By Nishad Pai Vaidya
On October 16 2009, a strong New South Wales team was stunned by the less fancied Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) in the second round of the inaugural Champions League T20 (CLT20). The Australian T20 champions had their Caribbean counterparts down at 118 for 6 (chasing 171) in the 16th over and the result seemed a foregone conclusion.
But a man by the name of Kieron Pollard decided that it was time to punish the bowling and started wielding his willow. He bludgeoned Moises Henriques in particular as he was taken for 42 runs off just nine legal deliveries. With six required from ten balls, Pollard hit a flat six over Henriques’ head to seal a remarkable victory and complete a fifty off just 18 balls. As Pollard threw his arms in the air and pumped them in delight, his team-mates ran on to the field to greet the new star. The CLT20 2009 had come alive and Trinidad got more support than the under-performing Indian franchises.
T&T may have lost the final in the inaugural edition, but they won the hearts of the people. It wasn’t just the way they played their cricket but also the way they celebrated which attracted people’s attention. It was a team people enjoyed watching and one expected entertainment before the start of every game. What a sight it was to see Dave Mohammed come up with new ways of celebrating a wicket! Kieron Pollard and the rest smiling after each six and the entire team running around the park after pulling off fantastic wins.
Fortunately, Trinidad is back for the third edition of the CLT20 and would be looking to go a step further than they did the last time.
The new CLT20 format isn’t fair on the champions of T20 tournaments of England, West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka. As discussed in one of my previous articles, the teams from these countries have put in the hard work and have emerged victorious in their domestic T20 tournaments and yet they have to compete in a qualifying round with a side (Kolkata Knight Riders) that hasn’t even reached the final in its assignment. It is even more unfair on a team like T&T, considering their previous campaign at the CLT20.
However, there is a positive for T&T as they will play all their qualifiers at Hyderabad - a ground they fancied on their previous visit to India. It was on this ground where Pollard led them to a shock win, where they stormed into the semis and blazed into the final. The atmosphere at Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Stadium would bring back old memories and encourage them to put in similar inspired performances. The Hyderabad crowd supported them during CLT20 2009 and if they turn up in their numbers again, T&T wouldn’t miss the Queen’s Park Oval.
Twelve of T&T’s 15 member squad were a part of their 2009 campaign. At the outset one may feel that the core of that successful unit is intact, but Pollard and Dwayne Bravo – the two were crucial to their success the last time - have opted to turn up for their respective Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises. Considering the impact the two players can have on a game, it is a huge blow to T&T. But the fact that they won their domestic tournament without the services of the two star players would be at the back of their mind and it would help them psychologically.
Even without Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, the Trinidad side is a very strong unit. They have a captain in Darren Ganga who has a good tactical brain and is known for his good leadership skills. He may not be very flashy in his strokeplay, but he can play crucial cameos and hold the innings with all the explosive players around him. In 2009, Ganga performed that role very well as he played a few good knocks when they lost quick wickets.
Their opening combination of William Perkins and Adrian Barath would be looking forward to repeat their 2009 heroics. They got Trinidadoff to some explosive starts which put pressure on the opposition bowlers. In the absence of the older brother Dwayne, Darren Bravo would have to play a crucial role in keeping the momentum with T&T in the middle overs.
Their biggest trump card in their batting would be Lendl Simmons. Simmons has had a good summer for the West Indies and his country would be hoping that he carries his form into the CLT20. He would be crucial to their success in this tournament. They also have a Denesh Ramdhin who can play some quick-fire knocks in the slog overs.
The Trinidad bowling may seem to be a bit weak but they have the likes of Ravi Rampaul and Dave Mohammed who can be very useful in T20 cricket. Rampaul in particular will be the one to watch out for as he is having a magnificent year. He bowls around the corridor of uncertainty and can move the ball both ways. His quick bouncer can be very threatening as the batsmen try to get away but are still drawn into playing an unwanted shot. However, he doesn’t have a recognized seamer to support him. They may go in with Ryad Emrit, who has played for the West Indies but to fill in Dwayne Bravo’s shoes would be difficult.
The way Ganga handles his spinners would determine Trinidad’s fortunes. In 2009, Sherwin Ganga and Mohammed formed a successful partnership. They strangled the batsmen and managed to pick up wickets. Having played five games at Hyderabad, the two tweakers would know the surface well and that would help Trinidad.
The beauty of T20 tournaments is that they can throw up some unlikely winners. India braved all odds and won the ICC World T20 2007, Pakistan did the same in 2009 and a Shane Warne-led Rajasthan Royals lifted the inaugural IPL. Trinidad could have been on that list had they crushed NSW after they had them on the mat at one stage during the CLT20 2009 final. Perhaps 2011 may be their moment in the sun!
(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.")