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CPL 2021: Anatomy of a cricketing coup; an insider details how the Patriots became kings

“[…] In these smaller islands, the level of insularity in cricket and other sports means that opportunities for our players and athletes are inherently less than those of our more endowed larger island nations of the archipelago. 

“I was always one to support the underdog against all odds so now a home-based franchise made up of bit-part players from the bigger Caribbean islands was a cause of real pride for me, a regional expat who feels as if he belongs here, just like the Patriots. 

“[…] This season was fraught with challenges but from the time it was announced that we had snagged the Champion, the irrepressible DJ Bravo, I knew this was ours…”

Photo: Captain Dwayne Bravo (centre) and the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots celebrate with the trophy after winning the 2021 Hero Caribbean Premier League Final at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 15 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

The following is the first in a two-part guest column on the rise of the 2021 CPL cricket champions, the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots from cricket fan Kenneth Bobb, who was born in Trinidad but has lived in Bird Rock, Basseterre for the past decade and is the host of weekly radio talk show, The Bench Meeting:

We did it!

Many family and friends reached out yesterday to congratulate me and the SKN Patriots on our historic win of the 2021 Hero CPL title. After screaming and cheering myself into a sweaty frenzy in front of my own TV, I could not even put into words the level of euphoria I felt over this one. 

So I thought I’d try to put it literally in words.

From the day the franchise was formed, I was a Patriot—not in the nationalistic sense but in the sporting sense of a supporter of the franchise from the smallest federation to enter into the competition. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots supporters enjoy the show during 2021 CPL action against the Trinbago Knight Riders at Warner Park in Basseterre, Saint Kitts and Nevis on 11 September 2021 .
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

You see in these smaller islands, the level of insularity in cricket and other sports means that opportunities for our players and athletes are inherently less than those of our more endowed larger island nations of the archipelago.

I was always one to support the underdog against all odds so now a home-based franchise made up of bit-part players from the bigger Caribbean islands was a cause of real pride for me, a regional expat who feels as if he belongs here, just like the Patriots.

Despite our status, the expectations were high. The franchise-based competition offered a fresh opportunity for this lil brother twin-island to compete against all his older siblings. Besides our local mantra has always been ‘we small but we tallawah’ (to borrow a name from one of the other franchises). 

The expectations weren’t realistic, of course. But we felt we belonged. And we knew we would do things the former Hawksbill franchise couldn’t. After a few last-place finishes, we were able to snag the ‘Universe Boss’ as captain. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Chris Gayle (left) hits to leg for six  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)

This was a game-changer. With Chris Gayle on board, we could win. And we did come close in 2017 but for an all-conquering TKR franchise, whose authority in this format of the game was established from the days of Allen Stanford, the real founder of the T20 game.

We still believed, though. The challenge has always been attracting the quality and right mix of players to represent our franchise. We had to settle for the rising stars like Fabian Allen and Dominic Drakes, along with some veterans of the past: CG, Rayad Emrit, Carlos Brathwaite at one point and teamed them up with those who came over from the inception such as Evin Lewis, Sheldon Cottrell and Devon Thomas. 

Not perfect for winning. But, boy, were they fun to watch! And they all embraced the culture and people with relative ease. I remember Carlos playing dominoes by the ferry terminal and saying, boy, it would be good to see how them fellas slam, knowing both islands are filled with domino fanatics. 

But our older brothers and sister islands have always been stacked to the brim with home-grown talent, so trumping that was always going to be an incredible feat. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots opener Evin Lewis celebrates his half-century against GAW during the 2021 Hero CPL semi-final at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 14 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

Add overseas players to the mix and we got mixed results in that some got stronger and some battled with chemistry issues, not us. Once you represented the Patriots, we might cuss you but we embraced you. 

The Faf du Plessis-led year—no discredit to him—was probably the least connection we felt with those on the field. I just think he needed more time to understand who we were and that our fan base can be very unforgiving as well. Ask Carlos.

This season was fraught with challenges but from the time it was announced that we had snagged the Champion, the irrepressible DJ Bravo, I knew this was ours. 

Then they announced we would be hosting the competition in full here at Warner Park; that improved our chances further but there was a lot to be done. 

Photo: St Kitts and Nevis Patriots players (from left) Dominic Drakes, Fawad Ahmed and Joshua da Silva celebrate the dismissal of GAW batsman Kevin Sinclair during CPL semi-final action at Warner Park in Basseterre, St Kitts and Nevis on 14 September 2021.
(Copyright Randy Brooks – CPL T20/Getty Images)

We then had a brilliant draft: Anrich Nortje, Wanindu Hasaranga were overseas acquisitions of the highest calibre. We had the tools in the kit now to wreak havoc but, as always, nothing is ever easy. So when we lost out on our first-choice overseas players, it was a real blow. 

However, I saw we added Sherfane Rutherford and Joshua da Silva and I thought this team is looking even better. Paul Van Meekeren and Naseem Shah were unknowns but again great potential. Fawad Ahmed was still a wily veteran we took from TKR. 

We had the pieces now; it was just about putting them together.

Big credit to DJB in this regard. He is arguably the most practically intelligent cricketer in the region. He was never the most talented but he could out-think and out-play any of his contemporaries on any given day. Team him up with his good friend the ‘Universe Boss’ and that was always going to bring success. 

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)

You’re talking about a combination of the highest run-getter and the highest wicket-taker in T20 history. Ignore all the cries about age and dependability; that level of experience cannot be had outside of the West Indies.

And this season, they belonged to the Patriots.

Editor’s Note: Click HERE for the second and final part of the review of the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots season by cricket fan Kenneth Bobb.

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