Domestic T20 giants' last chance at global glory
Trinidad & Tobago have dominated the West Indies T20 circuit for years. From the Stanford T20 series in 2008* which launched them to the Champions League T20, the guile has been evident. Their players form the core of the current World T20 champions, West Indies, and the now-defunct Caribbean T20 regional tournament was their sandbox. Earlier this year, T&T once again steamrolled to the title of the tournament that has now been replaced by the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), and as far as the Champions League goes, the question remains - can the 'Red Force' transfer their imperious domestic form to the world stage?
In 2009, they were close but fell one win short of the title. New South Wales edged them out in the final of this tournament and since then, they've shown flashes of brilliance, bar the 2010 tournament when Guyana represented the region. This inconsistent, and at times disappointing showing, may be due to the fact that T&T's two talismans, Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, usually find themselves with their IPL units. T&T do seem to rely on them a bit too much. However, depth has always been the focus for Denesh Ramdin's team. Ramdin has a tough task ahead to build on the foundation laid by Daren Ganga in the past but the blend of youth and experience in the T&T ranks is something that West Indian fans, as seen in Sri Lanka in 2012, will no doubt be throwing their weight behind.
Given West Indies' regional T20 competition has been replaced by the franchise-based CPL, this is the team's last chance at glory as a bona fide regional unit.
Lendl Simmons garnered 266 runs at an average of 33.25 to finish second in the CPL's scoring charts as his Guyana outfit fell to Jamaica in the final. However, after being a bit-part player in the World T20 title acquisition, Simmons will be looking to show how dangerous he is in this format. His recent West Indies performances have shown he's one of their more consistent short-format batsmen, even outclassing Chris Gayle as of late.
Sunil Narine's stats in all formats of the game exemplify how stifling and economical a bowler he is. As a mercurial spinner who negates the opposition's scoring, West Indies always look frail without him. The same can be said for T&T, who would be relieved that he's not with Kolkata Knight Riders at present. With Dwayne Bravo and Pollard out, Narine is a huge plus, especially as his late CPL and West Indies form, both left something to be desired. With that in mind, he doesn't have the 'mystery spinner' tag for fun.
Surprise packageMany touted Nicholas Pooran's one innings of 54 against Guyana Amazon Warriors in the CPL as why the teenager will be the shocker in the CLT20, once included. But that was one innings. Rayad Emrit finished fifth among the CPL wicket-takers with 10 scalps and while he has evolved more from an allrounder to a bowler, his regional performances for T&T have shown that with the extra push, a West Indies spot beckons. The stage is set and Emrit's ready to embrace it.
WeaknessesMissing Dwayne Bravo and Pollard is the obvious dent in the armour. Their runs, fielding ability and bowling skills leave the team lacking in big departments. It's shown that without them, things crumble, more often than not. With Samuel Badree and Narine spinning their magic, there's the question of who will be leading the pace. Ravi Rampaul is fighting back from an ankle injury and has missed the last few months of cricket while Shannon Gabriel is still learning his trade and has proven to be wayward and inexperienced at times. This pace deficit could bother them at the worst time.
*17.15GMT, September 19: The article had said the Stanford T20 series happened in 2009. This has been corrected.