The Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR), after a bright start, fell away considerably, until they caved to the Barbados Tridents for the third time in the tournament. Twice they were beaten at home by their arch-rivals, in the preliminary round of games at the Queen’s Park Oval on September 26 then in the semi-final at the Brian Lara Stadium on October 10.
It was a tremendous disappointment to their many fans who were cheering them on with the expectation that they would complete a hat-trick of victories in 2019, being the champion team of the Caribbean Premier League. Not to even qualify for the final was a pain in the heart that crushed the resolve of many!
But what went wrong? Why did they do so badly? Who is to blame? These are the questions that need to be answered.
After winning their first four games convincingly, three in Trinidad plus one in Jamaica, TKR were abruptly halted in St Kitts by the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots (SKNP), the team they whipped in their very first fixture at the Oval.
But a resolute SKNP, determined in front of their home crowd, managed to tie a high-scoring game, as their Trinidadian all-rounder Rayad Emrit, with some fine strokeplay in the dying stages of the innings, transformed a sure win for TKR into a tie!
The super over used as the tiebreaker was won quite easily in the end by the Patriots, concluded with a brilliant over by the captain Carlos Brathwaite. The skipper took complete charge, batting and bowling with determination.
Chasing just 15 runs, Kieron Pollard, captain of TKR, decided to open with himself and Darren Bravo.
It surprised me that Bravo was used to open given his poor form. Although, with his ability, one was forgiven in thinking he could step up. He was, after all, the team’s most experienced batsman after the captain. It didn’t work, and that was that.
Wheels come off
I thought Lendl Simmons, the in-form batsman, should have been the choice. However, that is where the challenge of the game of cricket presents itself and one’s decisions could go either way. Certainly, an in-form Bravo strikes the ball with tremendous power and could score the 16 runs required.
This was the game when the wheels came off! This match burst the bubble of over-confidence that was riding alongside the TKR with every previous game they won.
The next game against the St Lucia Zouks was rained out after only 12.2 overs. This was the start of the second round. Over to Barbados, and the too regular changes TKR was making with the constant changes of batting order, and the disordered selection of bowlers in the absence of the injured Sunil Narine, started gradually to take effect.
From the first over in this game at Kensington Oval, one noticed a lethargy in the field. Fieldsmen were bending to field quite lazily and, in my estimation, this team was either not practising at all or very little.
It was noticeable that enthusiasm was missing from the outlook and spirit of the team. It had been nine days since last they played a complete game, which by the way, they lost!
I wondered whether the coach would have organised a couple of practice games against club teams, especially knowing that September is the middle of the cricket season in Barbados. Club teams would have relished the practice against a franchise team. That was needed while on the road to keep the players sharp, enthused and confident.
It is the coach and the captain’s duty to ensure their players maintain a certain match fitness and form in all departments. I’m not casting aspersions, maybe they did practise but if so, there is no reason for that level of fielding and general performance!
Losing in Barbados was one thing, but to come back home and slide to defeat to the Amazon Warriors then Barbados again, both games at the Queen’s Park Oval, the venue at which they won their first three games of the tournament! That was too much! Down to Guyana then, yet another loss.
In the second round, TKR lost all the games except the rained out Zouks contest. During this entire second round, they experimented, to their detriment, with batting line-ups. Throughout, the team never settled—no stability in the batting order. Additionally, there was no cohesion in the bowling set-up.
Javon Searles opening the batting? Colin Munro bowling? Experiments that came too late with youngsters like Tion Webster, Mark Deyal and Amir Jangoo sitting in the pavilion? Also, Akeal Hosein. All probably rearing to go, given the chance!
It so happened that the Tridents, improving with every game, ran away with the final on October 12, defeating the preliminaries all conquering team, Amazon Warriors, at the Brian Lara Stadium.
TKR defeated themselves!