T&T look to emulate West Indies
While West Indies were recovering from one of their slowest starts in recent memory in the World T20 final, miles away Trinidad & Tobago were battling to put up a decent score themselves.
T&T could not watch the first half of what turned out to be a historic game for West Indies because they were playing a Champions League T20 warm-up match against Auckland in Johannesburg. It was probably a good part of the match to miss and by the time T&T would have settled in front of the televisions they wouldn't have felt too bad about losing by eight wickets because West Indian cricket had achieved something great.
Before the match, David Williams had called the result, down to the method of victory. "When you have guys like Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Bravo and Ravi Rampaul, there is a lot of experience so we just knew that they are going to do well," he said. "They will have to graft hard but they will win this one."
For West Indies, a world event has ended in success but T&T, such a competition is only just beginning. Williams said the CLT20 has a similar importance for players at domestic level as an ICC trophy is to international players. "It's a big thing for us. It's our mini World Cup," Williams said. "This competition is important to all aspects of cricket in West Indies. The guys look forward to this and our regional competition is so hyped up because of this T20 tournament."
Of all countries who have enjoyed success from twenty-over cricket, India could be talked about as the biggest recipients. But of individual cricketers who have benefitted from the format, West Indian names would crop up. Gayle, Pollard and Bravo aside, T20 has given players like Sunil Narine and Kevon Cooper and teams like T&T a stage to show off on.
That's not to say their involvement in the format has been a honeymoon. T&T were close to pulling out of this edition of the CLT20 because of a monetary dispute. When they settled their differences and arrived in South Africa, none of them would admit to the behind-the-scenes issues. Rayad Emrit said he "knew nothing about it," and Williams would not discuss the reported fall-out.
The focus, he said, was simply on qualifying. T&T are used to a tough ride in the tournament. In the year when qualifying was not yet part of it, they were underrated but went on to reach the final. Since the preliminary phase was introduced last year, they are the only team to have come through that, played in the tournament proper and have returned to do it all again.
"We did this last year and we're pretty aware of what it's going to be like," Williams said. "We know it's going to be tough. But we did extremely well in the tournaments in the Caribbean and we played a few extra matches so we are in good stead."
T&T's preparations had to take place without five senior players including captain Denesh Ramdin and premier quick Ravi Rampaul but Williams said that was actually an advantage to the team. "They have been playing T20 cricket over in Sri Lanka so that will be good for us," he said. "Someone like Darren Bravo will have got a lot of experience from there. He is going from strength to strength and is an important member of the team, we're hoping he is going to do well for us."
Rampaul is another player who will be a major factor for T&T in South African conditions. He could keep Shannon Gabriel, another bowler who could be a handful on bouncier tracks. "We've got a lot to choose from," Williams said. "We don't know if Shannon is going to get in, if he does I know he is going to do well. He has been training for a long time and he is fit and ready to go."
More important than individuals will be the team effort as a whole, according to Williams. For that to happen, Williams hope that the World T20 shine will rub off on T&T will have to be proved correct.
Firdose Moonda is ESPNcricinfo's South Africa correspondent