Understandably, Shoaib Malik and the Guyana Amazon Warriors management and supporters are currently cock-a-hoop. So I think it may be appropriate today to remind them all of what the then West Indies coach said to Brian Lara in Sydney in 1992. The Prince of Port-of-Spain had just completed the superb 277 against Australia which earned him that royal handle.
“Your next innings,” the swashbuckling middle-order batsman that was the Guyanese Rohan Kanhai warned, “begins at zero.”
GAW have of course been the perennial regional T20 bridesmaids. But because of their eight wins in their eight matches so far this season, those in and around them in 2019 may well be thinking that they are a shoo-in for this year’s Caribbean Premier League title. The reality, however, is that even if they were to go on and post an unprecedented total of 20 points in the qualifying round, that still guarantees them nothing in so far as the eventual outcome of the competition is concerned.
Their next innings, after all, begins at zero.
And in addition to the never-nice nought that will adorn the scoreboard at the start of each of their next five—or, who knows, four!—innings, in three of those matches, decorating the other half of the scoreboard will be the names of Trinbago Knight Riders’ Lendl Simmons, Colin Munro, Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard.
And, perhaps, both Sunil Narine and Chris Jordan.
And after Monday’s 19-run home defeat, each one of those six lads now has a score to settle. Perhaps, as well, a hat-trick fire in his belly. And, as we have seen in previous editions of the CPL, each has the wherewithal to make Shoaib’s understandably confident GAW troopers pay, not for the first time, through their noses.
Now, it is entirely conceivable that neither GAW nor TKR make it all the way to the final. It is still mathematically possible that the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, skippered by former West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite, finish the qualifying round in second position.
And, to the utter elation of all T&T, go on to spoil the biggest party in sport for the understandably confident Guyanese franchise, the only one which happens to be led in 2019 by a non-West Indian.
Meanwhile, taking advantage of the psychological paralysis spawned in Pollard’s men by the seemingly unstoppable series of unseemly setbacks, former West Indies ODI captain Jason Holder leads the Barbados Tridents to a third successive win over the side led by the man who has succeeded him as West Indies ODI skipper.
And the cricketing gods thus contrive to remind us that the race is not for those swiftest out of the blocks but for those who endureth to the last.
Alas, neither Agatha Christie nor Alfred Hitchcock writes cricketing scripts—except perhaps for the recent 2019 World Cup—and so the plot simply will not be that thick. Not if the new West Indies white ball captain has his way.
As he has repeatedly pointed out, TKR’s first priority was getting into the final four. Done!
The second priority, I think, is getting into the final, not necessarily by the shortest route. Last year, confident of his team’s ability to beat GAW, I reckon Dwayne Bravo deliberately sent them into the final to wait for him while the more redoubtable pair of the Patriots and the Tallawahs sought to eliminate each other. That way, on the way to the trophy, TKR would have to take care of only one of the two titans.
So conceived, so achieved. Which is why, as things stand in 2019, TKR now find themselves in with a chance of doing the CPL hat-trick.
For me, the chances of that happening were severely reduced when Bravo the Elder was side-lined. Pollard is arguably—certainly the West Indies selectors concur—one of the best white ball captains in the region. But, for me, Bravo is streets ahead of him, especially as a man manager. The lads will do it for the skipper if the skipper is DJB; Polly, as Monday night showed, often has to try to do it himself.
Mind you, I think that, even with Bravo at the helm, TKR would have lost to the Warriors last night. Too combative to be strategic, Polly led from the front with his battling 71 off 38 balls. Still, he came up just short. Bravo the Elder would have done it differently, I argue, letting the currently ecstatic Warriors romp home easy winners the better to set them up for the kill. Maybe that’s just my DJB prejudices at work.
But I am well aware that he is well aware that the time to be in front is at the end. And, as T20’s good book says, man shall not win by bat and ball alone but by every successful scheme spawned in the skipper’s brain in the heat of the moment.
So barring something extraordinary—not including acts of God—priority number two will be history by the end of today. TKR will overhaul STKNP 10-point tally and meet GAW in Sunday’s Eliminator in Providence. That means the ill-concealed needle between the pair of Holder and Brathwaite and their West Indies successor Polly may well be a factor in determining who progresses from Sunday’s Qualifier 1 to Tuesday’s Qualifier 2.
Which one of the two Bajans is more desirous of stuffing the new West Indies white ball skipper’s promotion down his throat? And is personal motivation enough to lift a team without real self-belief on the one hand or a team with current form but little real class on the other hand above itself?
I do not know.
What I do know is that it would shock no one if Shoaib’s side, runaway leaders in the qualifying round, secured their first CPL title in Tarouba next weekend.
For me, however, it would be a major surprise. After all, every new innings begins with zero runs on the board.
And, after this Friday, zero points in the bank as well.