Tony Becca | CPL cricket, excitement at its best
The 2018 CPL season has come and gone, leaving behind memories of some really exciting and wonderfully entertaining cricket.
For those who love to see cricket at its best, however, especially to see an intense, no-holds-barred contest with batsmen reeling off some beautiful, elegant, and calculated stroke play; bowlers rolling out some hostile deliveries and some baffling wrist-spin bowling, and with excitement; plus drama, the order of the day, the action was not really their cup of tea.
Those who simply love to see acrobatic shots played generally without hardly any fear of missing the ball and getting out, lustily-hit sixes glistening in the night, and dazzling catches, however, it was a grand show, a festival of fun, plenty of entertainment, on the field and off the field, by cricketers and fans alike, including the commentators who, generally, were like band leaders or cheer leaders.
Stuart Robinson, the marketing manager of the England Cricket Board who tabled the idea of T20 cricket in England in 2003 as a way of attracting fans to the game, must be smiling now.
After weeks of hopping from country to country, including America, of music, giveaways, and dancing, on and off the field, aimed at bringing more and more fans through the gates, the Trinbago Knight Riders won the tournament for the third time and the second consecutive time, and despite the luxury of playing back-to-back finals at home, heartiest congratulations to them for comfortably getting the better of the Guyana Warriors in the final.
After jumping out to a wonderful start with a wicket off the first delivery, and ending the exercise with a boundary, the scores were Warriors 147 for nine, Knight Riders 150 for two off 17.3 overs.
Although because of the nature of T20 cricket it was difficult to single out the stars of the Knight Riders, it is safe to say that apart from all the brilliant displays, with bat and ball, congrats to Darren Bravo, whose contribution included a fantastic innings of 94 not out off 36 deliveries and including 10 sixes; to Brendan McCullum; to Dwayne Bravo, who hit five consecutive sixes in one over; and to Sunil Narine, who took one wicket while conceding only nine runs off his four overs on one occasion.
For the Warriors, it was another losing final, and it was, unfortunately, fourth time unlucky, and it was unlucky in spite of the brilliance of hometown batsman Shimron Hetmyer on most occasions.
The tournament will be remembered for many things, not least of all for the pitches. All but one or two were good pitches, especially for limited-over cricket, and the result was, for the first time, totals of over 200 - and nine of them at that - with a record total of 226 for six by the St Lucia Stars.
There is little doubt that the pitches, despite the poor umpiring, accounted for the many brilliant individual batting performances, including Andre Russell's masterpiece - 121 not out off 49 deliveries with six fours and 13 sixes and with 100 runs coming off only 40 deliveries - and Kieron Pollard's 50 off 18 deliveries on his way to an innings of 103 runs.
The other century-makers were Hetmyer with a level 100 and Glen Phillips, 103, with Colin Munro, who also hit the competition's record aggregate of 567 runs, scoring 90, and Darren Bravo smashing a memorable innings of 94 not out.
The exciting encounters included Jamaica's miraculous survival against the Trinbago Knight Riders, who made 223 for six and had the Tallawahs in the grave at 41 for five after 6.1 overs, at almost 41 for six after 6.2 overs, before Kamar Lewis, 51, and Russell, 121 not out, rescued them with a telling partnership of 161 runs off 11.3 overs deliveries as the Tallawahs won the match at 225 for six with three deliveries to spare.
They also included finishes off the penultimate delivery like those between the Knight Riders, 122 for seven, and the Warriors, 126 for eight; and between the Tallawahs, 191 for five, and the Patriots, 193 for eight; and not to be forgotten, the last-ball victory by the Tallawahs, 182 for six, and TKR, 184 for six.
The excitement also included scores of towering and long sixes with Phillips heading the individual list with 29, followed by Darren Bravo, 24, and Hetmyer, 23, with Dwayne Bravo striking five consecutive sixes.
Also joining the fun were pace bowler Sohail Tanvir, who smashed the penultimate delivery from Dwayne Bravo in one match for six to win the game, and Ben Cutting, who smashed the penultimate delivery, bowled by Rovman Powell, in another match for six, also to win.
It was not all fun, entertainment, and excitement, however, at least not while pacer Ali Khan and right-arm wrist spinner Fawad Ahmed were bowling; and certainly not while Mohammed Irfan, the tallest man in cricket, was creating the T20 record of four overs, three maidens, one run, and two wickets; and not while Oshane Thomas was bowling as fast as the wind and picking up wickets.
The delivery that bowled Shai Hope was a real beauty, probably better than that which cut down Chris Gayle at Sabina Park last year.
Looking back, the 2018 staging of the CPL was the best ever, and it was the best from a West Indian viewpoint not only because of the greater involvement of West Indian players, but because of the greater participation of more nationals on the respective franchise teams, e.g., the Jamaica Tallawahs, the Barbados Tridents, and the Trinbago Knight Riders.
It was especially good to see the number of youngsters given the opportunity to step into the night, to play under lights, and to see them fitting in nicely.
Regardless of the reasons, however, it was disappointing, in a "competitive" tournament, to see the Jamaica Tallawahs playing so many of their "home" matches away from home, and to see one franchise, the Trinbago Knight Riders, hosting back-to-back finals.
The CPL, with its following of fathers and mothers, and sons and daughters all blowing horns and waving flags; dancing girls in their costumes; men dressed up and doing all sorts of things; music and the dancing of the players in celebration of taking wickets and brilliant catches, provided tremendous sights and lovely sounds on and off the field.
It was, especially in Trinidad, like a carnival. It was like going to a carnival and seeing some cricket.
Apart from the puzzling decision to bat players like Russell, Powell, Pollard, and Carlos Brathwaite, players with the skill, or the promise, to hit the ball and to make big scores, or who had done so before, so low in 20-over cricket that sometimes their talent was wasted, CPL 2018 also provided some entertaining and exciting cricket.
Youngsters like batsmen Nicholas Pooran, Fabian Allen, and Sherfane Rutherford; fast bowlers Oshane Thomas and Obed McCoy; and left-arm spin bowler Khary Pierre, paraded their skill and hinted of things to come.
On the other hand, young batsmen like Hetmyer and Rovman Powell had demonstrated their gift previously, skills that the West Indies selectors had earlier and properly recognised.