T&T thrive on youngsters and unity
Not everyone gets to room with Brian Lara. Not everyone gets to watch a Wimbledon final from the Royal Box. Not everyone gets to sit in the historic Long Room at Lord's. Anyone who has done all that must be special. Adrian Barath did it all in the summer of 2007, several years after impressing Brian Lara during a net session with his father at the Queen's Park Oval. Barath was just 11 at the time, but Lara remembered - and remains a close confidante.
Barath, now 21, revealed today why he is rated as one of the most promising emerging talents in the Caribbean. It had been drilled into his head, at the team meeting where he was told he would be playing his first Champions League game, not to lose his wicket during the Powerplay. He followed thos instructions and then went one better - his 63 off 41 balls set up T&T for a match-winning score of 213.
Barath and William Perkins raced away against the Eagles and brought up T&T's 50 in 19 minutes. Barath was the quieter partner but he had already hit two of his first ten balls for sixes. The openers added 64 runs in the Powerplay, more than any team has achieved so far in the tournament. Once Perkins departed, Barath continued to play second fiddle, relatively speaking, as his new partner Lendl Simmons deposited his first ball over the straight boundary and raced to 16 off five balls.
Barath was not to be distracted, though, and he kept reminding himself to execute the basics of playing with a straight bat, watching the ball and believing in himself. When he had the chance, though, Barath put bowlers off by charging and playing expansive drives, like the couple that went for fours in front of square against Ryan McLaren. His fifty came off only 34 balls.
"It was a matter of backing my ability for batting is all about confidence," Barath said. "I know it was my first game, but I've played a number of first-class matches for T&T already. It was just a different format but I had to just focus on the simple things." Lara would no doubt agree.
Barath wasn't the only one firing today; the shots came from several sources. After Barath reached his maiden half-century, Navin Stewart, also playing his first game, tore into the hapless Eagles bowlers. Dillon du Preez was carted for 27 runs in T&T's penultimate over of which 26 - three sixes and two fours - came off Stewart's long handle. The confidence of the younger and inexperienced players like Barath and Stewart, the only Tobago player in the XI, in their new roles was heartening for a T&T side considered outsiders when the tournament began.
Two weeks ago Dwayne Bravo, T&T's international star, received most of the attention but his contributions with the bat so far have been 0, 11, 1, 9 not out. Instead, it's been the younger and more unheralded players who have delivered. Kieron Pollard emerged as a leader in the lower order with important cameos in each of the last three games, including a breathtaking 18-ball 54 against New South Wales, one of the best Twenty20 innings ever.
An important factor in T&T's successful run is the team's unity when faced with adversity, something the captain Daren Ganga has stressed throughout the competition. The infectious team spirit in the T&T camp hasn't gone unnoticed either and they received praise from Somerset captain Justin Langer earlier in the day.
"I love T&T's spirit," Langer said. "I really enjoy the way Daren Ganga speaks in the press conference where he talks about unity within the squad. The most successful cricket teams have unity and T&T have that unity." It has helped foster confidence within the team and, as a result, T&T's players have expressed themselves uninhibitedly on the field. Pollard did it with spectacular results in the previous game against NSW, and Barath and Stewart did it today.
Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at Cricinfo