Once a Knight Rider, always a Knight Rider.
Dwayne Bravo isn’t going anywhere. The ‘champion’ all-rounder was selected in the first round of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) draft by two-time defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR), roughly 24 hours after hinting that he would be leaving the powerhouse franchise.
Yesterday, Bravo, who oversaw three CPL victories for the Trinidad and Tobago franchise, raised eyebrows among the cricketing fraternity and the media when he posted a video to his Instagram account which implied that he would be moving to another franchise.
The 35 year-old Bravo, who finished as a runner-up in the just-concluded Indian Premier League (IPL) season with Chennai Super Kings said in his Instagram video, “This is the Champion DJ Bravo. The CPL draft is about to take place in London on the 22nd, which is this Wednesday, so let’s see where the ‘Champion’ will end up this season. The biggest party in sport is about to go down so lock in and let’s see. The three-time champion, let’s see where he’s going to be this year…”
Bravo’s video message was reposted by the CPL’s official Twitter page.
The veteran all-rounder then spiced things up by adding the following in the comments section below the video.
“No TKR for me this season guys,” stated Bravo. “Sorry. But I have de nuff [sic] of the cussing. I need to enjoy my time now. Good luck TKR fans!!!”
Today, the ultimate showman was probably laughing off his chair when the TKR franchise retained him—with a US$160,000 first round purchase—as one of their three local players, to go along with his half-brother, Darren Bravo, and off-spin bowler Sunil Narine.
The other players selected in the first round were Alex Hales (Barbados Tridents), Shadab Khan (Guyana Amazon Warriors), Lasith Malinga (St Lucia Stars), Andre ‘Dre Russ’ Russell and Isuru Udana (St Kitts and Nevis Patriots).
The CPL draft in London, England proved to be a very fruitful one for the defending champions as they also retained the services of 2018 CPL top scorer Colin Munro and fast bowler Ali Khan, who endeared himself to the local faithful last year with his raw passion and hostile, accurate bowling.
The beauty of the draw for TKR was their ability to retain most of the core from their 2018 team, with players such as Khary Pierre, Anderson Phillip, Denesh Ramdin and Javon Searles also being snapped up; complimenting a team which had been strengthened with the addition of home-grown marquee player, Kieron Pollard.
Perhaps, the only blip for the TKR management in today’s draw was their inability to hold on to Australian leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed, last year’s leading wicket taker. The wily Aussie was selected by St Lucia Stars in round two, and followed on the heels of St Lucia’s bombshell pick in round one: Malinga.
The veteran Sri Lankan seamer reminded all and sundry of his capabilities in the 2019 IPL final against Chennai and the St Lucian franchise did not mind coughing up US$160,000 to acquire his services.
The St Lucians have endured tumultuous campaigns in the last couple CPL seasons—despite a name alteration and captaincy changes—and would be looking towards a new dawn with Malinga and Ahmed.
Former West Indies captain Daren Sammy has once again been retained by his native franchise, with Sri Lankans Niroshan Dickwella and Thisara Perera being among their notable overseas picks. Meanwhile, burly all-rounder Rahkeem Cornwall and the trio of Andre Fletcher, Obed McCoy and Kesrick Williams—all of whom seem to be on the fringes of West Indies’ limited overs teams at present—were all retained.
Although the Stars added all-rounder Christopher Barnwell and top order batsmen John Campbell, Keddy Lesporis and Andre McCarthy, it remains to be seen if they will fill the void left in their middle order by Pollard’s departure. The big-hitting Trinidad and Tobago batsman finished as the sixth highest scorer in last year’s CPL tournament, spanking his maiden T20 century in the process.
A new star would have to emerge if St Lucia are to make their first playoff appearance since 2016. They would certainly hope Malinga could bring some of his magic to the fore once more.
Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) and Jamaica Tallawahs have had no such worries in getting to the business end of CPL tournaments, as they made the knockout stages on all six occasions. The Tallawahs have had better returns though with CPL victories in 2013 and 2016, while GAW have been losing finalists on four occasions and have unofficially earned the title of ‘CPL bridesmaids’.
Today, both franchises put themselves in good stead for the upcoming season by assembling fairly decent squads. The Tallawahs retained the superb Russell, who’s coming off a stellar IPL season, breakout fast bowler Oshane Thomas, Rovman Powell and the electric New Zealand wicket-keeper batsman Glen Phillips.
In 2018, Phillips’ tally of 457 runs was only second to his countryman Munro and he could certainly form a potent opening pairing with the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle, who was acquired by the Tallawahs as a marquee player. The two-time champs definitely aren’t lacking for firepower, as they also added hard-hitting top order batsman Chadwick Walton, who was a member of both their championship winning teams.
It’s fair to say that the Tallawahs opted for a bit of mystery with their overseas picks. Bar Phillips, they selected the trio of Amad Butt, Zahir Khan and George Worker. Worker has represented New Zealand in 12 international matches, Khan (Z) has played the solitary One-day International for Afghanistan and the 24-year-old Butt is yet to feature for Pakistan at international level.
The Tallawahs also took West Indies fans down memory lane with their last pick of the draft by selecting Xavier Marshall as their ICC Americas player. The Jamaican-born Marshall, an electric fielder and stylish batsman in his heyday, made his ODI debut for West Indies at the tender age of 18. Nowadays, Marshall is busy showing off his talents alongside the likes of Ali Khan in the USA team and recently helped them clinch ODI status.
In contrast, GAW, beaten finalists in 2018, decided to stick with a talented, young core. Having acquired exciting wicket-keeper batsman Nicholas Pooran as their marquee player, they kept the trio of Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford—all of whom participated in the 2019 IPL season.
GAW also welcomed back the Guyanese duo of Anthony Bramble and Romario Shepherd, while overseas players Chris Green and Shoaib Malik were retained. Shadab is probably the GAW’s biggest coup and TKR fans would certainly remember his exciting performances in the 2017 season.
Green, a perceptive off-spin bowler shared captaincy duties with Trinidadian seamer Rayad Emrit for the 2018 season. Emrit will not form part of the GAW camp for the 2019 season though, with the Patriots snapping him up in Round Nine.
The Patriots, runners-up to TKR in 2017, have seemingly taken a step back with their squad selection this year. Having suffered a setback with the departure of Gayle, the Patriots selected Sri Lankan all-rounder Isuru Udana in the first round of today’s draft. The 31 year-old has played six ODIs and 21 T20 Internationals for his country thus far.
Udana arguably booked his spot in Sri Lanka’s provisional World Cup team—and possibly caught the Patriots gaze—two months ago, when he smashed a devastating 84 off 48 balls against South Africa in a T20I while batting from the number eight position.
It was the kind of power hitting Gayle would be proud of, and with players such as Fabian Allen, Carlos Brathwaite, Evin Lewis and South African batsman Rassie Van Der Dussen being retained, the Patriots would hope to fill the awfully big shoes of the Universe Boss.
In the camp of the Barbados Tridents camp, the pressure to succeed may be close to ‘burst pipe’ stage. Winners in 2014, the Tridents were dreadful last season and finished bottom of the table with just two victories. If things are to turn around in 2019, it might well have to be done the ‘Bajan’ way, as 10 of the Tridents 17 picks were home-grown players.
The Tridents did make a splash in the first round of the draft though, as the destructive Hales—who was dropped from the England World Cup squad after being given a 21-day ban for recreational drug use—was acquired in the first round.
Jason Holder is the Tridents’ marquee player, while Ashley Nurse, Wahab Riaz and in-form wicket-keeper batsman Shai Hope have all been retained. Meanwhile Pakistani batman Asif Ali and St Lucian opener Johnson Charles were brought in to bolster the batting department, with the tricky spin duo of Sandeep Lamichhane and Imad Wasim being key additions to the bowling department.
Notable absentees from the 2019 CPL season are New Zealanders Brendon McCullum and Luke Ronchi, Afghanistan’s classy leg spinner Rashid Khan and the Aussie powerhouse Chris Lynn who all went undrafted. This, according to several reports, is due to their impending participation in the inaugural Euro T20 Slam which runs from 30 August to 22 September and is a collaboration involving the cricket associations of Ireland, Netherlands and Scotland.
Rashid and McCullum were selected as icon players in the Euro T20 while Lynn and Ronchi have been chosen as marquee players.
The 2019 CPL runs from 4 September to 12 October and it remains to be seen if these players will make cameo appearances in the latter stage of the regional tournament.
There were also eyebrows raised at the non-selection of Caribbean players such as Sunil Ambris, Davendra Bishoo, Kevon Cooper, Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Smith who also went undrafted.
In the cases of Simmons and Smith, who are T20 World Cup champions with the West Indies, CPL draft co-host Daren Ganga suggested that the base bidding prize of US$70,000 was too high to entice teams given their recent run of form. The pair of right-handed batsmen are both seasoned campaigners and could have surely added value at the top of the innings for one of the six franchises.
But it appears that the CPL franchises were unwilling to pay their price.
The cards have been lined up in the deck then.
Will anyone be able to stop a three-peat from TKR?
One thing is for certain, ‘DJ’ Bravo will be there to help defend the title.