Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) skipper Kieron Pollard says it will be a "magnificent feat" for his team to capture a fifth Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League (CPL) title when they meet host team Guyana Amazon Warriors in the 2023 final at Providence Stadium, Guyana on Sunday. The Warrior's booked their spot in Sunday's final after getting a resounding 81-run win versus outgoing champions Jamaica Tallawahs in the second qualifier on Friday.
Now, captain Imran Tahir's Warriors team will try and accomplish a feat which has eluded them in CPL's 11-year existence – win a CPL title. Warriors will be contesting their sixth CPL final on Sunday – the most by any franchise – and they will be coming up against the tournament's winningest team, TKR.
"We didn't have the best of seasons last year and finished bottom of the table," Pollard said at Saturday's pre-match press briefing. "I think being able to get to the final now, it will be a magnificent feat to get a fifth title for us as a franchise and the supporters around the Caribbean as well."
The teams have had an intriguing rivalry over the past decade in the CPL competition, winning 14 games apiece in their tense head-to-head battles. This will also be the second time the teams are meeting in the CPL final, as TKR powered their way to an eight-wicket win over the Warriors in the 2018 final at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy in Tarouba, Trinidad to get their third CPL title. In that final, former TKR player Colin Munro – the 2018 tournament MVP – struck an unbeaten 68 as the hosts cruised past the 148-run target set by the Warriors.
Pollard hopes the teams can give the Amazon Warriors' 12th man value for their money.
"We are looking forward to a good game of cricket. The fans are very supportive of the home team and rightfully so. At the end of the day, that's the (Guyana Amazon Warriors') 12th man. We have accepted that."
Current TKR players Dwayne Bravo, Ali Khan and mystery spinner Sunil Narine are all survivors from the 2018 team. TKR have since added another title to their collection in 2020. They have also added depth and firepower to their squad, with players such as Andre Russell, Nicholas Pooran, Martin Guptill, Akeal Hosein, Waqar Salamkheil, Pollard and former Warriors player Chadwick Walton all joining in the last few seasons.
On Wednesday night in Providence, Walton put his former team to the sword as he struck an unbeaten knock of 80 off just 57 balls to lead TKR to Sunday's final with a convincing seven-wicket win over the Warriors in the first qualifier. Four days on, Tahir's Warriors are looking for revenge and an elusive CPL crown after their ruthless display against the Tallawahs.
Pollard said Walton's performance gives the team a nice selection headache going into the final.
"I think (the fight for places) is something we are accustomed to. That's a hallmark of a winning franchise. Coming into the final game and having that sort of selection headache is great for us as a team. It is now up to us to decide who will be the best persons to take on the challenge."
The Warriors defeated TKR in their two league outings this season, although the latter were without the injured Bravo and the rested quartet of Khan, Pooran, Russell and Salamkheil for the second of those two matches on September 16. Both teams had already advanced to the first qualifier by then.
There will be no holding back in the final though. Although the Amazon Warriors have lost the CPL finals they have contested, Pollard said his team isn't playing any mind games.
"I don't think we're playing any psychological games or anything like that. It's another game of cricket for us and it's going to be played as such. It will be nice if we can lift a fifth trophy and it will be unfortunate for the opposition."
Both teams have had exceptional individual performances this season. The Warriors boast of this season's two highest run-scorers in Shai Hope (449 runs) and Pakistan left-hand batsman Saim Ayub (426 runs). Pooran, another former Warriors player, leads TKR's scoring charts with 290 runs and is fourth among the CPL's leading scorers this season. Meanwhile, Guptill is seventh on the scoring charts with 262 runs.
In the bowling department, the Warriors trio of Tahir (16 wickets), Dwaine Pretorius (16 wickets) and Gudakesh Motie (13 wickets) are all among the top ten wicket-takers this season. Russell and Salamkheil have both grabbed 11 wickets for TKR and are joint-ninth on the list, while the latter's spell of four for 14 on his CPL debut against Barbados Royals on August 30 remains the best return by any bowler this season.
With several match-winners in both teams, the 2023 CPL final is expected to be a fascinating one. By the time the final ball is bowled in Providence, TKR will be celebrating an unprecedented fifth crown or the Warriors will be lifting their first trophy after five unsuccessful attempts.
"Come out and support. Fill the stadium. Make it loud and let's give the world something good to see. Hopefully, it's going to be a very good final."