Caribbean Premier League defending champions Jamaica Tallawahs seem to flourish whenever the odds are heavily stacked against them. Last year was no different, because they came through the playoffs eliminator to be crowned champions over Barbados Royals in the final by eight wickets.
Tallawahs are winners of three CPL titles – 2013, 2016 and 2022 – and are planning to add one more to the trophy cabinet so they can be on par with the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR). However, they will be without inspirational captain Rovman Powell, who was surprisingly traded to the Royals in exchange for leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr. Powell`s leadership capabilities landed him the captaincy of the West Indies T20 team a few months ago. Tallawahs will miss his calm demeanour and the 281 runs he scored batting at the crucial number four position.
The bulk of the scoring will now fall on the shoulders of WI opener Brandon King, who was the leading run-scorer last year, with 422 runs, including a century and two 50s. Even more so, King will have to capitalise in the powerplay and bat deep into the innings. The elegant batter from Jamaica, who has been a permanent member of the WI limited-overs team, will need another Most Valuable Player season to get his team over the line.
In the latter stages of last season, Shamarh Brooks finally arrived at the “biggest party in sport” and stamped his class. He played some crucial innings for his team, mainly an unbeaten 109 in the semi-final and 47 runs in the final, sharing a match-winning 86-run partnership with King. The stylish Brooks ended the season with 241 runs in seven innings and a healthy strike rate of 153.50.
World Cup winner and former England opening batter Alex Hales will replace Afghanistan fast bowler Naveen ul Haq, who is unavailable for the tournament. He will be a great loss to Tallawahs because of his exceptional bowling in the powerplay and his experience of bowling in the back end of the innings.
Hales is an excellent replacement for Powell: he has over 10,000 runs in the T20 format and won the CPL with Barbados Royals in 2019.
Australian all-rounder Ben Cutting will boost the Jamaica Tallawahs with his skills and experience from playing all over the world. He has played in the CPL before, with the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots in 2018. His lower-order power-hitting will be instrumental to the Tallawahs by lengthening their batting line-up, along with his canny off-break bowling.
Mohammed Amir will give them pace and accuracy in the powerplay and return in the death overs with slower balls and “change-up” deliveries. Last season, the left-arm Pakistani pacer Amir was fourth on the wicket charts, grabbing 16, and with a creditable economy of 6.43.
Another medium-pacer option is Jamaican Nicholson Gordon, who had nine wickets.
There is a possibility that the Tallawahs may open the bowling with left-arm orthodox Imad Wasim. The Pakistani gets the first strike for most of the teams and usually bowls all his overs in one spell or returns for a couple in the middle overs. The all-rounder was exceptional last season, bagging 17 wickets with a healthy economy of under six runs per over.
Lanky Australian off-spinner and former skipper of the Guyana Amazon Warriors Chris Green will also be a leading candidate for bowling the new ball. Green only got eight wickets last season, but his adept skills in the execution of line and length deliveries make it difficult for batsmen to score.
This will be an opportunity for the likes of all-rounders Fabian Allen and Raymon Reifer to reclaim their spots on the WI limited-overs team. Allen added 111 runs and 11 wickets in his last outing and will be aiming for an improved performance with added responsibility. Hayden Walsh Jr will be looking to replicate his MVP performance four seasons ago, and hopefully the new environment and coaching staff will do the trick. Bajan all-rounder Shamar Springer, 25, was part of the Windies under-19 team that won the 2016 ICC World Cup and could have a breakout season.
WI test team vice-captain Jermaine Blackwood will add some experience at the top order, and he can be an option to consolidate the innings if there are any losses of early wickets. Wicket-keeper batsman Aamir Jangoo will be looking to grab his opportunity to be known as one of the top performers in his position. Trinidadian Jangoo got several starts, but never kicked on to record any big scores. Youngsters Kirk Mckenzie and Joshua James must use their playing time as emerging players to impress the coaching in order to be regulars in the starting team.
Familiarity between the players and staff will be an advantage for the Tallawahs, because every member of the current team, excluding Alex Hales, Walsh Jr and Cutting, has represented the franchise in at least one previous season. Also, all players, including the overseas players, have plied their trade in the CPL already, so they are very much aware of the varied conditions in the Caribbean.
The Tallawahs will play yet another season away from their home ground, and will open the tournament against St Lucia Kings on August 16 at the Daren Sammy Stadium.
Imad Wasim, Brandon King, Fabian Allen, Mohammad Amir, Alex Hales, Chris Green, Jermaine Blackwood, Shamarh Brooks, Hayden Walsh Jr, Raymon Reifer, Amir Jangoo, Steven Taylor, Shamar Springer, Nicholson Gordon, Kirk McKenzie, Joshua James