New South Wales v Trinidad & Tobago, Champions League final

Bright Trinidad eye a golden future

A Trinidad victory on Friday night has the potential to be as significant as Australia's World Cup win on Indian soil 22 years ago

Dileep Premachandran

October 23, 2009

Comments: 12 | Text size: A | A

T&T players launch themselves on Kieron Pollard after their four-wicket win, New South Wales v Trinidad & Tobago, Champions League Twenty20, League A, Hyderabad, October 16, 2009
There is a sprinkling of stardust in the Trinidad and Tobago side, which could cause problems for New South Wales © Global Cricket Ventures-BCCI

Long before this tournament started, most people knew that the seedings would count for little. Trying to predict who would make it out of the two group stages and into the last four was a bit like asking Messrs Armstrong and Aldrin what they expected to find before they took those giant leaps on behalf of mankind. In every sense, this Champions League was a step into the unknown - for the organisers, the players and especially the fans.

Conventional wisdom, seldom very wise, suggested that the three IPL sides and New South Wales would progress to the business end of the tournament, where there were millions to be gained and lost. As for Trinidad and Tobago, they were expected to enjoy the experience for a week and then head home, along with other "minnows" like Wayamba, the Diamond Eagles and the Otago Volts.

Cricket, though, is a game of delicious ironies. Back when West Indies cricket was at its all-conquering peak, Trinidad and Tobago were largely onlookers. Deryck Murray was part of the picture as Clive Lloyd's men began the ascent to the summit, while Larry Gomes and Augustine Logie were vital cogs during the decade of dominance. But in a team that could boast of Richards, Lloyd, Greenidge, Haynes, Dujon and a whole flotilla of world-beating fast bowlers, they were hardly marquee names. The one who should have become one, Ian Raphael Bishop, found his career cruelly cut short by a succession of back injuries.

By the time Brian Lara started obliterating batting records, the empire was in decline. Now, it's at its lowest ebb, with a squad comprising promising talents and mediocre has-beens doing duty at the recent Champions Trophy. In that time, Trinidad's stock has risen slowly, with victories in both four-day cricket and the slap-bang-wallop version of the game. Having once looked in from the outside, the tiny islands off South America now find themselves at the forefront of what many desperately hope will be a Caribbean cricket renaissance.

Make no mistake, world cricket needs a vibrant West Indies side. The spirit that the game's leading practitioners from the region brought to the game was unrivalled, the buzz unmatched. Whether you were a young teen watching from a makeshift stand at the University Stadium in Trivandrum or a larrikin viewing the game from Bay 13, there was eager anticipation the moment those magnificent men in maroon caps walked on to the field. Nine times out of 10, they annihilated your team, but in another sense they were "our" team, the players that we dreamt of emulating in parks and playgrounds across the world. Who didn't want to bat like Richards, or bowl like Holding?

On Thursday night, when Kieron Pollard took his catch that never was, you were reminded of CLR James and the descriptions of Learie Constantine from the 1930s. As tall as Usain Bolt and built along the lines of a decathlete, Pollard seems out of place on a cricket field. And while he doesn't bowl anything like as quickly as Constantine is said to have done, there's something about the way he thwacks the ball and the ease with which he covers ground while fielding that makes it easy to establish a connection with the cavaliers of a bygone era.

Having once looked in from the outside, the tiny islands off South America now find themselves at the forefront of what many desperately hope will be a Caribbean cricket renaissance

Those that don't consider Twenty20 a proper sport will consider it sacrilege, but a Trinidad victory on Friday night has the potential to be as significant as another success on Indian soil 22 years ago. Back then, Allan Border's Australians were no-hopers, but victory over England at the Eden Gardens proved to be the catalyst for a period of consolidation and hegemony that lasted two decades. The main difference between that team and this Trinidadian one was in the leadership. Border was a legend of the game who preferred to let his bat express his emotions, while Daren Ganga is a middle-of-the-road player who has managed to rouse his wards to superhuman feats while charming everyone with articulate and forthright views.

Ranged against him is Simon Katich, who would be a worthy captain for the national side if Ricky Ponting ever lost his appetite for the job. Unlike Ganga, Katich has had grizzled veterans to work with, but there have been touches of genius in the way he's arranged his pieces on the board. Both on slow pitches in Delhi and the bouncier ones in Hyderabad, New South Wales have been a notch above their opposition, except for the five-over Pollard whirlwind that clinched a game last week.

It's that unpredictability that gives Trinidad and Tobago hope. Whether it's William Perkins scooping a fast bowler to fine leg or Adrian Barath lofting one nonchalantly over extra-cover for six, they have a penchant for propelling the ball into what a rueful Andrew Puttick, the Cape Cobras captain, called "strange areas". "I have a sneaking suspicion that Trinidad and Tobago will take it," he said. "They have a little bit of an X-factor about them."

That sprinkling of stardust will be tested to the limit by a New South Wales attack in which Brett Lee has been peerless. Throw in Moises Henriques' happy knack of taking crucial wickets, Stuart Clark's parsimony and Nathan Hauritz's ability to turn new ball and old, and it's easy to see why they've come this far largely untroubled.

Not that Ganga's batsmen are the only ones with a license to thrill. Even if you get past David Warner and Phillip Hughes at the top of the order, there's a terrific middle order led by Katich to negotiate. And if the ruthless demolition of the Bushrangers was any guide, the big stage won't faze them either.

New South Wales, with apologies to Mumbai, Yorkshire and Barbados, are the most formidable side in the history of domestic cricket, having won the Shield 17 times before Sir Donald Bradman had even made his debut. No matter what happens in the inaugural Champions League final, that fact won't change. For Trinidad, always in the shadow of Barbados, Guyana and Jamaica, Friday is the day to target Goliath with stones and slingshot. Having already felled him once, they know it can be done.

If they can hold their nerve for three hours, a potentially golden future lies beyond the boundary. The Blues will scoff at the idea, but perhaps Trinidad needs this more. "We give our heart and soul," said Ganga. "For the 1.3 million watching at home and the 5 million across the Caribbean whose hopes rest on our team."

It's a burden that they've worn lightly so far.

Dileep Premachandran is an associate editor at Cricinfo

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Posted by andrew-schulz on (October 23, 2009, 16:45 GMT)

2 responses to this typical piece of Indian propoganda which again is not backed up by performances on the field. First, if you thought the three Indian sides would make the semis, you continue to be as deluded as you have been for many years. I could have told you the three Indian sides and the two English sides wouldn't make the semis from the start. Two nations of all hype and no substance. Second, to put Australia's period of 'consolidation and hegemony' in the past tense is vastly unwise. It lasted two decades? It's going to last a lot longer than that.

Posted by TriniPosse_North on (October 23, 2009, 15:33 GMT)

Fantastic article. As Windies man by blood - T&T my motherland - the pride and joy of these guys in the finals is amazing. Growing up seeing those powerhouse Windies teams of the late 70's, 80's and early 90's play at QPO, it's great to see any team from the Windies play with passion, pride and guts.

One point of clarification - T&T has never been in the shadow of Guyana, Jamaica or Barbados as far as historic regional cricket has been concerned - don't be mislead by this statement.

T&T all de way!

Posted by rsgarcia on (October 23, 2009, 12:59 GMT)

Spare me aussielass. A couple of guys make the NSW somehow deserving of this win more than an entire country and region that have been in the doldrums for 15 years? Why in heaven's name are two Aussie boys worth more than 5 million people? And yes, I'm West Indian, but I would never sink to putting two West Indians over a real national team who had zero respect before this tournament. So go T&T!!! Too bad if your Aussie boys can't grasp hold of their careers and push the Flintoffs and the Watson's out. If there's one thing the Trinbagonians have proved, it's that if you want it--take it! We don't cry over how hard done by we've been. We play to win. I'd expect the Aussies to do the same.

Posted by George11 on (October 23, 2009, 12:23 GMT)

I am an Indian who adore IVA Richards & Michael Holding. My opinion is sumed up here- a qote from the piece- "Whether you were a young teen watching from a makeshift stand at the University Stadium in Trivandrum or a larrikin viewing the game from Bay 13, there was eager anticipation the moment those magnificent men in maroon caps walked on to the field. Nine times out of 10, they annihilated your team, but in another sense they were "our" team, the players that we dreamt of emulating in parks and playgrounds across the world. Who didn't want to bat like Richards, or bowl like Holding?"

Posted by AjithSankar on (October 23, 2009, 11:21 GMT)

Hi All... Everyone talks about the failure of the IPL teams in CL. Dont you think you guys are expecting a lot from the IPL teams, which hardly have any experience in playing with the teams of different continents. I think other teams have vast experience in playing cricket across and we need to give some time to the IPL teams in this regard.

Posted by siddharthh on (October 23, 2009, 9:11 GMT)

what a beautifully written piece!

Posted by Deepan1983 on (October 23, 2009, 8:42 GMT)

I thought they are the minnows like Wayamba, otago... but after their couple of match performance, i realized they are the favourites of Champions League.. Expecting tight finish today!!! even Big names in NSW, my bet will be on T&T.... All the best T&T.

Posted by Hooves on (October 23, 2009, 8:17 GMT)

I'm a Somerset man but I, like most Englishmen, find defeat easier to accept than the glory of Victory. I actually thought Victoria looked like the better aussie side too, and had backed them to make the final. As for Trinidad & Tobago. I hope everything in this article comes true. I hope the best team wins, but i feel like i missed ut on something when i read and see clips of the West Indies in full war mode. I was lucky enough to catch just a glmpse of Viv Richards and Big Bird Joel Garner at Taunton when i was very small, avec Beefy. But a whole brigade of truly gifted , motivated West Indians would only be a good thing in world cricket. A team that mixed with the best home and away rather than suffocating at bottom of all the rankings. It sounds like the WI admin needs dismantling first though.

Posted by Nipun on (October 23, 2009, 7:09 GMT)

The Champions League is a 20-20 slogout party,not a class-determinant 1st class tournament.Keep that in mind.Having said that,T & T have been a joy to watch for the joy they have brought in a grossly unattractive tournament.

Posted by ABP235 on (October 23, 2009, 6:16 GMT)

A very well written piece by Dileep. I would say, Trin-Tob (as in Twenty-Twenty) has already done enough to demand major changes in Caribbean cricket. As Daren Ganga's prolific speech says "everyday was a final" they have won 5 so far, and even if they dont win the 6th, it wont matter. They have won everything already - more specifically fans and their hearts in India and elsewhere in the world, not just in the Caribbean. However, Ganga wont say these thoughts aloud to his teammates to avoid losing that great opportunity to supplement with destined Wealth with the Wins so far. I believe it will be a great match between two toughest teams in the competition. Its amazing how Ganga has motivated every member of this team to contribute in most unlikely situations. He himself hadnt contributed much earlier, he made up last night with that stellar partnership with Bravo - a man who was destroyed in his bowling spells earlier. Toast to Caribbean flair, T&T's supremacy.

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Dileep PremachandranClose
Dileep Premachandran Associate editor Dileep Premachandran gave up the joys of studying thermodynamics and strength of materials with a view to following in the footsteps of his literary heroes. Instead, he wound up at the Free Press Journal in Mumbai, writing on sport and politics before Gentleman gave him a column called Replay. A move to followed, where he teamed up with Sambit Bal, and he arrived at ESPNCricinfo after having also worked for Cricket Talk and Sunil Gavaskar and Greg Chappell were his early cricketing heroes, though attempts to emulate their silken touch had hideous results. He considers himself obscenely fortunate to have watched live the two greatest comebacks in sporting history - India against invincible Australia at the Eden Gardens in 2001, and Liverpool's inc-RED-ible resurrection in the 2005 Champions' League final. He lives in Bangalore with his wife, who remains astonishingly tolerant of his sporting obsessions.
Tournament Results
NSW v Trinidad & T at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Oct 23, 2009
NSW won by 41 runs
Cape Cobras v Trinidad & T at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Oct 22, 2009
Trinidad & T won by 7 wickets (with 4 balls remaining)
NSW v Victoria at Delhi - Oct 21, 2009
NSW won by 79 runs
Cape Cobras v Daredevils at Delhi - Oct 19, 2009
Daredevils won by 30 runs
Eagles v Trinidad & T at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Oct 18, 2009
Trinidad & T won by 24 runs
NSW v Somerset at Hyderabad (Deccan) - Oct 18, 2009
NSW won by 6 wickets (with 49 balls remaining)
More results »
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