“No pressure on our team, the pressure is on their team. They haven’t won anything in a while and the pressure is there with them.”
Trinbago Knight Riders captain Dwayne Bravo threw down the gauntlet to his countryman and new St Lucia Stars captain Kieron Pollard on the eve of the opening Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) 2018 encounter, in a lively press conference today at Hyatt Regency.
Defending champions TKR will come up against the revamped Stars on Wednesday 8 August from 8pm at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain.
Pollard made the move to the Stars for this season’s tournament, leaving the Barbados Tridents outfit which had been his home since the CPL announced its arrival on the international cricket franchise circuit in 2013.
On the opening day of that inaugural tournament, Pollard was front and centre for the Tridents in dispatching the St Lucia Zouks—as they were known then—in an entertaining high scoring affair. On Tuesday morning, however, the towering allrounder was fully focused on his new team.
“I’ve played for over how many T20 franchises and you have to integrate yourself as an individual and as a player,” Pollard told the media. “It’s an opportunity to lead the Stars… It’s just a matter of trying to bring guys together and have a good sort of team set up and a good sort of camaraderie and take that onto the cricket field.
“All of us being professionals, [we] know how to integrate into a franchise set up.”
While Bravo was the more aggressive in the verbal sparring, he held no illusions about the task at hand at the Queen’s Park Oval.
“It’s no secret that Pollard is one of the best players in the world,” said Bravo. “One of the most successful T20 players in the world as well. It’s not going to be a walk in the park. The name [Stars] remains but they have a lot of different players; Lendl Simmons as well.
“It’s always a showdown between the two of us but like I said, the mutual respect is there. We respect each other’s talent and ability… At the end of the day, it’s competition. As long as you play in the spirit of the game and don’t go overboard, that’s very important.
“Fans are going to get their monies worth. It’s the best versus the best.”
That was about the only thing that Pollard agreed to with his opposing captain and long-time friend Bravo.
In last season’s opening encounter, the Stars were hammered by a rampant TKR performance in both innings. After losing new pinch hitting opener Sunil Narine for a first ball duck, Munro and McCullum blasted the Darren Sammy led Stars to defeat with ten overs to spare.
The kiwi pair will again be in the TKR line-up, along with CPL 2016 leading run scorer Chris Lynn but the Trinbagonian team will have to do without breakout spin star Shadab Khan.
“Shadab Khan who was outstanding last year was a big loss but we are fortunate to have Fawad Ahmed with his experience,” said TKR coach Simon Katich. “We do have a very experienced crew. Another one of our big strengths is [we have] a lot of players who have played a lot of T20 cricket and done it really well for a long period of time.
“They played in a lot of successful teams so they set a great example for the younger players in our group.”
Bravo echoed his coach’s sentiments and believes that the TKR chemistry is their secret to success.
“We are the only team to retain 90 per cent of our players and that in itself makes a big difference,” said Bravo. “We already accustomed to each other. We really miss Shadab but he is also replaced by Fawad, another world class spinner.
“Young Ali Khan is a young fast bowler to look out for and Shannon Gabriel, the fastest bowler in the Caribbean [who replaced Ronsford Beaton]. Our strength is our belief among ourselves as a team. The players enjoy each other’s success and we play like a family on and off the field.”
On the other end, Pollard will be joined by controversial Australian opener David Warner, Pakistan pacer Mohammad Sami and West Indian quick Kesrick Williams in addition to Simmons.
It’s a new order for the Stars team, which went winless in the 2017 edition—a statistic that Bravo was happy to stress. Pollard attempted to swat away the barbs.
“When it comes to cricket, we talk a lot of things inside here but cricket [doesn’t] play in the press conferences,” said Pollard. “So we will go out with our ‘small team’ that hasn’t won anything and at least win one game, maybe two more than we did last year.”
“I want to wish you all the best in your new endeavours,” Bravo retorted, “and you can’t do worse than what happened before.”
Shots fired! The CPL can’t bowl off soon enough!