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Decoding Trinbago Knight Riders' CPL 2020 dominance

Pollard's captaincy smarts, some luck at the toss, plenty of big hitting and other factors that helped them to their fourth title triumph

Deivarayan Muthu
Trinbago Knight Riders' unbeaten streak in CPL 2020 culminated in an unprecedented fourth title on Thursday. ESPNcricinfo looks at the various factors behind Knight Riders' dominance.
Experience and depth
When Brendon McCullum was asked if coaching was easier than captaincy, he said that having the rich "experience of two-and-a-half thousand" T20 games in the squad made his job much easier. However, at different stages in the tournament, Knight Riders were without some of their key players - Sunil Narine (kidney stones), Ali Khan (hamstring tear) and Colin Munro (finger fracture). While Khan, the USA quick, recovered in time for the knockouts, Munro, who was the MVP when Knight Riders had clinched the title in 2018, was sidelined from the knockouts.
Narine, too, missed the final on Thursday with an injury while Dwayne Bravo did not bowl at all in the match because of a knee complaint. Despite the injury-enforced absence of their first-choice players, Knight Riders found a way to win. The margin of victory in the final - eight wickets - will not tell you the full story, but Knight Riders were put under serious pressure by Daren Sammy's St Lucia Zouks. Andre Fletcher regularly backed away outside leg, and messed with the lines and lengths of the bowlers as Zouks zipped away to 60 for 1 - the highest powerplay score against Knight Riders this season.
The pressure told when Knight Riders dropped at least three chances in the field and, with Bravo not available to bowl, Zouks were setting up for a total in excess of 170. Kieron Pollard, though, took matters into his own hands and claimed 4 for 30, including the vital wickets of Fletcher and Roston Chase, with his assortment of cutters, restricting Zouks to 154.
Knight Riders' was the only squad that didn't have any changes after the draft and all 17 members got a game this season. However, nobody was dropped because of performance or lack thereof, according to Pollard. Just how strong was their bench? Akeal Hosein, their fourth-choice spinner, stepped up in the semi-final with a Player-of-the-Match performance.
Pollard's captaincy
When Pollard was in charge of Barbados Tridents in 2014 and 2015, he made some funky moves. Case in point: bringing himself in at silly point and pulling off an outstanding low catch to get rid of Jamaica Tallawahs' Mahela Jayawardene in 2015. Some of that out-of-the-box thinking reappeared in CPL 2020. Notably, Pollard installed himself at silly point or short leg for Guyana Amazon Warriors' Ross Taylor in the opener and Daren Sammy in the final, amplifying the threat of his spinners.
Pollard was also quite savvy with his match-ups, unleashing his legspinners and left-arm spinners on right-handers and largely using his offspinners against left-handers. In the second leg of the tournament at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, the tracks became better for batting, but Pollard and Bravo shifted their lines wider to stop batsmen from lining up the smaller boundary.
"Those guys [Pollard and Bravo] bounce off each other so well," McCullum had said. "We rely on them as a team as captain and vice-captain structure. In most teams if you replaced the captain or the captain opted out and went to a vice-captain role, you wouldn't necessarily get the same synergy that we've seen on the field from both DJ Bravo and Kieron Pollard. Both incredible men - I adore them as people as well as cricketers and leaders. The actual tactical prowess of Pollard is something unique as well."
Home, toss advantages
With the entire tournament having been played in Trinidad across two venues in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Knight Riders had a massive home advantage, which played a part in their success as well. All 11 of their local players, right from rookies Amir Jangoo and Tion Webster to leaders Pollard and Bravo, are based out of Trinidad and Tobago. In addition to that, some of those players had the chance to train outside the bubble, before the start of the tournament, when other squads were cooped up in their hotel rooms.
Knight Riders also had tosses go their way. They won seven tosses this season - no other side had won as many.
Adaptability of batsmen
While the 2019 champions Barbados Tridents were routed for three successive sub-100 scores on turning tracks - and other teams similarly struggled to force the pace - Knight Riders and runners-up Zouks were the only sides to breach 170 this CPL. While Zouks did it just once, Knight Riders topped 170 four times, all while batting first.
It helped that they had bonafide power-hitters in the middle order who could take the pitch out of the equation. Pollard and Darren Bravo often took the opposition attack out of the equation as well, shellacking 20 sixes each. After a sedate start in the tournament and even in the final, in isolation, opener Lendl Simmons made up for his lackadaisical running between the wickets with some brutal six-hitting when everything was on the line. He, too, finished with 20 sixes this season, and went past Chris Gayle to became the leading run-getter across seasons in the CPL.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo