should also be good to see Narayanan having a proper chance to bat.
I’ve said before that the ideal outdoor bowling attack in Iceland comprises four seamers and a quickish spinner, and I worry a little that Vesturbær don’t have a lot of spin options. Indoors, which is where we kick off the season with the Volcanic Ashes, teams profit by playing two spinners, so it will be fascinating to see how this seam-heavy approach pans out. They’re all right-handers, too, so I wouldn’t be surprised if, by the end of the season, the left-handed Nelson ends up doing the bowling he always longs to do.
Probable XI: 1 Lee Nelson, 2 Sebastiaan Dreyer (w), 3 Avik Ghosh, 4 Kathir Narayanan, 5 Sreejith Jayabhavan, 6 Sunil Tandra, 7 Anantha Krishnan, 8 Sampath Nagarajan (c), 9 Ramachandran Gujapan, 10 Mohit Kotian, 11 Ramji Navapara.
On the bench: Abhijit Butti (bat), Lakshitha Bimsara (keeper), Kuldeep Jha, Mahendra Suthar (seam), Rishabh Mishra (spin).