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Five West Indian rookies who could become big names in the CPL

Our list includes a left-hand batter with boundless potential and an allrounder who shares Andre Russell's birthday and some of his skills as well

Deivarayan Muthu
Matthew Forde in action for Surrey Jaguars at the Global T20 Canada, Brampton Wolves vs Surrey Jaguars, Brampton, Global T20 Canada, August 1, 2023

Matthew Forde was the leading wicket-taker during this year's Global T20 Canada  •  Global T20 Canada

The 11th season of the CPL, which will begin on August 16, will feature a number of T20 stars from the Caribbean as well as overseas. Here are five rookies who could become future CPL - and West Indies - stars.

Alick Athanaze (Barbados Royals)

When Alick Athanaze was on his way to the joint-fastest half-century on ODI debut, Carlos Brathwaite, who was on TV commentary at the time, dubbed him the "future of West Indies cricket". Then, after the left-hand batter made his Test debut against India at his home ground in Dominica, in front of his family, R Ashwin picked him among a group of players who could dominate the next decade in cricket. A CPL debut for Barbados Royals this season will only embellish his CV.
Athanaze hasn't played any official T20 cricket yet, but showed during the ODIs against UAE and India that he has a variety of shots in his repertoire, including the reverse-sweep. He also has the experience of having featured in Global T20 Canada and the Vincy T10 league. His ability to bowl offspin and patrol the infield as the outfield makes him a particularly attractive package.

Kevin Wickham (Barbados Royals)

Another former West Indies Under-19 player and another Royal, Kevin Wickham is also set for his CPL debut. Wickham, now 20, has played just six first-class and six List A games so far, but has already been part of CWI's Emerging Players camp and was recently name-checked by Ian Bishop during an interview with ESPNcricinfo.
Like Athanaze, Wickham is yet to play any official T20 cricket, but he did produce a Player-of-the-Match performance in the Barbados T10 final, which Settlers won. Opening the batting, he cracked 45 off 21 balls in that final, and could be among the top-order options for Royals too in the CPL. Wickham had also been on St Kitts & Nevis Patriots' radar and even played for their developmental team against a visiting Scotland side earlier this year.

Matthew Forde (St Lucia Kings)

Matthew Forde shares a birthday with Andre Russell and has modelled his game on the T20 phenom. He can launch sixes down the order, hit hard lengths with the ball, and also bowl deceptive slower cutters, skills that have put him on the radar of T20 leagues even outside the Caribbean.
Most recently, he finished Global T20 Canada as the tournament's highest wicket-taker, with 15 wickets in eight games at an average of 10.80 and economy rate of 6.43 in Surrey Jaguars' run to the final. Though his hero Russell had the final say in that final for Montreal Tigers, Forde did well enough to keep Chris Lynn and Sherfane Rutherford quiet. Forde was also impressive with the ball during the Cool & Smooth T20 tournament, conceding just five runs an over across seven matches.
Forde played only seven games for Kings last season but could have a bigger role this CPL after having proven his white-ball chops in the LPL and GT20 Canada.

Kofi James (St Kitts & Nevis Patriots)

Kofi James was part of Patriots' development sides and is a product of their extensive scouting system. James started his career as a lower-order batter but has now slid up the order after having expanded his range. It was on display during the Cool & Smooth T20 tournament, where he was the top-scorer with 330 runs in nine innings, including a century, ahead of Scotland internationals like Richie Berrington and Matthew Cross. James' dart-it-in offspin has also attracted the attention of Patriots' new head coach Malolan Rangarajan.
"Adhishwar (The director of cricket at St Kitts) was on ground during our scouting camps, and he was speaking very highly about Kofi's potential," Malolan told ESPNcricinfo in the lead-up to CPL 2023. "I would term him under the 'potential' category. He has tremendous potential, but if given an opportunity, he has the tools to come up and produce the goods required.
"He is someone who bowls real fast offspin and his batting has improved leaps and bounds. He's batting at one-down and scoring hundreds in T20 cricket. So that's the amount of work he's put in, in his game. Also, he's a brilliant fielder, so I think the world is his oyster now and he will only get better playing with experienced players at St Kitts."

Nicholson Gordon (Jamaica Tallawahs)

Nicholson Gordon, 31, is the oldest among the five players in this list but is young in terms of T20 experience. The fast bowler hadn't played an official T20 until CPL 2022 and ended up winning the tournament with Jamaica Tallawahs. In the final against Royals, Gordon stepped up in the absence of the injured Mohammad Amir, taking out Najibullah Zadran, Corbin Bosch and Devon Thomas.
Gordon is a bit like India's Shardul Thakur. He has a tendency to leak runs but also has the knack of taking key wickets under pressure. And going for boundaries doesn't prevent him from exploring attacking lengths. Gordon suffered a thigh injury earlier this year but is fit now and ready to bowl the difficult overs for Tallawahs once again.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo