Isaac Lockett 26 April 2023
Recently, Nikhil Uttamchandani spoke with Kofi James and Leroy Lugg to talk about the Cool and Smooth T20 from their different perspectives. James and Lugg are playing for the highflying Liberta Blackhawks side heading into the semi-final, having won six out of seven games, but their paths leading to this point are polarised.
Antiguan national James came into the tournament off the back of scoring his first first-class hundred during the most recent West Indies red-ball domestic season. The batting all-rounder played in every game for the Leeward Islands Hurricanes, establishing himself in the team at 25 years old, and found success finishing the tournament as the 15th-highest run scorer. Despite this success, James is yet to make his professional T20 debut. But he was coming into the tournament after being a part of the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots’ development group.
Jamaican Leroy Lugg has been around the Scorpions set-up since 2022 and, at 26 years old, has made an impressive start to his career, averaging 22.94 opening the batting. Lugg was a late addition to the Blackhawks’ side following Jahmar Hamilton’s withdrawal and was coming into the tournament as an overseas player. Lugg has made his T20 debut in the Caribbean Premier League for the St Lucia Kings against the Trinbago franchise against the likes of Tim Seifert and Kieron Pollard but is playing in new surroundings.
Expectations For The Tournament
Both players were asked about their expectations of the tournament, and it is clear that the Cool and Smooth T20 is making waves across the Caribean region.
When asked what he expected from the tournament, Lugg replied, ‘ I have been following the tournament over the last couple of years, and I expected the tournament to be of a high standard’ and made it clear that he was coming to Antigua to challenge himself. Further elaborating on his response, the opening batter explained that his ‘mindset was pretty straightforward. I came here to improve my cricket and play under lights as back home in Jamacia, I don’t have this type of luxury’.
These different experiences will benefit Lugg in the long term, and he appears to have adapted to playing under light quickly. The ultimate goal for Lugg was clear, ‘I want my team to win the competition. Personally, I want to do my best and be the best Leroy Lugg and continue to improve’.
For James, ”It is more than just coming to play cricket; I am still looking to improve my game a lot. I am still learning and looking to develop my game and into a good leader’. This hunger has proved to stand the versatile player in good stead, as he currently sits at the top of the runs-scoring charts hitting the 2023 tournament’s first and only hundred and has taken 11 wickets, including the tournament’s only hat trick. For James, his eyes are on the big picture.
‘I’ve been doing well; I think I can do a little bit more. But personally, I just want to achieve as much as I can. For the last few tournaments, I missed out on MVP, scoring the most runs or taking the most wickets so this year I am looking to collected as many awards as I can’.
Walking Into The Blackhawks Changing Room
For James, who is playing on home turf, walking into the Blackhawks dressing room ‘hasn’t been that difficult because I am playing with a lot of players I have played with over the years’. However, he is walking into the changing room he knows so well with a different role this year.
After finding stability in the Leeward Islands Hurricanes’ dressing room, James walked into the Cool And Smooth T20 as a regional player, which comes with different pressures. When asked about the differences, the all-rounder explained that ‘the guys look up to me even more as a senior player in the squad … they expect more of me with the ball, the ball, in the field and my leadership’.
The Cool And Smooth T20 has concentrated on creating a welcoming environment for all and has developed a healthy balance of international talent integrating with the homegrown players. The 2023 edition of the tournament has seen a host of Scottish players join the tournament alongside players from the USA, Australia and Barbados.
For Lugg, coming as an overseas player, there is always the question of adapting to the different cultures and environments around him alongside focusing on cricket. When asked about the difference between playing in Jamacia and Antigua, Lugg presented that ‘Jamacia and Antigua have similar cultures’, making the adaptation easier. But the title of being an overseas player introduced an additional element to the tournament. When explaining what it meant to him, Lugg provided an insight into his mentality; ‘I am not really looking at it as a pressure, but [I feel there is] a responsibility to get big scores because I am the overseas and a regional player’.
There has been plenty of exciting action at the Cool and Smooth T20 during the 2023 edition of the tournament, and it is fantastic that players like James and Lugg have been able to participate. The Liberta Blackhawks will face off against the Bolans Blasters in their semi-final with an eye on lifting the trophy after the final.