A fortnight ago in my column, “Exciting and unpredictable CPL”, I warned everyone about the Barbados Tridents (BT) and the type of inconsistent season they were having. By getting into the playoffs, we should see the best of them as they can spring a major surprise and simply cannot be underestimated.
They not only sprung a major surprise but defeated both the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) and the previously infallible Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) to waltz away with this year's Caribbean Premier League (CPL) title in style.
Congratulations to Jason Holder and his team. I suppose Holder had something to prove as he had lost the West Indies 50-over captaincy and wanted to prove that he is still a good leader and has what it takes to win a title.
Admittedly, during the World Cup, I thought his captaincy was poor; his decision-making allowed the opposition to take the initiative when the West Indies were on top and so they quickly turned positive positions into negative ones. When things were not going well, he allowed the game to flow without trying to change things and simply failed to show up when his team needed him the most.
But he was more positive leading the BT. His bowling changes were spot on and he had the right fieldsmen in crucial positions, including himself at long-on or long-off, where he took 13 remarkable catches with his 6' 7" frame plucking the ball out of the air. A shorter individual would not have made the height to catch some of those balls but he naturally had help, both on and off the field.
Phil Simmons, who must be congratulated for his role in the turn around of Holder and his general handling of the BT, must be elated. He brought this team from the brink of elimination to champions. In the end, they got the selection of the team correct and Ashley Nurse seemed to have risen from the dead in Tarouba for the playoff and the final.
I thought Raymon Reifer was used tactically well and proved to be more than useful with both bat and ball. The young man in Hayden Walsh Jr was full of confidence and I look forward to him improving as he plays more cricket and together with the miserly Harry Gurney, the BT played two excellent matches and deserved to win both. They held their nerve far more than the TKR and the GAW.
TKR was disappointing. They were frankly not as strong as they were back in 2017 and 2018. In the bowling department, they never found someone to replace Fawad Ahmed. This, coupled with Sunil Narine’s injury, left young Khary Pierre with far too much to do and although he picked up 10 wickets, there was no one bowler to get 18 or 20 wickets. Ali Khan was a shadow of himself and only bowled a few good spells.
In the batting department, though Lendl Simmons was superb at the top, they missed a Brendon McCullum coming in at No 4. For all the flak he takes, Dwayne Bravo was sorely missed for his batting and bowling. Kieron Pollard led the team well but many times had no one to turn to at the death to keep the runs down; and how DJ Bravo batting at No 7 would have given real impetus to the batting at the end. The one mistake I thought the TKR made was in Seekkuge Prasanna who should have been utilised more with the ball in the tournament, especially at Providence and Tarouba but TKR will come back stronger next year.
The GAW faltered again when it counted. It appeared to me that they felt they just had to turn up, with the BT presenting themselves as nuisance value as they had already beaten them three times in the competition and were overconfident expecting to win again. They failed to realise that they were facing a more determined and well-prepared team that had done their homework and had played at the same ground just two days prior.
The GAW panicked at crucial times both with bat and ball and they never looked as fluent and as well-oiled as they did during their fantastic winning streak. The battery of young, talented batsmen guided by the experienced Shoaib Malik did not know how to steer the ship under the bridge without the captain and so the target of 171 always seemed unreachable. I am certain they will regroup and challenge again next season but one has to wonder, will they ever win a CPL title?
Having seen the games and looking at the players who played and made a serious impact on their team, the following is Murray’s Super Star CPL Team: Lendl Simmons (Trinbago Knight Riders), Brandon King (Guyana Amazon Warriors), Johnson Charles (Barbados Tridents), Glenn Phillips (wk) (Jamaica Tallawahs), Shoaib Malik (capt) (Guyana Amazon Warriors), Kieron Pollard (Trinbago Knight Riders), Raymon Reifer (Barbados Tridents), Chris Green (Guyana Amazon Warriors), Hayden Walsh Jr. (Barbados Tridents), Imran Tahir (Guyana Amazon Warriors), Harry Gurney (Barbados Tridents), Jason Holder (12th) (Barbados Tridents), Keemo Paul (13th) (Guyana Amazon Warriors), Phil Simmons - Coach - (Barbados Tridents).
Congratulations to Phil Simmons on his return to the West Indies coaching set-up. He is by far the best coach in the region so let us hope he will get the support he requires from Cricket West Indies. I am certain we will start to see some light at the end of the tunnel and although the tunnel may feel long, patience is a virtue. We have a new white-ball captain and a new coach so at least things are happening, or so they seem. Good luck, Simmo!