THE stage is set for the seventh edition of the Biggest Party in Sport. The Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) will attempt to become the first franchise to win a hat-trick of titles in the tournament that will be held from September 4-October 12. The Dwayne Bravo-led team has kept their core of players, but have lost some players who were instrumental to the team's success last year. However, the inclusion of one world-class all-rounder may propel the team to another title.
POLLARD'S PASSION, BIG HITTING
Kieron Pollard and his friend Dwayne have had some fierce battles since the CPL began in 2013, when Pollard captained Barbados Tridents (2013-2017) and the St Lucia Stars (2018). Now the pair will bring that passion to TKR with Pollard's leadership qualities adding to the team's long list of experienced players which includes Denesh Ramdin, Darren Bravo and Colin Munro.
In an interview with Newsday after being selected by TKR, Pollard said, "It is good to be able to come back and walk out in front of a full Queen's Park Oval and Brian Lara Stadium representing TKR."
Pollard is one of the most dangerous batsmen in T20 cricket and the TKR fans will definitely be ducking or trying to catch the sixes flying into the stands. His catching and brilliant fielding especially on the boundary will also save runs for his new team.
There are not many players more passionate on the field than Pollard and he has shown that during the CPL.
During the 2017 edition, Pollard, who was then captain of the Tridents, had a heated verbal dispute with St Lucia Stars batsman Rahkeem Cornwall after he retired hurt on 78. Cornwall was clearly labouring as Stars looked to accelerate in the latter overs. Pollard did not hold back his feelings, pointing in Cornwall's face as he believed the move was strategic to allow Darren Sammy to enter the crease.
Also in 2017, Pollard faced criticism after bowling a no-ball that cost St Kitts and Nevis Patriots batsman Evin Lewis a century. With the Patriots chasing the target comfortably, Lewis was on 97 not out facing Pollard with the scores level. Pollard then bowled a no-ball that gave Patriots the win but denied Lewis the chance of getting his century. Pollard said he did not intentionally bowl a no-ball, explaining he tried to put extra effort into a short ball.
WILL NARINE KEEP OPENING?
Sunil Narine had some success as an opening batsman for Kolkata Knight Riders in the Indian Premier League but has failed to replicate his batting in the CPL. Narine's consistent failure at the top has put TKR under pressure but the coaching staff and Bravo have insisted it is a risk worth the possible reward and given Narine the licence to show aggression from ball one. However, the left-handed batsman only reached double figures on two occasions from eight attempts as an opener during the 2018 tournament. His scores were 17, seven, four, nine, duck, 13, six and eight.
Despite his lack of runs as an opener TKR may continue to open with Narine, as Munro is the only opener on the team with a lot of CPL experience under his belt. Wicket-keeper batsman Ramdin was used as an opener in the 2018 final scoring 24, but he has not opened on a regular basis during his career and opening with him may be a gamble. Amir Jangoo and Tion Webster have opened the batting during their careers, but are the youngsters ready for the challenge of opening in the CPL in front of packed crowds?
BIGGER ROLE FOR PIERRE?
TKR will have to do without leg-spinner Fawad Ahmed this season. The Pakistani-born Australian ended the tournament as the leading wicket-taker with 22 scalps in 13 matches at an economy rate of 6.18. The Stars took notice of Ahmed's performance and selected the spinner in round two of the draft. The door is open for one of TKR's spinners to fill the void left by Ahmed and after a prolific 2018 with limited opportunity left-arm spinner Khary Pierre will be eager to grab the role as the team's leading spinner.
Despite only playing seven matches last year, Pierre ended the tournament 10th on the wicket taking chart with 11 wickets. Pierre made scoring hard for opposing batsman ending the tournament with an economy rate of 5.65. Off spinner Narine will be aiming to bounce back after a modest 2018 where he took eight wickets in 12 innings. Experienced Sri Lankan leg-spinner Seekkuge Prasanna and left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein will be TKR's other spin bowling options.
PLENTY WICKETS AT HIGH PRICE
Dwayne is often criticised for conceding a lot of runs, especially at the death, but nobody can deny the TKR captain's ability to take wickets. He is the leading wicket-taker in the history of the CPL with 97 wickets, heading into the seventh edition of the competition. Bravo has taken 50 wickets over the past three seasons – 13 wickets in 13 matches in 2018, 16 wickets in 13 matches in 2017 and 21 wickets in 12 matches in 2016.
Bravo, who bowls a number of his overs at the death, is often among the most expensive bowlers in the tournament. In 2018 he had an economy rate of 10.64 and prior to that he had an economy rate of 9.26 in 2017 and 8.42 in 2016. The animated TKR fans often get frustrated with the amount of runs he concedes, but there is no denying his ability to bowl the slower ball which proves te undoing of many top batsmen – once disguised sufficiently. Bravo has gotten accustomed to the local fans and teased on social media he was planning to leave because he was fed-up of the "cussing." Will fans "cuss" him if he brings home TKR's third straight title?
MORE RUNS FROM MUNRO
When Munro joined TKR in 2016 he was unknown to most cricket fans in TT. Fast forward three years and all TKR fans are keenly anticipating the fireworks from Munro. The top-order New Zealand batsman scored heavily for TKR last year ending the tournament as the leading run-scorer with 567 runs in 13 innings at an average of 51.54. Left-handed Munro cracked six fifties at an impressive strike rate of 140.34 which included some massive sixes. He has cemented his role as the team's leading top order batsmen and TKR's aim for another title will depend on him.