Early Bird: Echoing Denyse Plummer; TKR support nah leaving—it’s more than cricket

That Monday morning when Bobby sent me back to the 1950s and an old Sparrow kaiso about Carnival queens, Denyse Plummer was still with us…

Fo’daymorning. I pull up in front of his house as usual to start our walk to the Eddie Hart Savannah. On the way, he makes clear his resolve to ignore the four TKR matches starting in Trinidad in early September.

Trinbago Knight Riders fans get behind the Trinidad and Tobago cricket franchise during CPL action against Jamaica Tallawahs at the Queen’s Park Oval on 10 August 2018.
Photo: Allan V Crane/ CA-Images

“Who want to go could go down dey,” he sings, “but me eh going no way.

“My modest pension, my energy, my time are not to be spent on foolishness!”

At the time, Kieron Pollard’s side had faced only 19 balls in this year’s CPL. But Bobby, long convinced that the TKR management do not know what they are doing, had seen enough of what he dubbed “the Back-in-Times Brigade.”

“Six of the 11 starters on the wrong side of 37?” he inquired rhetorically, his contempt almost palpable. “What incredible optimism! What do they really expect?

“Chadwick Walton? Is the entire selection panel on drugs?”

Then West Indies head coach Phil Simmons (left) and white ball captain Kieron Pollard.
The pair have been reunited by CPL franchise, TKR.

“Phil Simmons needs to make a call to Jamaica,” he continued, his cup running over with sarcasm. “Maybe (Chris) Gayle still has it.”

A week later, Nicholas Pooran, Pollard and Andre Russell had hit 11 sixes to power TKR past the struggling St Kitts and Nevis Patriots. For me, it had been a convincing six-wicket win.

Not for my walking partner. Beaten by 54 runs by the St Lucia Kings on Saturday, the Brigade had left Bobby with a bumblebee in his bonnet.

Still going…
TKR veteran Sunil Narine (left) is congratulated by teammates after getting the wicket of GAW’s Shakib Al Hasan during CPL action at Providence Stadium on 24 September 2022 in Georgetown, Guyana.
Photo: Ashley Allen – CPL T20/ CPL T20 via Getty Images

“TKR must be ecstatic about (Martin) Guptill and Walton,” he offered. “How long ago did I say that contracting a deadbeat 30-something-year-old was a huge gaffe? I would have bought Liton Das. But then again, who has the bigger biceps?”

The bigger your biceps, a Bobby theory runs, the higher your place in the TKR and West Indies batting order. It’s probably why Guptill, who’s made 11 (15), 7 (8) and 7 (8), was selected ahead of Mark Deyal, “who gives you 20-40 every innings.” And why the promising Tion Webster has been completely overlooked this year.

St Lucia Kings batsman Mark Deyal (right) hits 4 during CPL action against the Jamaica Tallawahs at Warner Park Sporting Complex on 9 September 2021 in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis.
Photo: Randy Brooks – CPL T20/ Getty Images

However, it doesn’t quite explain the omission of faithful servant Lendl Simmons and the still-worthy-of-a-place Darren Bravo. But how else to understand the refusal to use Akeal Hosein in the middle of the order?

Disgruntled, Bobby is prepared to go so far as to echo England’s dismissive Mark Nicholas in 2016.

“There is no gray matter,” he says, “between the ears of most West Indian batsmen.”

Photo: English cricket commentator Mark Nicholas.

Hard to resist the temptation to agree after watching that abject Saturday morning TKR performance against St Lucia Kings. And not to quietly recite, while watching the innings against SKNP on Sunday, the part of the Lord’s Prayer about not leading us into temptation.

But all’s well that ends well. Sunday’s big hits cleared the boundary instead of ending up in some fieldsman’s hands. In a 15-six spree, Pollard’s side raced to their target off just more than 17 overs.

“Okay,” Bobby concedes, “we won. But will we win against the hometown Royals and the high-flying Tallawahs in Barbados? Do you feel confident that we can beat them and, later, the Amazon Warriors?”

Guyana Amazon Warriors pacer Romario Shepherd (centre) celebrates a wicket during 2023 CPL action.
Photo: CPL 2023

I did not, I conceded.

“Why?” he asked, aggressing me with his forefinger. “Bravo, (Sunil) Narine, Pollard, Pooran, you know how much that line-up is worth in T20 dollars? In lakh rupees and crore rupees?”

“Plenty, plenty money?”

“So why you not confident?” Long, pregnant pause as I hemmed and hawed, searching for an adequate response. “Tallawahs could match that? Or Warriors?”

TKR batsman Nicholas Pooran (left) on the move during the 2023 CPL season.
Photo: CPL 2023

Then, he hit me a hammer blow over the head.

“If T&T fans don’t raise Cain and demand that the current owners give up the TKR franchise,” he thundered, “we may never dominate at T20 ever again.”

We? Who the hell is ‘we’?

And that’s when the penny dropped. This franchise business, I told Bobby, is screwing up the cricket world. I don’t think the slippage between KKR and TKR is accidental.

Photo: TKR fans battle nerves during the CPL final against St Kitts and Nevis Patriots at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba on 9 September 2017.
(Courtesy Sean Morrison/ Wired868)

For me, loyalty is to a country, not to a franchise. For me, if we, meaning TKR, never dominate again, that’s unfortunate. All the evidence from CPL, IPL, English county cricket, everywhere adduces to the conclusion that WI will never dominate again.

And that, doubtless true, is nothing short of tragic.

There’s something of the tragic too in the way things have changed in T&T since inequities made Sparrow turn his back on the Savannah competition. The queen no longer “runs the show with she fridge and she radio” but there’s still plenty foolishness around. Not just at Carnival, not just in cricket. And not just in Trinidad.

Photo: T&T Red Force batsman Darren Bravo is bowled behind his back by Barbados pacer Justin Greaves during WI Championship action in Tarouba on 25 May 2022.
(Copyright Daniel Prentice/ Wired868)

But I haven’t decided not to be in the Oval on 5 and 6 September and in Tarouba on the 9 and 10.

And I certainly would like to see again in attendance the large, passionate crowds that have followed the exploits of Bravo, Narine, Pollard and Pooran. Inter alia.

But whether TKR win, lose or draw, like the now late Plummer, I nah leaving.

The Boss… Late calypsonian Denyse Plummer.
Image: Seon Thompson

Mayaro, Maracas Bay/Savannah wey children play/De sorrel, de mauby bark/The corn soup, de bake and shark/The Oval, see Lara bat/The picong, the tit-for-tat/The ritual of Carnival/ The Soca Chutney bacchanal.

Win, lose or draw, my country is not TKR; it’s T&T. Fuh me to leave here, I must be mad.

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