CPL 2021: Can starved fans look forward to more than a huge Bravo vs Pollard treat?

You don’t have to do the math. Dr Eric Williams did it for us all all those years ago when Frank Worrell was still captain of the West Indies team. Well, sort of.

One from ten leaves nought, he said. For us, it is one from 11 leaves nought. Injury has sidelined—temporarily, we all hope—the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots captai, Dwayne Bravo.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots captain Dwayne Bravo (right) celebrates the dismissal of GAW batsman Shimron Hetmyer during CPL T20 action at Warner Park on 29 August 2021.
(Copyright CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

After five matches, Bravo’s St Kitts and Nevis Patriots had amassed ten points. And they were looking like the team to beat in this year’s CPL.

After eight matches, they are still the team to beat. But the meaning has shifted; they are now the bobolee team. Everybody beating dem. To the ten points that the team quickly earned under Bravo, nothing has been added.

Chris Gayle’s Patriots have lost their last three games. Badly.

St Lucia Kings beat them twice in two days, scoring 224 on September 4 to win by a whopping 100 runs and dismissing them for a paltry 118 the next day to romp home by an impressive six wickets.

Wednesday’s 22-run defeat by the Jamaica Tallawahs was not as close-run a thing as it sounds. I do not have any Win Predictor ratios to quote but common sense said that, the moment Evin Lewis and Gayle were dismissed in the Powerplay, the Patriots’ backs were firmly against the wall.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Chris Gayle (left) swings for the hills  during CPL action against the Barbados Royals at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 2 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

(And, as an aside, Gayle’s chances of being on the plane for the UAE next month all but disappeared! But we do not have long to wait now for confirmation.)

If you did not know before that Bravo was not in charge, you found out when Joshua da Silva came out to join Devon Thomas with 140 runs still needed for the win off 16 overs. Da Silva got two lives. No surprise there. Shades of Geoff Boycott and Mike Brearley in the 1979 World Cup final.

Ask yourself this: why would any thinking captain want to get rid of da Silva when the asking rate is still somewhere in the region of nine per over?

Anyway, with Bravo at the helm, the high-flying Patriots had got 168 for 4 to overhaul the Tallawahs’ 166 for 7. With more than two overs remaining. And they had got a last-ball six from Sheldon Cottrell to get to 162 for 8 and pip Jason Holder’s Barbados Royals on the line.

But even Bravo had no answer when Faf du Plessis and Roston Chase ran riot in Match 15. And the 37-year-old’s pride went before his body followed, a groin strain knocking him out of that game with only 3.2 of his allotment of four overs bowled.

Photo: St Lucia Kings captain Faf du Plessis attacks a delivery during his century knock against SKNP at Warner Park in St Kitts on 4 September 2021.
(via CPL T20 Ltd 2021)

We have not seen him since. Nor have we seen the Patriots in full flight. Cause and effect.

Watching the Tallawahs, you get the sense that Rovman Powell may be the man in front but somebody else is the leader.

Watching the post-Bravo Patriots, you get the same sense about Gayle. Going through the motions, you tell yourself, that is what they keep doing now.

Gone is the ebullience. Gone is the self-confidence. Gone is the self-belief. Gone, perhaps, is the will to win. Gone, for certain, is the early-season magic, the pizzazz.

It’s a pity. This 2021 season promised so much as a finale. TKR and SKNP finishing neck-and-neck at the top of the standings and ensuring that each has inferior opposition to dispose of in the semis.

So awaiting us on 15 September,  there was supposed to be the sumptuous spectacle of the ex-TKR captain Bravo leading SKNP into battle against the team now captained by Kieron Pollard, the man who replaced him at the TKR helm.

Photo: TKR captain Kieron Pollard poses with the 2020 CPL trophy at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba, Trinidad and Tobago on 10 September 2020.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/CPL T20 via Getty Images)

And, as if it was not enough of a mouth-watering prospect in itself, it was supposed to come in the wake of two group stage matches pitting the two titans against each other on the last two pre-knockout round days.

You might be naïve enough to believe that that is coincidence. An accident? Yeah, Sure.

Like England deciding to stop offering county cricket contracts to West Indian professionals. Or like Cameron White having a piece of sandpaper in his drawers. Pure accident!

There is, however, a thing called bad mind. And Bravo has been liberally served in that area.

Groin injury notwithstanding, we might still see him put in an appearance on Saturday and, depending on the result, on Sunday.

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots captain Dwayne Bravo (left) and Sheldon Cottrell celebrate the dismissal of Barbados Royals batsman Glenn Phillips during CPL action at Warner Park in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis on 2 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

But I don’t think so. Math not being my forte, I am not going to trouble to try to work out all the possible permutations. But I think the Patriots’ ten points already guarantee them a place in the semis; I don’t think four teams can overhaul them.

And Dwayne the Brain won’t rush back into group stage action and run the risk of finding himself, when the semis come around, out in the rain.

But we don’t have too long to wait. On Thursday morning, there’s enough needle to supply the whole old Juman’s Sewing Factory on the Lady Young Road.

The Pollard-led TKR, needing two more points to secure a place in the semi-final, find themselves up against the Jason Holder-led Barbados Royals. If you have been living under a rock for a little while, you need to know that the Bajans supplanted Pollard, who used to lead the Tridents, with a home-grown captain in Holder.

Photo: (From left) Barbados Royals players (from left) Joshua Bishop, Jason Holder, Azam Khan and Hayden Walsh Jr celebrate the dismissal of Jamaica Tallawahs batsman Rovman Powell during CPL action at Warner Park  in Basseterre, St Kitts on 31 August 2021.
(Photo by Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

The West Indies, on the other hand, subsequently removed Holder as ODI captain—he is on the record as saying that he was not pleased with the manner of his ouster—and replaced him with Pollard.

A Royals defeat is likely to leave Holder with mud all over his face because, after that, certain elimination is but one defeat away.

A TKR defeat does not significantly affect the Trinidadian franchise’s semi-final chances. But since he foolishly gave his hand away in the Super Over versus Guyana Amazon Warriors on 1 September to lose to his vice-captain 25-year-old Pooran for a second time, there is no more room for mud on proud Pollard’s face.

He’s got stuff to prove. And somebody’s—more likely somebodies are—going to have to pay the price. We got a glimpse of that on Monday.

Photo: TKR captain Kieron Pollard goes on the attack against the Barbados Royals on 27 August 2021.
(Copyright TKR)

So take cover. This CPL might yet explode into pyrotechnics of a sort we have never seen since the League was launched back in 2013.

Williams mash up the Federation; if we aren’t lucky, CPL could mash up the West Indies.

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About Earl Best

Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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  1. Your reference to Dr. Eric Williams statement (one from ten leaves nothing) is confusing. His statement had nothing to do with Frank Worrell or cricket,. It was made in reference to the Jamaica’s exit from the 10-member West Indies Federation. It is worth correcting this story as it muddies the history for those who weren’t around in 1962.

    • Oh, so because we doh CALL it a “federation,” the West Indies team is one heterogeneous, monolithic unit?

      Sorry, you will probably never really understand why the West Indies squad for the World Cup, which the selectors are releasing this afternoon, is constituted the way it is. There are NO political considerations, right?

      Well, stay tuned. It’s a subject I have been itching to discuss in these pages for weeks now.

    • But I don’t want to seem ungrateful so thanks for the correction.

      Let me just say that, like Dennise Demming described herself doing in her last column, I waved my little red, white and black flag on the roadside in 1962. And I sang (using the word loosely, of course, “God save the gracious queen/Long live the noble queen” as a boy in primary school.

      So I KNOW precisely what Williams was talking about.

      And I also read about how we cut England tail in 1950. And then we were frustrated by Colin Cowdrey and Peter May kicking away Ram and Val with impunity in 1957 because the MCC changed the LBW rules.

      And I have no problem connecting the dots. For me AND for you.

      Stay tuned.

      • New reader here.
        Well, how interesting these three comments are considering the choices for UAE. I picture a salivating Best and eager readers, old and new. Needless to say I am looking forward to the next piece.

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