ALL-ROUNDER Mark Deyal has not represented Trinidad and Tobago on any level for the past seven years. He may be unfamiliar to the Red Force kit but the 28-year-old has been gradually carving his own career path by way of T20 franchise cricket.
Deyal’s lone stint with the TT cricket team was in 2015, during a Regional Four-Day match against Leeward Islands. Since his first-class debut, he’s never made the cut for a TT team call-up in any format.
For the love of the game, Deyal adapted and forcibly transitioned his mindset to suit T20 franchise cricket. Annually, he now plays in three major tournaments – Hero Caribbean Premier League T20, Abu Dhabi T10 and the US Open T20 Tournament.
But the son of ex-TT batsman Deonarine Deyal still yearns for a TT team selection in any format. In the interim, he must remain active and relevant to stay in sight of both TT and West Indies selectors in hope of a long-awaited call-up.
Franchise tournaments though, remain his only income-earner. This means his performances either increase or decrease his chances of being selected to other franchise teams and tournaments.
“Not being called to the national team for so many years, franchise cricket has become very important for me both as a career and from a financial point of view. The reason I have been playing so (much) T20 cricket is because that’s where the opportunities have been coming up.
“As a professional, and with cricket being my career, I can only play where I’m selected. I haven’t been selected (for TT) at the four-day (tournament), so I have been taking the opportunities I have been getting at the franchise level,” he said.
Deyal has only played national cricket at the Under-15 level and his lone appearance with the TT team in 2015, when he scored 12 and two runs respectively. He hopes this one match was not what defined his future as a four-day player.
That year, the left-handed batsman made his CPLT20 debut with TT Red Steel (now Trinbago Knight Riders), and like the franchise, lifted the crown for the first time.
In 2016, when he was not selected to the Red Force four-day team, he decided to focus on completing his degree in sport studies, with a major in sport management, at UTT (University of Trinidad and Tobago).
He graduated the following year and returned to cricket in 2018, at the Global T20 in Canada with the Winnipeg Hawks. He was recalled to Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) in 2019 and then debuted at the Abu Dhabi T10 with Northern Warriors.
In 2020, Deyal was snapped up by St Lucia Zouks for the CPLT20 and was integral in leading his team to the semi-finals, losing out to eventual winners TKR.
Last year, he was retained by the renamed St Lucia Kings and reached the final, but stumbled at the last hurdle against first-time winners and a Dwayne Bravo-led St Kitts and Nevis Patriots.
Deyal has also been playing in the US Open T20 for several years and also featured for Combined Campuses and Colleges (CCC) – now West Indies Emerging Players – in the regional Super50 tournament in 2016 and 2017.
“I always thought of myself as being able to play every format, because I made my debut at the four-day level before I even played any T20 cricket," Deyal said.
“I’ve never had the chance to play for TT after that one game, but it’s always a desire of mine to represent my country at any level, any format, in anything and at any time.
“I always wanted to represent my country, but I’ve never really got the opportunity to. I also started to get branded as a T20 player, so in the regional four-day format I was not really being looked at by selectors,” he added.
Before the abrupt cancellation of the 2020 season because of the pandemic in March that year, Deyal, representing Preysal Sports Club, led all scorers in the TT Cricket Board’s three-day tournament.
He tallied 415 runs in five innings, including two centuries. The off-spinner also bagged 12 wickets in his team’s shortened campaign.
That year, Deyal said, covid19 seemed to quell all hopes of a national team call-up.
“We (Preysal) had, I think, two more games to go, but the season was called off because of covid19. That season I was really hoping to get a national team call-up, because my mind was set on it. Because, being branded as a T20 player, I wanted to show everyone that I’m more versatile and not a one-dimensional player.
"So I took the three-day club cricket seriously, to show I could score the most runs in this (format) as well. I was on my way to doing it, being the leading run-scorer – and then it got cancelled.”
With uncertainty surrounding his future national or West Indies T20 team selection, Deyal has made up his mind to do all he can, with whatever tournaments he’s been invited to, to ensure he wns favour with selectors.
“I would love to play more tournaments, and that’s where the performances come in. The better I play, I would get more franchise contracts. That happened last year, when I ended off CPLT20 well and got selected for the T10.
"There’s a lot of cricket to be played this year.
“I’m just trying to stay fit, be hopeful and wait on a call-up from franchise or at the national level. Three to four tournaments for the year is okay, but I would love to be playing year-round – six-seven tournaments. Those tournaments will only come with better performances.”
He continues to train towards enhancing his three-dimensional (batting, bowling and fielding) player portfolio, an asset most regional and international T20 franchises look for when scouting for players.
“Being three-dimensional gives me a better chance because teams are always looking for all-rounders, more so than specialist batsmen or bowlers, because you can contribute in each department.
“I would love to be picked for the Indian Premier League, because it’s the mecca of franchise cricket. That, for me, is a goal. That’s why I try to better my performances at every tournament. Playing in the IPL for any franchise is a dream of mine. When you build your career around franchise cricket, the IPL is a main goal.
But, he added, “I’m realistic with my goals and I’d love to represent TT and West Indies at any format, but T20 is the only format I’m playing.”