The emergence of potential fast bowlers
When West Indies dominated world cricket, their battery of top-notch fast bowlers was arguably the most important facet in their armoury, and the decline in quality fast-bowling options since 2000 was a key factor in the team’s fall. Caribbean pitches now do not usually encourage the development of fast bowlers, as spinners take a lion’s share of the wickets.
However, Ian Bishop noted on Twitter during the CPL how Michael Hilton, the head groundsman at Sabina Park had done an excellent job with the pitch. It was a point also reinforced by Barbados Tridents coach Robin Singh, who said, “While the competition this year was certainly better than previously, I was particularly impressed and happy about the standard of pitches.”
The end result was that some upcoming West Indies fast bowlers had an encouraging tournament, on surfaces that kept them interested. They included Alzarri Joseph (who notably hit AB de Villiers on the head during the series, and went on to have an impressive debut Test versus India), Kesrick Williams, Sheldon Cottrell and Delorn Johnson. Add to this Miguel Cummins claiming a six-wicket haul in the St Lucia Test against India, and Shannon Gabriel’s improvement since the tri-series, and potentially the team has some solid fast-bowling options to work with.
West Indies fast bowling legend Andy Roberts, who was part of the St Lucia Zouks coaching staff, wants to see the WICB take steps to harness the talent. “These young fast bowlers were encouraging, but it’s difficult to judge from just four overs whether they are suited for Test cricket, even though they got better pitches to bowl on in the CPL than they do in the domestic season,” he said. “I find it funny that the WICB thinks its new Professional Cricket League is the end of all of it, when clearly the production line of international-ready talent is not there.
“[The bowlers] should be immediately put into a camp where they can pick the brains of those like us, if the board wishes to engage us, who have been there and done it, as well as working on their fast bowling, strength and endurance.”
Warriors and Patriots: one up, one down
After a football season in which underdogs such as Leicester City and Portugal produced stellar team work to win the English Premier League and European Championship respectively, Guyana Amazon Warriors threatened to do the same for a while in the CPL.
“We kept hearing that the Warriors was not the best team, didn’t have any big stars, so really no one was expecting anything from us,” said Amazon Warriors captain Rayad Emrit, who previously played with Barbados Tridents. “So our mantra was to use that as motivation, plus we had an owner who gave us everything we needed. It is disappointing for the franchise that after getting to another final, we couldn’t bring the title to our great fans in Guyana.”
Similar to last season, when Tabraiz Shamsi’s CPL efforts led to his being called up for international service for South Africa, Australian Chris Lynn, who led the Warriors batting impressively will surely be representing Australia more in the future.
At the other end were St Kitts and Nevis Patriots. “I was very surprised and disappointed at the Patriots because overall we felt there were six very evenly matched teams on show,” said CPL CEO Damien O’Donohoe. “A betting man would have certainly thought Patriots could have gone far in this competition. He went on to point out that the team management had had “a stern review” and said fans could be in for a surprise regarding what type of team Patriots have for the 2017 season.
Two youngsters to watch
As noted before the competition, arguably the biggest young player to watch out for was wicketkeeper-batsman Nicholas Pooran. His two excellent half-centuries made everyone take notice. “The first time I saw him bat, I told Kieron Pollard they’ve got to find a way of including him in the national side,” said de Villiers at a post-game interview. “He’s a special talent.”
“He has dominated at all youth levels and I can only expect him to build on his CPL performances,” commentator Daren Ganga said.
“Obviously he is still young and can further develop his game, especially his keeping,” Tridents coach Singh said. “But he is a superb talent who fits the modern trend of what most teams hope get out of keeper-batsmen.”
Although he didn’t produce any major performances with bat or ball, Jamaican Rovman Powelldisplayed enough promise with a few cameo knocks that had some suggesting he could be the next Andre Russell.
“Powell’s background – he never had a father in his life, with his mom has being his main parental figure, and his overall drive to pay her back is what is pushing him as a cricketer,” said Jamaica Tallawahs coach Paul Nixon.
“Young Powell is blessed with talent, like all upcoming West Indies players,” said Ganga, “though I would like to see him exposed to first-class cricket so that his talents can be seen in all formats.”
Club v country
West Indies have struggled in the Tests against India, and former India captain Sourav Ganguly criticised the WICB for prioritising the CPL over the Test series.
A combination of retirements, injuries, and Kolpak status, meant the likes of Chris Gayle, Russell, Dwayne Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Ravi Rampaul and Jerome Taylor played the CPL instead of the Tests. However, even discounting these senior players, the team was unable to pick some of impressive upcoming players even, because they were not contracted by the WICB.
A CPL deal is worth more than playing Test cricket for West Indies. Young Joseph was not picked until Patriots were eliminated. Sunil Narine could not be picked, nor was talented young opener Evin Lewis. Instead, the failed experiment of using Rajendra Chandrika continued.
This was a notable difference to how things operate in the Big Bash and NatWest T20, where Cricket Australia and the ECB, because they own those competitions, pay their players well and get first preference on picking players when matches in those leagues clash with home Test seasons. This issue is set to return to the fore next year, when India come back to the Caribbean for five one-day internationals.
“We are operating in a cricket landscape where there is no black and white solution to deal with the rise and importance of T20 leagues,” said Ganga. “Yes there were many pros and cons to playing CPL alongside the India Tests, but for me I didn’t see any real issue doing so.”
“It was always going to be a challenge playing the two competitions together and we are going to work with WICB and will be sitting down to look at this with the board in September,” said O’Donohoe.