Pollard banking on local experience
Kieron Pollard believes that his team's descent from hot favourites in the Caribbean Premier League to purported underdogs will work in their favour for Friday's semi-final against the Jamaica Tallawahs.
Pollard's Barbados Tridents were off to a flyer with four wins from four, despite criticism over Pollard's form and nationality to lead the franchise. Famous for his T20 caliber, Pollard turned his disappointing form as captain of the West Indies versus the likes of Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, into a high-octane steering of the Bajan franchise. However, three consecutive losses have pegged the early favourites back.
"Everyone's talking about the three losses but they seem to forget the first four wins," Pollard said. "That's how it goes. All we can do is go there, do the fundamentals right and play exciting cricket and we'll take the title. We didn't get as many stars joining our team as some of the other franchises but we know that with everyone else winning and riding into the semis, we'll be underestimated and in the shadows. That's exactly how I prefer it."
A fiery Pollard admitted that he would have to step his batting game up as Umar Akmal returned to Pakistan after suffering seizures, and Jamaica beefed up their batting with the signing of Kumar Sangakkara in place of Ahmed Shehzad, who is back on national duty. Pollard confessed he has been waning at the crease recently but pointed to compatriots such as Rayad Emrit and Shannon Gabriel, whose familiarity with the Queen's Park Oval could prove beneficial.
Coach Desmond Haynes added that they were aware of Jamaica's talismans, in captain Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Danza Hyatt, but was confident of the firepower in his team.
"We know our backs are to the wall but that's what makes us dangerous," Haynes said. We're going to take the CPL and pay some bills. Then next year, we're going to repeat. We've got Dwayne Smith, Jason Holder and not to mention, Shoaib [Malik] so that's a pretty solid structure right there. It's a whole new ball game from here on."
Gayle, whose team has beaten Barbados in their lone encounter thus far, admitted that they were motivated because there was no real home factor in this semi-final. "I'd like to come out and show more of the form I'm in," he said. "I've been getting off lately and our batters are really coming to the fore. I'd like to teach the Tridents that Gayle is the No. 1 captain in the Caribbean. We know this Oval pitch and I think we've got the right game plan. Whoever reads the pitch better will win and it looks like a 140 or 150 kind of wicket."
Jamaica coach Paul Nixon backed his captain up by pointing to their key weapon they are set to employ. "Muttiah Muralitharan is going to be pivotal," he said. "He's really been tormenting batsmen out here and I know it's going to be a cracker. They have another eclectic spinner in Shakib [Al Hasan] but as evenly matched as it seems, I think Jamaica's more hungry."
Renaldo Matadeen is a sportswriter and social media manager for ESPN Caribbean. He tweets here