Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo
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Not many gave Jamaica Tallawahs a chance to qualify for the CPL 2022 playoffs, let alone make the final, including former West Indies spinner and now commentator Samuel Badree. Every time Tallawahs' Pakistan import Mohammad Amir would bump into Badree, he would remind Badree of his pre-tournament prediction and Tallawahs' determination to prove him - and several others - wrong.
After leading Tallawahs to an unlikely title - their third overall and first since 2016 - Rovman Powell also expressed his hurt at the "disrespect" that was directed at his team in the lead-up to the tournament. Having said that, there was also a good reason behind experts not giving Tallawahs a chance before the start of the tournament.
The star-studded Knight Riders and St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, who had won CPL 2021 and the inaugural 6ixty this year, were the pre-tournament favourites, with Barbados Royals emerging as the dark horses. All these three teams had most bases covered while Tallawahs' line-up after the draft appeared top-heavy and lacked a solid left-hand batter. Tallawahs also picked just one experienced seamer in Amir and punted on South Africa's Migael Pretorius and local seamer Nicholson Gordon, who had not played an official T20 before CPL 2022.
They had only one proper wristspinnner in Sandeep Lamichhane, but he was released from the tournament without playing a single match in the wake of his suspension by the Cricket Association of Nepal. After somehow sneaking into the playoffs, Tallawahs surmounted tremendous odds to become the first team to win the CPL final after having finished fourth in the league stage.
In the final, too, the odds were stacked against them even before a ball was bowled. Amir, who had grabbed a chart-topping nine wickets in the powerplay this season, was ruled out with a groin injury he sustained during the second qualifier. Then, his replacement Pretorius, who had leaked 24 runs in two powerplay overs, jarred his back while attempting a catch in the outfield and hobbled off the field.
That Tallawahs won despite losing two key bowlers was down to the Tallawah (Jamaican for being fearless) of their Jamaican boys. On the big night, when the title was on the line, Brandon King, Fabian Allen, Gordon and Powell all stepped up to make up for the absence of Gayle and Russell, who were both central to their victories in 2013 and 2016, and tear open a portal to Tallawahs' future.
Powell was overshadowed by Russell for much of his early career. When he first burst onto the scene, Kolkata Knight Riders' CEO Venky Mysore described Powell as a junior Russell. During his first IPL stint with KKR in 2017, he was picked as a back-up allrounder for Russell. But in the last one year, he has emerged out of Russell's shadows and carved out his own identity as a gun T20 player.
Powell consciously worked on his technique against spin with Robert Samuels, the elder brother of Marlon, adding the sweep and the use of the feet to his repertoire. His improved game against spin was vital to Tallawahs' strong start in the tournament and it was fitting that he was there at the finish along with King, another Jamaican star.
Like Powell, King has also been bothered by spin in the past, but he ruthlessly took down Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Joshua Bishop in the final. After belting Mujeeb through the covers against the turn, King lined up the inexperienced Bishop for four fours in the 12th over that put Tallawahs well ahead of the game. King then rushed Tallawahs home with a flurry of boundaries against Mujeeb as well, completing his homecoming from Guyana Amazon Warriors in grand style.
King's 75-run third-wicket stand, off just 35 balls, with Powell thrilled many Jamaica fans, including Powell's school-mate and sprinter Yohan Blake.
Allen also enjoyed a happy homecoming from Patriots - he took out Royals' top three - Rahkeem Cornwall, Kyle Mayers and Azam Khan in the final - and dedicated his Player-of-the-Match performance to his late father.
While Tallawahs would've expected Powell, Allen and King to step up, it is Gordon's unexpected success that somewhat embodies Tallawahs' success. Playing his first T20 at 30, Gordon showed no signs of stage fright and carried his regional form into the CPL. He bowled cutters into the pitch at the death and hid the ball away from the reach of Royals' finishers to help limit them to 161 for 7 with his 4-0-33-3.
Gordon has a bit of Kesrick Williams about him. He backs his slower variations against power-hitters and is big on celebrations. He celebrated even before King smartly settled under a skier offered by Najibullah Zadran. Gordon later said that he celebrated prematurely because he had so much confidence that his team-mates would catch the ball every time it goes up.
It is this confidence, and the Tallawah, that enabled the Jamaica boys to beat the odds and clinch the title for Tallawahs.