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In the end, it was much easier than most thought. It was so easy, that some of the T&T supporters were celebrating before a ball was bowled in the Caribbean T20 Final on Sunday night in St Lucia.
T&T had started this tournament rather slowly on a rainy Sunday night in Port-of-Spain, and after a dismal score of 128 against Jamaica, and with the possible Jamaican run chase curtailed by persistent rain, many wondered aloud about the calibre of the players.
In subsequent matches against all the opposition, Combined Campuses Colleges, Leeward Islands and Guyana at the Queen’s Park Oval, our cricketers began to find their range and set their sights on a third consecutive Caribbean title.
When the remaining matches (two for T&T), were scheduled for St Lucia, some (of our opens) believed that a different atmosphere would have affected the T&T cricketers. However, what they forgot is that this team is a very professional outfit and fully focused. So, instead of becoming complacent or overconfident, the cricketers from this beautiful twin-island republic continued their classy performances with comprehensive victories over the Windward Islands and Barbados.
All through this tournament, we have seen a number of young T&T players making their mark on the game on an international stage. Darren Bravo, with some outstanding batting, hit three unbeaten half-centuries including a career-best knock of 82 not out against Guyana, to once again prove he is destined for greater success. This young man demonstrated a level of maturity rarely seen at this young age in this fast format of the game and was able to clinically mix composure with flair in his brilliant stroke play. Let us hope he continues to improve with the added incentive of the longer version of cricket deeply imprinted in his mind.
Also, there was Shannon Gabriel making a return to cricket after injury in England in 2012, this young man bowled with controlled venom and speed. From the naked eye, without any bowling speedometer, Gabriel’s deliveries seemed to fly into the hands of the T&T captain Denesh Ramdin with such a loud thud that you could hear it in the Oval. Ramdin would later confirm in interviews that he reckoned that Gabriel was bowling at speeds in the 90’s. But it was not only his raw pace which impressed everyone but his control at that pace. His bowling figures improved throughout the tournament, and there is little doubt that a West Indian place awaits this powerfully-built youngster in the near future. There are some that may question his bowling run up, but these and others are areas that he can improve on, and given his modest demeanour, he will listen to the right teacher.
Rayad Emrit has for too long remained on the prolife rarity of this team. At one time he was expected to be a constant face on the West Indies team and actually played a couple of matches, but some inconsistent playing time has set this very talented all-rounder back. However, given an opportunity to excel by initially the absence of others, he not only delivered, but ensured that he will be hard to replace in the future. His bowling was inspirational and influential in the results of the matches. Whenever he was called on to bowl, particularly in the middle overs, when the batsmen are looking to attack, Emrit was able to extinguish this threat. He needs to be encouraged and as he admitted himself the words of advice from experienced West Indian duo Dwayne Bravo and Keiron Pollard were not only motivational but honest.
On that topic, there are no words that can describe the presence Bravo, Pollard and Sunil Narine added to the quality and confidence of a T&T team. These three men lead from the front in their own individual ways. Bravo is always thinking and happy, Pollard is big, strong and like a father figure, never allowing the opposition to settle, Narine is calm but calculating and deadly in his thought process.
When you add Samuel Badree’s control and attitude as well as the temperamental but very talented Lendl Simmons to this cast of cricketers, no wonder T&T is such a dominant force in this format of the game.
Let us not forget the work of the coaching staff. Both David Williams and Kelvin Williams along with the manager, Omar Khan, and all of the technical and medical team.
However, all of this success would not be possible without the true leadership skills demonstrated by Denesh Ramdin, his bowling changes, his willingness to listen to the other senior players and his general way of inspiring team spirit. For me, the words that he uttered to Ian Bishop when asked about the dismissal of Dwayne Bravo by Dwayne Smith will forever ring out as a testament to his class and quality as a captain: “We (T&T), we will not do that, we do not play our cricket so.” And indeed so it is, T&T plays hard and plays to win, not forgetting it is a sport and there is a spirit.
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