Mixed success for TT cricket
Sunday, January 1 2012
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West Indies batsman Darren Bravo celebrates scoring his maiden Test century against Bangladesh in Dhaka....
TRINIDAD AND Tobago’s success in Twenty20 cricket was the undoubted highlight of 2011 but it also created local cricket’s biggest controversy for the year.
Led by the charismatic Daren Ganga, the “Red Force” were crowned Caribbean Cup T20 champions on January 23 to book their place in the Nokia Champions League in India.
The national team was minus all-rounders Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard who opted to play in the lucrative Big Bash League in Australia instead. However, the duo indicated, that they would make themselves available for the Champions League as the club versus country debate continued.
Opening batsman Lendl Simmons put aside the disappointment of his repeated omission from the West Indies team to be named Star-of-the- Tournament.
The right-hander compiled 249 runs from six matches at an astounding average of 41.50 runs. Also excelling with the bat was Darren Bravo who smashed 192 runs at an average of 48.00.
Having lost in the Champions League final in 2009, local cricket fans were hoping for TT to finish one better this time around with Pollard and Bravo expected to take their place in the national team for the multi-club/nation competition.
But following weeks of speculation and rumours, ex-TT captain Daren Ganga confirmed that the participation of both players for this country was not a certainty.
On August 17, Minister of Sport Anil Roberts confirmed that the star duo would not represent this country and would instead play for their respective clubs.
“Unfortunately, I have learnt after hearing rumours circulating that Kieron Pollard and Dwayne Bravo will not be participating in the Champions League. I am here to confirm that is true,” Roberts said.
Roberts blasted the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) for their handling of the matter. He called on TTCB president Azim Bassarath to resign forthwith.
TT would put in a creditable performance at the Champions League in India but failed to make it to the semi-final stage after losing two close games. Ganga came under heavy criticism from the local and international media for his captaincy in those defeats. His poor form with the bat was also a cause for concern and may have played a part in his eventual demise.
The national team returned home with their heads held high especially off-spinner Sunil Narine who caught the eyes of all who witnessed him bowl. Narine finished as the tournament’s second highest wicket-taker with 10 wickets and ESPNcricinfo even labelled him a “mystery spinner”.
He was the star bowler at the subsequent Regional Super50 in October where TT lost in the final. Narine claimed 15 wickets which earned him a coveted call-up to the West Indies team for the tour of India.
For TT, however, it was another title lost as the “Red Force” ended a year with just the T20 crown to show when they should have claimed at least two regional titles.
The national team’s drought in the Four-Day tournament continued when they bowed out controversially at the semi-final stage. In a no result match against Jamaica at the Sir Frank Worrell Ground in St Augustine, the TTCB took the WICB to court claiming uncertainty in the WICB rules as to who would advance in that scenario.
The TTCB argued that points accumulated in the group phase should be the determining factor while the WICB stated that it was clear the definitive method to be utilised was head-to-head result. The judge concurred and Jamaica went to the final.
The year ended with the final twist in the tail when Ganga announced his immediate resignation as captain on November12.
His resignation ended a nine-year reign at the helm of the national team and an era in local cricket.
The 32-year-old cited, “the emergence of a pool of potential leaders within the team” as reaffirming that the time was right for him to relinquish the reins of captaincy. He was adamant, however, that he was not retiring from the game and would give his unequivocal support to whoever replaces him.
From being the respected and esteemed captain, Ganga’s fall from grace was quick as he was omitted from the T20 squad to contest the Caribbean T20 Tournament on January 9 with the TTCB stating that it was difficult for them to find a place for their former captain.
Dinanath Ramnarine, president, West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA) suggested something more sinister, however, and believes there is a plot to get rid of several senior players in the Caribbean.
West Indies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin was named as Ganga’s replacement with the TTCB citing his experience with the regional team as enough to give him the nod.
Although finishing 2011 with one of three regional titles, the future remains bright for this country with eight players from this country selected on the West Indies team for the recent tour of India.
The historic eight are Jason Mohammed, Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath, Kieron Pollard, Darren Bravo, Denesh Ramdin and Ravi Rampaul.
Bravo had a stellar 2011 which earned him a nomination for the ICC Emerging Player of the Year. He smashed his first century (195) on the tour of Bangladesh and picked up two more on the Indian tour to announce himself as a premier batsman on the international stage. Rampaul was in fine form with the ball for both TT and the Windies, finishing as the top wicket-take at the Nokia Champions League and had the distinction of removing the talismanic Sachin Tendulkar in the 90s to keep him waiting for his 100th century.
An improvement in fitness seems to have paid off for the pacer who is showing the consistency and quality exhibited in the early parts of his career.
Trinidad and Tobago’s Anisa Mohammed continued to make a significant impact for the West Indies women’s team and played a decisive role in the team earning a berth in the ICC World Cup in 2013.
Mohammed grabbed a career-best seven wickets for 14 runs in the final of the World Cup Qualifying Tournament to trigger a resounding 130-run victory against Pakistan.
The spinner could not help TT claim a hat-trick of regional titles, however, as Jamaica upset them in the final.
On the local cricket scene, Queen’s Park proved a class above the rest to sweep all the major titles. Led by captain Justin Guillen, the all-rounder Dwayne Smith, Darren Bravo and off-spinner Narine, the Parkites took the Twenty20 title, Sunday League and Eastern Credit Union Premiership.
Meanwhile, off the field-of-play, the Movement for Change completed a clean sweep of the national elections at the TTCB elections in October.
Despite holding press conferences criticising the TTCB, the rival “Friends of Cricket” pulled out of the elections paving the way for another two-year term for Bassarath’s team.
Bassarath’s slate was elected unopposed with the TTCB president promising to continue development programmes for athletes as well as coaches.
He says the Four-day title remains a priority and renewed calls for a home for local cricket after the WICB blanked Trinidad from hosting the regional T20 due to the high cost of renting the Queen’s Park Oval.
In Secondary Schools cricket, Hillview College completed an unprecedented treble with the Super Sixes, League and Daren Ganga Intercol titles. Boasting players such as Brian Christmas, Shaquille Allick, Akeem Christmas and Idrees Mohammed, Hillview went unbeaten in the league as they dethroned El Dorado for the coveted crown.
In the WICB Under-19 three-day tournament, TT placed second behind Jamaica with Derone Davis finishing as the most outstanding bowler in the tournament. The left-arm spinner picked up 25 wickets including two five- wicket hauls.
TT ended the tournament without silverware as they relinquished their limited-overs title to Barbados, emerging as the runners-up after being beaten by nine wickets in the fifth and final round against the Bajans.
It was close but no cigar for the national Under-15 team as well who came second in the 2011 WICB Under-15 Tournament held in Trinidad.
The national Under-13s also came up short against the Bajans, losing by an innings and 24 runs in the Malcolm Marshall Memorial Classic in Barbados and losing the three-match Inshan Ali Memorial limited-overs series 2-0.