AFTER capturing the imagination of the world at the inaugural T20 Champions League in 2009, the Red Force became synonymous with excellence, brilliant fielding, innovative captaincy and exciting cricket.
Today, the Red Force brand is unrecognisable and at its lowest ebb.
There has been much analysis of last year's four-day campaign, when TT embarrassingly finished last with two wins, five losses and three draws. So bad was this country's team's performance that if they doubled their 82.4 points tallied at the end of the season, they would still not have caught champions Guyana (166.8 points).
The debacle of 2017/2018 has been attributed to a changing of the guard, with the selectors placing faith in a number of young players. This year was expected to be different, with this fresh crop having an entire season under their belt and a full preparation for the new 2018/2019 competition.
But it has been the same old same old so far, with the Red Force crashing to defeats at home to the Windward Islands (by 76 runs) and Leeward Islands (by 245 runs). With fixtures against Jamaica (away), Barbados (home) and Guyana (home) next, TT could be staring at another bottom-of-the-barrel finish if they don't turn things around quickly.
The batting in particular has been atrocious, with only one batsman showing up for most games. Stretching back to last season, the Red Force have just one score of 300 or more in their last seven games – losing six and drawing one. This is unacceptable.
At the Brian Lara Academy in Tarouba yesterday, the most fight showed was by commentator Philo Wallace, who lambasted the TT players and coaching staff for what had just happened. The Red Force were nine wickets down and yet to reach 100, after starting the day on 26 without loss, with all wickets intact, and in pursuit of 342 for victory. Something has to change.
It comes as a relief to see the TTCB finally hold its elections on January 16 after two years of legal battling. It is imperative that whoever wins immediately addresses the decline of the country's cricket on the field. It has been 13 years since this country won the four-day crown and the results have gone from bad to worse so quickly TT were no longer considered title challengers.
Where do we go from here? The TTCB must look at the domestic competition and how it can improve. The switch from the two-day competition to three days did not show any tangible results and officials must dig deeper to see how they can produce quality Test cricketers – especially batsmen.
Our limited overs game has also taken a hit and it came as a shock to see a team boasting star names such as Dwayne Bravo, Darren Bravo, Nicholas Pooran, Kieron Pollard, Denesh Ramdin, Lendl Simmons, Sunil Narine and Rayad Emrit bundled out for 92 in the 2018 Super50 semis against the Combined Campuses and Colleges.
The lure of T20 cricket remains a challenge, but the TTCB must not follow the route of Cricket West Indies (CWI) president Dave Cameron and use that as an excuse. T20 cricket is not going away, and rather than being a hindrance, it has enhanced the West Indies and Red Force brands, with their respective teams excelling in the past. If Guyana can produce cricketers capable of handling the grind of the longest format as well as the gung-ho version of fours and sixes, why can't the TTCB?
Whoever is chosen as the new TTCB president must make turning our fortunes around on the field a top priority. The Windies Test team that recently toured has just one TT representative – Shannon Gabriel – and the ODI team featured just Darren Bravo in the final XI. A number of our top players are retired or semi-retired owing to grievances with CWI, and the TTCB's challenge is to produce the next generation.
The Red Force needs to be revived or its days of being a force will be a distant memory.