Earl Best examines current CPL form and looks at the implications for the West Indies’ imminent home series:
It’s hard to say today just which team will emerge victorious in the 2014 Limacol Caribbean Premier League. Any one of the top three can still do it. Despite one or two narrow defeats, the Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW), well led by the West Indies Test captain, are down but emphatically not out.
Defending champions the Jamaica Tallawahs (JT), a very hard nut to crack, have lost their invincible aura, going under to the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel (TTRS) at the Oval in their away fixture and needing a once-in-a-blue-moon innings to get the better of the Warriors a week later.
And after the unseemly, public, yard fowl squabbling between two ministers of government over whether or not the franchise should be allowed to carry the country’s name, the TTRS more than most have something to prove.
What we can say with much more assurance at this stage, though, is that, caeteris paribus, when Bangladesh arrive in the Caribbean for their 2-Test, 3-ODI and 1-T20 series which begins at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada on August 20, they will have no chance against the regional teams.
However, one has to ask whether all the caterers will in fact be on the Paris bus. Will all things indeed be equal? Will the energy and the enthusiasm, the drive and the commitment, the form and the class we are currently seeing from the CPL rank and file also be on display when 11 of the home players are selected to don the maroon cap and be the standard-bearers for the entire region?
It is a question that bears close examination at this stage because in the answer we may find important keys to understanding why WI continue to wallow in the backwaters of the world game at the highest level. It is, I submit, the question that Tony Cozier has tangentially tackled in his column headlined “Coaching, the CPL and West Indies culture” in the Sunday Express of August 3.
The major difference between the CPL and the West Indies teams can be summed up in two words: Ottis Gibson.
In responding to my last piece on Denesh Ramdin, one knowledgeable and insightful commentator noted that current West Indies manager Richie Richardson is the first holder of that lofty position who “reports to the coach.” It’s a safe bet that it was not the manager who requested that arrangement.
But frankly I don’t blame Gibson; if I were in his situation and had his competence and qualifications (as distinct from certification!), I too would want to be calling the shots. How else could I realistically expect to keep my job?
Let me hark back once again to the instructive July 24 GAW vs TTRS game at the Queen’s Park Oval which the home side won thanks to a last-ball six. You had to notice the compassionate reception Curtly Ambrose, the GAW co-coach, gave Ronsford Beaton after Darren Bravo clobbered him over mid-on to seal the win.
And two days later in Kensington Oval, when the young man managed to pull the chataignes out of the chulha with a miserly final over in the game against the BT, Ambrose embraced him so passionately that you wondered whether he had lost it.
It’s probably an unfair question but I think it’s a relevant one: Anyone remembers ever seeing anything similar from Gibson? Not that he loves West Indies less, one suspects…
Of interest too is the fact that, despite the Thursday night setback, with only nine runs needed and century-maker Dwayne Smith still at the crease, Ramdin opted to entrust the responsibility of the last over to Beaton again. The 21-year-old Guyanese quickie stepped up and delivered on the night so his skipper emerged smelling of roses.
Almost a week later at Sabina, up against the GAW in a decisive encounter, the JT got to 138 for 4 in reply to 137 for 6 courtesy of Russell’s last-ball six, which followed a four off the penultimate ball.
The ESPNcricinfo report makes very interesting reading:
…with 55 needed off 24, (…) Russell carted Ronsford Beaton for 6, 6 and 4 off the first three balls to keep the Tallawahs in the hunt for an unlikely win. They still needed 24 off nine balls when Russell struck a four and a six off Krishmar Santokie to set up the final-over theatrics.
Beaton (…) was passed over this time around by Amazon Warriors captain Denesh Ramdin and instead (Jimmy) Neesham was tasked with defending 13 off the last six balls. Only one run was conceded off the first three balls but a bouncer to Owais Shah on the fourth ball was out of the batsman’s reach and crucially signalled a wide. Shah then took a single off the fourth legal delivery to set up Russell’s heroic ending.
So when one thinks of what might have occurred in Bridgetown if the flailing Jonathan Carter—or more likely the rampaging Smith—had smashed Beaton’s last ball over the ropes to give the Tridents victory, one understands why some baulk at the suggestion to promote Ramdin to West Indies captain (i.e. in all three formats).
Would not the skipper and his bowler have had their confidence completely shattered, perhaps irreparably so, by a second successive last-ball defeat in such circumstances?
Another significant element that is going to be different once the CPL is over is that there will be no foreign pros to call on. It would be fair to say, however, that this year’s competition has not so far been dominated by the foreigners.
The Pakistanis Shoaib Malik (313 in 7 inns) and Sohail Tanvir (163 & 6/152 in 7) and New Zealand’s Martin Guptill (129 in 6) have earned honourable mention more than once, the first two for contributions with bat and ball, the last more for his outstanding performance in the field than at the crease. The TTRS’ Kevin O’Brien (209 in 6 inns & 6 wkts for 42runs in 3 inns) has also produced good performances with bat and ball.
However, the most outstanding performers have been many of the players vying for places on the side to face the Bangladeshis. Chris Gayle (339 in 7 inns), Lendl Simmons (258 in 7), Smith (257 in 7), Evin Lewis (251 in 5), Marlon Samuels (182 in 6), Ramdin (178 in 6) and DM Bravo (154 in 5) have caught the eye.
Unsurprisingly, with the ball Sunil Narine (5/61 at 3.81 rpo), and Samuel Badree (9/114 at 4.38 rpo) have been the standouts. Krishmar Santokie (10/205 in 7 inns) and Jerome Taylor (11/185 in 7) have also been notable if not quite impressive and Beaton (7/185 in 7) has also called attention to himself.
There may still be loud second-half overtures from Johnson Charles (117 in 6) or Keiron Pollard (103 in 7), Andre Fletcher (88 in 6) or Darren Sammy, Ravi Rampaul (16/201 in 7) or Kevon Cooper (10/179 in 7 inns), Fidel Edwards (6/160 in 6) or Sheldon Cottrell (6/12 in 6 inns at 5.95 rpo), Jason Holder (2/63 in 7) or Russell (115/6 & 8/125 in 6) or Verasammy Permaul (4/155 in 7) or Sulieman Benn (3/177 in 7 inns at 7.37 rpo), all of whom prior to the start of the CPL season may well have fancied their chances of being selected.
One supposes that Shannon Gabriel (3/20 in his only match) and Tino Best (3/109 in 4) would also have been seeing their names in lights.
So with two baker’s dozens applications to consider already, it is looking more and more as if the regional selectors are going to have an embarrassment of riches on their hands when it is time to decide on the West Indies 15. And then reduce that number to 11.
My hope is that they will not embarrass us all. On present form, the squads for the shorter formats with which the tour kicks off towards the end of the month select themselves; there is simply no place for current T20 captain Sammy who has conceded more runs with the ball (109) than he has managed to produce in six innings (88) and captured a solitary scalp into the bargain.
I expect that we shall see a starting XI looking something like: Christopher Gayle, Evin Lewis, Dwayne Smith, Darren Bravo, Dwayne Bravo (94 runs in 3 inns & 8/213 in 7 inns), Lendl Simmons, Denesh Ramdin, Sunil Narine, Samuel Badree, Ravi Rampaul or Nikita Miller (9/116 in 6) and Taylor with Santokie, Cooper and Holder or Beaton completing the squad.
Badree, Smith, Santokie and Simmons will be hard-pressed to hold on to their places for the two Tests and Kraigg Brathwaite, who was so impressive against the Kiwis, should get the nod ahead of Lewis, who is still to convince many that he has the temperament required for success in the Test arena.
There is also Shivnarine Chanderpaul who, with 150 Tests under his belt, is still not ready to call it quits. Left to Coach Gibson, the Guyanese left-hander with the unorthodox stance will probably be passed over. Understandably. But my guess is that it won’t be because the selectors see and seize the chance to blood a few youngsters in a home series against relatively weak opposition.
Additionally, there is still the issue of horses for courses. And fitness. And form.
And this being the West Indies, we have to factor in the insular politics.
But let us wait then and see if Mr Ramdin will travel the controversy-free route preferred by his immediate successor or whether he will take a leaf out of the Brian Lara book and refuse to be dictated to by off-the-field interests.
My money is on the latter. And on a six-match whitewash, weather permitting, for the visitors from the sub-continent.