CPL 2021 ended with a pulsating final in which St Kitts and Nevis Patriots beat St Lucia Kings by three wickets off the last ball of the match. The tournament had several established stars doing well, but the sparkling new talent gave it an extra sheen. Sifting those players down to the XI who would make up the team of the tournament meant leaving some performers out, as is inevitably the case. Here is ESPNCricinfo's CPL 2021 XI:
Evin Lewis - St Kitts and Nevis Patriots
Quite simply, the best batter in CPL 2021. Evin Lewis was part of the winning team, and though he had a rare failure in the final, he did plenty to drive Patriots to that position. In the semi-final against Guyana Amazon Warriors, he made light work of an imposing target of 179, reeling off 77 not out in 39 balls as Patriots won with a massive 2.1 overs to spare. That performance had come on the back of a sizzling, unbeaten 52-ball 106 against last year's champions Trinbago Knight Riders in Patriots' final league game to seal their semi-final spot. Lewis ended as the second-highest run-scorer in the competition with 426 runs, and allied his consistency to big-hitting as a strike-rate of 163.21 showed. As per ESPNCricinfo's Smart Stats, he was the highest-rated batter too and ranked first on the Smart Runs tally, with 493.68 runs.
Faf du Plessis - St Lucia Kings
He brings in a solidity that could nicely complement the slew of big-hitters in the XI. While Faf du Plessis had an up-and-down tournament, two innings in particular were standouts in the league phase: 120* in 60 balls against Patriots and then 84 off 54 against Barbados Royals. He picked up a groin injury in that last game and missed Kings' last few games, and the team, no doubt, missed his batting form and leadership. The second half of the tournament was much more productive for du Plessis after a sluggish start. The balance he brings to the batting line-up meant he was picked ahead of his closest contender Kennar Lewis, who had blasted runs at a rate comparable to Evin, but got out quicker than du Plessis. It was a close contest between the two, but on the day, du Plessis won the vote.
Roston Chase - St Lucia Kings
Without a doubt, the Player of the Tournament. He has still not played a T20I, but Roston Chase was selected in West Indies' squad for the T20 World Cup on the back of his showing in this tournament. He reached double figures in 10 out of 12 innings, and was the highest run-scorer in the tournament with 446 runs. He did it all at a strike rate of 144.33, and proved to be the perfect all-round package with his more than handy offspin, picking up 10 wickets and conceding at below 7 per over. Chase was the clear MVP on ESPNCricinfo's Smart Stats too, with a player rating of 66.75, the highest in the tournament. While his batting was a standout, his ability to strike regularly and keep the runs down meant his bowling also proved very valuable. Chase's T20 reinvention was stark enough to make him not just a likely starter in West Indies' first XI, but possibly one of their most crucial men in their title defence next month.
Nicholas Pooran (wk) - Guyana Amazon Warriors
He's not the captain in this team, and there's a lot more batting depth, which means Nicholas Pooran can bat at a position that seems more naturally fitting for him. Of the ten times Pooran batted in CPL 2021, he batted at No. 4 only twice, spending the rest of the time trying to either shore up or finish an innings from numbers five through seven. He still ended up sixth on the run-getters list and, more impressively, third in the Smart Runs tally, behind only Lewis and Chase. The situations he batted in meant his Smart Strike Rate was 214.9, the highest in the tournament among those who played at least five innings. Pooran mostly came in to bat in the second half of an innings, and had to score quickly from the start, at which he succeeded more often than not. Given the strength of the top three, he might have to do the same in this XI, but he showed with his 75* off 39 against Jamaica Tallawahs that he could grab an innings by the scruff of its neck if he comes in earlier too. Pooran will also keep wicket.
Tim David - St Lucia Kings
One of the revelations of the tournament, Tim David's hard-hitting consistency in the middle order confirmed his growing stature in T20 cricket. He had already had success in the BBL and PSL, and made 15 off 6 in the only match he got to bat in the Hundred, which was the final. In CPL 2021, he began by smashing 56 off 28 in his first game and continued to score consistently thereafter. He batted mostly at No.6 (only three out of his 11 innings were higher, at No.5) and still ended up as the third highest run-scorer with 282 runs, a testament to how little he failed.
Kieron Pollard (capt) - Trinbago Knight Riders
There was no title run this time for Kieron Pollard, but he left his stamp on the tournament nonetheless. His six-hitting ability remains undiminished, as 21 sixes in 165 balls faced show, and he was just as much of a looming presence and threat with the bat as he has always been. He was the ninth-highest run-getter with 261 runs, but his true value is brought out by his Smart Runs tally of 307.68 - the fifth highest in the competition. Pollard cut down on his bowling, never bowling more than one over whenever he did opt to take the ball. His team lost in the semi-final, but his leadership was smart as ever, and he'll be the captain of this team.
Odean Smith - Guyana Amazon Warriors
One of the breakout stars of the tournament, Odean Smith showed he was capable of hustling batters at 140 clicks, while also being able to muscle the ball over the boundary. Warriors started CPL 2021 by pushing Smith up to No.3, and in his very first match, he turned in a Player-of-the-Match performance with useful contributions with bat and ball. Smith had batted only four times before that game in T20 cricket, never scoring more than 10, but showed his big-hitting promise in List A and first-class cricket with strike rates in excess of 100 in both. Although Warriors didn't persist with Smith at one-down, he did show his big-hitting prowess from lower down too, in a couple of matches. His bowling was even more impressive, and he ended as joint-second on the wickets tally with 18 scalps. On pitches that were slower, his ability to hurry batters stood out. He missed selection to the T20 World Cup, but if this tournament is any indication, he'll not be missing out for too long.
Romario Shepherd - Guyana Amazon Warriors
Alongside Smith, he was the other standout all-round performer for Warriors. Shepherd took the same number of wickets as Smith did with 18, although he played only nine games. He showed incredible bowling smarts, particularly in the Super Over win against Trinbago Knight Riders early in the tournament, not only picking up 3 for 24 despite dropped catches and misfields off his bowling, but defending just 6 in the Super Over.
He had shown a brief glimpse of his big-hitting in that game, which came out fully later in the tournament against Jamaica Tallawahs, when he hit 72* off 44. He made it an all-round day to remember, by also taking 3 for 31. On ESPNCricinfo's Smart Stats too, Shepherd was remarkable, being the third-highest rated player overall, as also the third-highest rated bowler. Like Smith, Shepherd might consider himself a tad unlucky to not make West Indies' T20 World Cup squad. But like Smith, if he carries this batting and bowling form, it's only a matter of time.
Sunil Narine - Trinbago Knight Riders
None of the old skill seems to have faded for Sunil Narine. He picked up 12 wickets in 10 games, which was a good return in itself, but he did it at a staggering economy rate of 4.37. The Smart Economy, which factors in the match situation a bowler has bowled in as also the batters facing up, was a jaw-dropping 2.51, streets and avenues ahead of anyone else. The nature of the pitches made Narine's spin more potent than ever. That oppositions were intent on playing him out rather than taking risks is borne out by his economy, but that he still picked up 12 wickets spoke to how much of a consistent threat he posed even when batters were looking not to take risks against him. Narine's batting wasn't nearly as effective as it had been in the past, with teams sticking to the tried-and-tested short ball strategy against him, but it was a bowling tournament for the ages.
Dominic Drakes - St Kitts and Nevis Patriots
The hero of the final, and you suspect, of many greater moments to come in a career brimming with possibilities. Dominic Drakes had more to do with the ball than bat, but even so, he passed 20 on three of the five times he went to bat, each time at a strike rate of over 180. His most telling contribution came in the final of course, with 48* off 24, a match-winning hand. While bowling, he looked sharp when in rhythm, which he was in more matches than not, as 16 wickets - joint fourth-highest - testify. Only 23-years-old, and with cricketing lineage to boot - he said after the final that father Vasbert Drakes gets more nervous than he does before a game - there is a world of possibilities open to Dominic.
Ravi Rampaul - Trinbago Knight Riders
Before CPL 2021, the last time Ravi Rampaul had bowled in a T20 game was in 2019. It turned out to be a storming comeback for the veteran seamer, as he ended the tournament at the top of the wicket charts with 19 to his name. The swing, seam and zip of old were all in evidence, and it led to another comeback, this time in West Indies' T20 World Cup squad. Rampaul's wicket-taking in the powerplay proved crucial for Trinbago Knight Riders.
Inputs from Andrew McGlashan, Peter Della Penna and Gaurav Sundararaman
Faf du Plessis
Kings vs Patriots
Caribbean Premier League
Saurabh Somani is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo