Champions League Twenty20 October 22, 2009

A vibrant design

Fearless, colourful, and exciting, T&T are a well-oiled unit harnessed by a strong structure and visionary leadership

Colin Borde sits with his legs across the arms of the sofa chair in his room. He is lounging with his back to the early afternoon sunlight, which enters through the tinted windows. A couple of hotel stewards are leaving the room, having put fresh linen on the bed, and Borde asks them to leave the door open.

"My door is open all the time so that the players can walk in and communicate with me, use my computer and never feel deprived of anything," he says. It hasn't been half an hour since Borde, the Trinidad & Tobago team manager, woke up after celebrations following his side's resounding victory over the Eagles to ensure passage into the semi-finals of the Champions League Twenty20.

Adrian Barath, Match of the Match in his debut Twenty20 game the previous evening, walks in to ask Borde about plans for the afternoon. Borde tells T&T's youngest player to get ready in 30 minutes as they make plans to go shopping. Borde believes it is this open-door policy, prevalent through the T&T management and structure, that has paved the way for the team's success in recent years. They are the only side to have reached the semi-finals undefeated.

T&T have long been a powerhouse of West Indies domestic cricket. In the last three years they have lifted two regional titles: the four-day competition in 2007 and the Stanford 20/20 in 2008. They play their game with the openness, flair and fearlessness normally associated with Caribbean teams.

Those qualities were vibrant in their tournament opener, against Somerset, where Dave Mohammed, who so famously used his shoe-phone celebration routine during the Stanford 20/20, led the pumped-up celebrations. Merely running around after taking a wicket just wouldn't do for him. It had to be something special, crazier. In the first game, when he took the wicket of Peter Trego, he did a somersault and thumped his thighs, then hit his chest like Tarzan as he lay on the ground, waiting to be mobbed by his team-mates.

Later in the week Dwayne Bravo kept his nerve while bowling an exemplary death over, against Deccan Chargers, which was followed by Kieron Pollard's blitz that flattened a formidable New South Wales. In their last game, the diminutive 19-year-old Barath, wearing braces, scored a dominant half-century against the Eagles.

T&T's run has earned them admirers outside the Caribbean. Former Australia batsman Justin Langer, Somerset's captain, is a keen observer of people and he singled out Daren Ganga's influence as a catalyst in T&T's performance. "I love the T&T spirit and I really enjoy the way Daren Ganga speaks in the press conference, where he talks about unity within the squad," Langer said. "The most successful cricket teams have unity and T&T have that unity." Daryl Harper, the Australian umpire, notes how in game after game the team throws up surprises.

To the outside world, more striking than T&T's on-field success has been their mature outlook, the way players have displayed a sense of purpose, and their clarity of thought - traits largely absent in West Indies sides of the last decade or so. Brian Lara could be the greatest batsman born in Trinidad but his friend and former West Indian team-mate Ganga may well be the island's best leader this generation.

Neither Ganga nor Borde is surprised by T&T's consistency in the tournament. They credit the structure put in place by the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) in consultation with the players. "Our culture of cricket in Trinidad is a bit different to that of other territorial teams, and by extension the West Indies teams, because I've been in both set-ups," Ganga says.

Before he was appointed captain, Ganga was not happy with a lot of T&T players who were also in the West Indies side, because when they came back to the first-class set-up they took things for granted. "They never really placed the amount of value that should have been placed on playing for your country. That is one of the areas I recognised when I got into the captaincy role."

"You've got to find a happy medium if you want young people to learn. You've got to try and speak their language. It is not about them understanding you. You've got to try to understand them."
T&T manager Colin Borde

That culture needed to change. And it had to happen at the T&T executive level as well as with the selectors and others who made important decisions with regard to the country's cricket. "It was a consensus on the part of everyone for us to approach our cricket in a certain way in terms of zero tolerance in [matters of] discipline, the respect of people and cricket being the most important thing, and that all sacrifices should be made towards ensuring the quality of our cricket is improved," says Ganga.

Therein lies the main difference between the successful and strong TTCB and the rocky and insular West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). In the last few years the TTCB has sat down and had a look at the reasons behind a fractious WICB, in particular the distrust between players and administration. "You've got to find a happy medium if you want young people to learn. You've got to try and speak their language," says Borde. "It is not about them understanding you. You've got to try and understand them."

Borde is 45 and looks every bit the real-estate agent that he is back home in Trinidad. But it isn't difficult to see why the entire squad respects him. He played for Queen's Park Cricket Club as a wicketkeeper-batsman and is now part of its management. The club has been a conveyor belt for West Indian teams - it has produced, among others, Brian Lara, Brian Davies, Charlie Davies, Mervyn Dillon, the Bravo brothers, Dwayne and Darren, and Kieron Pollard.

Borde and Ganga agree with the popular opinion that cricket is the unifying force that can bring all the Caribbean islands together. "The only real thing that combines us closely is cricket, and apart from the division between each island, which is water, there is a division even greater than that, between administrators and players," Borde says.

"This team is dealt with like family. The atmosphere is conducive to learning, so the players have the opportunity to express themselves. They are taught self-governance. I have always impressed upon them that it is really important as a young person to understand that if you happen to play cricket and you happen to get paid to get as a professional cricketer, it is something that is special for many reasons."

Ganga believes that there can't be enough emphasis on the importance of delivering cutting-edge performances. The management has also stressed physical and mental fitness, as well as gelling as a unit. T&T have a base in central Trinidad that features an indoor facility with dedicated coaches and support staff. Ganga singles out the names of Ronald Rogers (physio), Clinton Jeremiah (assistant trainer) and Gerald Garcia, a former member of the support staff, as having dedicated their time toward pushing players to their limits.

Discipline has traditionally not been regarded as a Caribbean trait, but Ganga has placed a premium on it from the start of his tenure as captain. "I'm not talking about just cricketing issues, I'm talking about respect for people off the field, the way you carry yourself, your mannerisms - all these things reflect on your game as well. If you are not punctual, something is not clear in your mind."

Ganga's exacting nature is reflected in his habit of picking on players who don't tuck their shirts in. "When you start making sure these things are in order, then you realise that you have guys who are willing to sacrifice their comfort level for common good, and that is your team," he says. That is how you develop camaraderie and team spirit." Borde presents another example: of a player who walked in 35 seconds late for a meeting and was chastised by the entire team as the manager let him have it.

It is also about splitting leadership. Apart from Ganga, who remains at the top of the leadership tree, the team management decided to appoint a batting director (Pollard), bowling director (Ravi Rampaul), fielding director (Denesh Ramdin), spin bowling directors (Sherwin Ganga and Samuel Badree) and two auxiliary directors (Ryan Emrit and Navin Stewart) who will look after any concerns off the field, including the size of the beds.

Ganga believes in the advantage of deputising. "The directors are privy to most things that are done collectively as a team so that there is a certain amount of ownership and filtering down of information."

It is clear Ganga is the guiding light of this team. What is also clear is that the youngsters are receptive to his leadership. One example was during the vital game against Deccan in the group stage, where T&T were chasing a win for two vital points to be carried into the league stage. Deccan began the 18th over needing 20 to win. Ganga gave the ball to Rampaul, usually accustomed to bowling the final or penultimate overs.

"I said to him, 'You are the guy to do the job for us. You just need to bowl one brilliant over.'" That was exactly what Rampaul did, allowing seven runs and taking a wicket, to set things up for Lendl Simmons and Dwayne Bravo to finish the game off. It is a move that gives Ganga much satisfaction.

A similar scenario played out with William Perkins, who top-scored with 38 in the same game. Ganga walked up to the opener and said, "William, something about today tells me that you are going to be the guy that's going to make us win." As if on cue, Perkins ignited T&T's innings. Ganga believes in creating an environment where every player believes in his ability.

There is a sense of purpose in the team. T&T have gone about doing their work like a well-oiled machine. The idea is to emulate the best teams in the world.

Ganga has been instrumental in inviting the likes of Lara, footballer Dwight Yorke, and sprinter Ato Boldon - all homegrown global stars - to address his team. Ganga also names TTCB president Deryck Murray and Joey Carew, the former West Indies chief selector, as major support systems for the team on the administrative front. He says that Lara has been in constant communication with him in India to discuss tactics and strategies for individual matches.

Continuity is another important factor that Ganga says T&T have been able to handle better, unlike with the WICB, which has been known for its chopping and changing. Under the T&T umbrella, if a player loses form, he is rehabilitated with proper attention and care. Barath, a year-and-half after playing in the Under-19 domestic tournament, ran into a lean phase, but he was picked for the U-23 team and then the 50-over regional competition, which gave him a platform to step up to the first-class level and score three hundreds.

Irrespective of what happens in Thursday's semi-final in Hyderabad, Ganga believes T&T's success could prove to be a harbinger of a new and refreshed outlook for West Indian cricket. "It has already brought a lot more positives," he says. "Now a lot more administrators are going to focus on the quality of cricket."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mary on October 24, 2009, 14:44 GMT

    Thank you T&T for showing the way. As a proud West Indian supporter, whose spirit has been excessively deflated by the machinations of the WICB, I would like to join the chorus of jubiliant voices screaming their pride and approval of the T&TCB, their captain Darren Ganga and that wonderful team. Good Luck in the future.

  • Wanderer on October 24, 2009, 13:52 GMT

    To Westindiantnt: How do you know what the rest of the West Indies think when you currently reside in the US? Fractionalism isn't going to make the West Indies team any stronger, there are still plenty of other Caribbean players who could easily walk into that Trinidad and Tobago team and strengthen it considerably. It's guys like you that stick the knife in when things aren't going West Indies way, at times when unity is most needed.

  • A. on October 23, 2009, 23:03 GMT

    I'm saddened by Westindiantnt's comments. There's always one, isn't there? I'm a Barbadian and I have not met a single person here who was not thrilled for Trinidad and cheering them on all the way. So for you to say that the "majority of the WI public is jealous and perturbed" by Trinidad's success is just more of the destructive insularity that West Indian cricket DOES NOT NEED.

    Instead of suggesting that Trinidad pull away from WI cricket, how about let's talk about how Trinidad can lead WI cricket back to greatness? I for one am sure that the answers to the problems plaguing WI cricket right now, lie in Trinidad and it does not make me jealous or perturbed to say so.

    I am a TRUE West Indian and I cheer for anyone representing any West Indian country.

  • Khurram on October 23, 2009, 18:46 GMT

    T& T only was a baseball out of tournament.good for cricket

  • Douglas on October 23, 2009, 12:43 GMT

    I have been following the exploits of T&T in these games and the accounts of Darren Ganga's success with great interest. As a West Indian, I am proud of what they have achieved, as a Bajan, I am more than a little envious! What has impressed me most of all is Darren's leadership. He has demonstrated that the traditional qualities are what have taken him and the team through this far. None of the loutish appearance, uncouth language, churlishness, those things have no place in this T&T structure and it has been refreshing to watch the team perform. I wonder whether any of this has triggered any thoughts in the mind of the former WI captain or if he is still lost in his own world, tilting at imaginary windmills! He may wish to take a leaf out of Darren's book - but that may be expecting too much of him. He has been remarkably quick to indicate that he is ready to resume the captaincy and I have little doubt that with that event, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

  • David on October 23, 2009, 11:04 GMT

    I think everyone looks forward to the West Indies finding a strong enough wind to lift them out of their duldrums. I think they are, or were, everyones second favourite team. Who wouldn't enjoy watching Joel Garner stonking in and almost putting the ball on the spot with the end of his fingers? Hopefully the Trinidad & Tobago gust of fresh air and discaplined method will provide that momentum. Hopefully.

  • chris on October 23, 2009, 10:55 GMT

    Brilliant. As a South African I have always loved West Indies cricket, and their recent slow demise in the test world has been horrible to watch and sad for the cricket world. So fantastic to see this well led T&T side playing such exciting cricket, and I hope this is the catalyst that unifies west indies cricket and make them a force to be reckoned with again, between Pollard, Barath and the Bravo brothers to mention just a few there seems no shortage of talent around.

    Good luck for the final!. This saffer will be backing you all the way!

  • D on October 23, 2009, 9:06 GMT

    Good luck to T&T in the final - it's great to see real Caribbean cricket being played again. Ganga is doing well.

  • Cordell on October 23, 2009, 7:43 GMT

    Being a Trinidad and Tobagonian as well a West Indian, I am proud of the Trinidad and Tobago team. Well done to all the players and management. If West Indies cricket team were to do this it would need the right management, strategy, determination and mind set. Nothing is impossible in West Indian cricket, we have the people to do it but we need the right guidance. I am not saying about the captaincy, I am talking about the upper level of management. West Indian cricket is here to stay, the reason I say this is because we are the second favorite team that people love and support. I ask all West Indians as well the rest of the cricketing world to help support us, stand by us and cheer for us for the upcoming Australia series. It is not an easy series but we can turn heads with the right support. God bless West Indian Cricket.

  • Cordell on October 23, 2009, 7:01 GMT

    Congrats to TnT. Keep up the good cricket and make all WI people proud.

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