One senses a certain joylessness in the Jamaica Tallawahs camp that perhaps bespeaks deep-seated, seething dissatisfaction.
Two bits of circumstantial evidence: well caught low down at slip by Daren Sammy during yesterday’s final league match, Andre Russell walked off with neither scowl nor embarrassed smile. As one would on discovering that the person one had come to visit was not at home.
Minutes later, with 34 needed off 14 balls, the 22-year-old Emerging Player Nicholas Kirton twice clouted Mohammed Nabi first over and then to long-on for six and four respectively. Required: 24 off 12.
And yet, if there was any jubilation in the Tallawahs camp, the cameras didn’t pick it up.
Their self-belief, one concludes, is completely shattered. But self-belief seems absolutely essential if one is hoping to capture a CPL title. And restoring it is no easy task—except perhaps at the start of the playoffs, especially when you’ve got there without ever producing your best.
Two messages are key. The first is that, both in the match and in the competition, the time to be in front is at the end. The second is that, in a T20 game, it only takes one man to beat you.
The first is a truth which has not escaped Tallawahs skipper Rovman Powell.
“We go into the semi-finals now with a clean slate,” he told the post-match interviewer. “It’s sometimes difficult to forget what happened before but we have to do that.”
What is also difficult to is what happened a year ago in 2019 when the Guyana Amazon Warriors made all the running, only to be tripped up at the last hurdle.
And as recently as yesterday, they themselves illustrated the front-running reality, collapsing to an 11–run defeat against the St Lucia Zouks despite reaching 84 without loss in pursuit of 146.
It was the then Tallawahs captain Russell who, in 2018, highlighted the truth of the second message. Dre Russ lit up the Queen’s Park Oval with a boundary-studded 121 to power his side to 225 for 6 and snatch an absolutely incredible victory.
A more recent reminder came from Trinbago Knight Riders skipper Kieron Pollard, whose match-winning 72 off 28 balls last week so knocked the stuffing out of the Barbados Tridents that they sleepwalked through their next three matches and out of qualifying.
Despite also sleepwalking through virtually the entire league, the Tallawahs, lacklustre and lethargic to the last, somehow contrived to amass seven points. That was one more than their Barbadian counterparts and so they earned the last place in the top four.
Expect that, by the end of the day tomorrow, Chris Green’s Warriors will have disposed of Daren Sammy’s St Lucia Zouks and claimed the second place in the final. Before that, at 10am, it’s the Tallawahs and TKR going head-to-head in Semi-final One.
On current form, no one should seriously expect Powell’s side to emerge victorious. Or even to contend. In the last two rounds, TKR have looked more and more like an unstoppable force and the Jamaicans more and more like an easily movable object.
In yesterday’s early game, Pollard’s troops marched steadily on to their tenth victory on the trot, annihilating the hapless St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in the process.
Rayad Emrit’s side could manage only a couple more than the 75 they scored against the Tallawahs in Jamaica in 2016, their lowest score in the CPL. And the ruthless TKR juggernaut steamrolled mercilessly over them, reaching their target in a mere 11.3 overs for the sole loss of opener Kirk Jangoo’s wicket.
In stark contrast, halfway through the afternoon game, Tallawahs had Sammy’s Zouks teetering on 63 for 4. An unhurried, unflustered Roston Chase (32* off 36) and Najibullah Zadran (35 off 25) helped steady the ship, getting to 125 before losing their fifth wicket.
Unlike the TV commentators, Sammy did not seem unduly put out by Chase’s less-than-a-run-a-ball scoring rate.
For once this season, the Tallawahs chase got off to an excellent start. Powell’s handling of the batting order has been a persistently vexed question among the TV commentators. All are agreed that Russell’s coming in at number seven or eight is tantamount to wasting his quality as an impact player. Daren Ganga, though, pointed out that it’s not so much an issue of the number in the order as the situation of the game.
You’d think no short format captain would need to be so advised. But for perhaps the first time this season, Jason Holder fiddled with his batting order on Saturday. His team won.
Powell too seemed to have heeded the call—with rather different results. When yuh cross, the old people say, wet paper does cut yuh.
At the top of the innings, the consistent Glen Phillips (49 off 36) was partnered by Jermaine Blackwood, who seemed to have decided to emulate Chase. The TV commentators were convinced that he overplayed his hand, having used up 38 balls for his 25. The fact is, however, that the openers got to 84 before they were separated.
For the dysfunctional Tallawahs, the 62 runs needed off the remaining 50 balls proved a bridge too far. But not because they were going through the motions in a meaningless game; they gave it their best shot. And fell short.
Chadwick Walton, batting at 3, made 10 and Kirton, at 6, contributed a belligerent 25 off 15 balls. No one else got double figures. The skipper, in at 4, added just two to take his season tally to 73. Russell, at 5, failed to trouble the scorers, falling for a first-ball duck, and Carlos Brathwaite, coming at 7—after the rookie Kirton—took three balls to get 1.
But that was yesterday. Mañana, as the Spanish say, es otro día; tomorrow is another day.
But it is entirely possible that the all-encompassing Tallawahs fecklessness will continue. The captain’s insight into the real meaning of their new situation may not make leadership à la Powell any more effective.
So it may come down to the second message: it only takes one man to win a semi-final. It would really come as a major surprise to me if that one man were the Tallawahs skipper.
Perhaps it would please Pollard as West Indies white ball captain.
As TKR skipper, not so much.