TRINBAGO Knight Riders (TKR) coach Brendon McCullum said his team’s perfect record in the preliminary (group) phase does not guarantee they will capture the 2020 Hero Caribbean Premier League T20 title, but his team is hungry to regain the title they relinquished in 2019.
The three-time champions will play Jamaica Tallawahs in the first semi-final, at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, in Tarouba, at 10 am, on Tuesday. The second semi-final will feature Guyana Amazon Warriors and St Lucia Zouks at 5.30 pm at the same venue.
McCullum, who believes his team’s bond is stronger this year with all members of the squad playing, said ten wins in the group phase does not mean they will end as champions. “As I have said, I stress it does not guarantee ultimate success, but we’ve played well this season. The environment is good and the guys are incredibly hungry to try and regain the title which we lost last year,” McCullum said in an interview with CPLT20.
After winning their first title in 2015, TKR won back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 but could not complete the hat-trick of titles last year after losing to Barbados Tridents in qualifier two.
There is competition especially among the spinners in the squad with the likes of Sunil Narine, Fawad Ahmed, Khary Pierre, Sikandar Raza, Akeal Hosein and Pravin Tambe all grabbing wickets.
Discussing the team’s depth and the spinners, McCullum said, “They have been really good. They have posed some serious questions of the leaders in the selection committee because we started this tournament with a fair idea of what our strongest team was, but we did say right on the onset that it is going to be a squad that wins this tournament.”
The TKR coach said Hosein and Tambe, who were not starters when the tournament bowled off, have both grabbed their opportunity. “They have put us under an immense amount of pressure when it comes to trying to work out what is our best XI for the semi-final selection. It is what you want though.”
He said the team is confident because “winning is a habit.”
Narine (kidney stones), fast bowler Ali Khan (hamstring) and batsman Colin Munro (broken hand) have all struggled with injury during this campaign. McCullum said Narine’s availability for Tuesday’s match is questionable, fast bowler Ali Khan is expected to play and Munro will miss the rest of the tournament.
The Tallawahs just qualified for the semi-finals after finishing the preliminary phase with three wins, six losses and one no result.
Tallawahs captain Rovman Powell is anticipating the contest. “The team is gelling pretty good and the guys are optimistic as it regards playing a semi-final, a big clash that’s against the Trinbago Knight Riders.”
Powell is confident that the team will deliver the goods when it matters most. “There is a lot of character in the team and a lot of persons who want to be that guy on a big day and that is important when it comes to a semi-final. A lot of things have not gone well, but even though things have not gone according to plan we have a lot of performers in the team and we definitely looking forward to tomorrow’s (Tuesday’s) game.”
Andre Russell is one of the most destructive batsmen in T20 cricket, but has been inconsistent this year. Powell said Andre is a “performer and we just hope that for the remaining games he comes to the party and give of his best.”
The Tallawahs skipper said he is not counting on TKR having their first poor match of the campaign after winning all ten preliminary matches.
“To be honest it feels good (to have match-winners in the squad like Russell) because knowing the nature of competition teams very rarely go through the entire competition without losing a game. Maybe tomorrow (Tuesday) is Trinidad bad game, (but) hopefully it is not. We want to beat Trinidad, but we want to beat Trinidad in a very good game. We not sitting down and hoping that it is a bad game for them. It is just that we try to control the things that we have control over and hopefully our star players can come to the party in a semi-final like this.”
Amazon Warriors and Zouks ended the preliminary phase with an identical record of six wins and four losses. Tuesday’s winning teams will play in the final at Brian Lara at 10 am, on Thursday.