October 25, 2009

Two thumbs up for T&T

The West Indian side's flair and skill has been the biggest selling point of the Champions League - and there's been plenty more

The Champions League tournament may not have done much for the image of IPL clubs but it has certainly boosted the profile of Trinidad and Tobago.

The exuberant and talented bunch from the Caribbean have constantly reminded fans why it's so important for the game that West Indies is a vibrant side. Throughout the tournament they've played calypso cricket like we haven't seen since the late sixties; sure West Indies were highly successful in the following three decades, but they were more clinical in that period, playing in a style designed to demoralise opponents. Daren Ganga's team played with a smile on their faces and fun in their hearts, while capturing the public imagination.

This team has the ability to deflate opponents with their big hitting and outrageously optimistic strokeplay, but by taking such risks they also keep the opposition interested. Despite playing in such a free-flowing manner there's an underlying discipline in the team that was epitomised by their sure-handed and at times brilliant fielding.

The captaincy of Ganga was one of the main reasons behind the vibrancy and spirit the Trinidad and Tobago team has shown in this tournament. His leadership is first class; he's proactive, prepared to gamble on hunches and has moulded a team that wants to play for its captain. The West Indies selectors could do worse than consider him for the international captaincy.

The fact that some of the younger T&T players are highly skilled makes you wonder why the West Indies batting has been so lacklustre of late. Surely if there is such talent lurking in Trinidad then the rest of the Caribbean can't be so bereft that the national selectors have to choose players who are out of their depth at the highest level.

T&T's glittering display is an indication that abysmal administration rather than a waning interest in the game is what's hampering cricket in the Caribbean. The sooner these issues are resolved and West Indies are back on track, the better. Cricket is a better place with teams like T&T strutting their stuff.

Apart from T&T lighting up the tournament, the Champions League also provided a snapshot of the cricket world's future. The Australian sides played exactly as expected: they were skillful, determined and didn't give their opponents much help. New South Wales was the best side in the competition and along with Victoria they showed that the first-class system in Australia is still a solid breeding ground.

There is talk of increasing the number of overseas players eligible to compete for the IPL teams in future Champions League tournaments. This could be a short-sighted move

Many reasons were proffered for the IPL teams failing to make a mark. Whatever the reality, it didn't boost the stocks of teams that cost a lot of money and are marketed on their star players and champion status. There is talk of increasing the number of overseas players eligible to compete for the IPL teams in future Champions League tournaments. This could be a short-sighted move. The fact that it wasn't only the international players who starred for NSW, T&T, Cape Cobras and Victoria shouldn't be lost on the organisers.

The Champions League has shown the young Indian players what's required to succeed in the upper echelons of the game, and their cricket should be the main beneficiary. The South African teams provided a typical performance. They played good cricket and were extremely athletic but appeared to freeze in the more important encounters. Nevertheless, their production line is in good working order and the import of some T&T "freedom of expression" would do wonders for their cricket.

Then we come to the English teams. It's not unfair to say the county teams played to expectations. They fell well short in areas of skill and temperament. In such crucial disciplines as pace bowling and power hitting they were out of their depth and typically complicated rather than simplified the game. The English counties would do well to look at the way young cricketers are developed and those who evaluate their skills. They are far too keen to embrace players from other countries who never quite made it with their previous outfits.

The inaugural Champions League tournament has been a huge success and has enormous potential to greatly benefit the future development of the game. Any game that can combine the skill and precision of NSW and the flair and fun-filled enjoyment provided by the T&T players must have a bright future.

Former Australia captain Ian Chappell is now a cricket commentator and columnist