The Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) became
the first team to go through an entire CPL
season undefeated as a momentum-shifting
bowling performance from captain Kieron Pollard
4-30, followed by a thrilling century partnership
between Lendl Simmons(84*) and Darren Bravo
(58*) comfortably took them past the St Lucia Zouks
by eight wickets to their fourth CPL title. The Knight
Riders won all 12 of their matches played, including
their dominating final victory.
The Knight Riders’ 2020 title was their fourth in the
Tournament’s last six editions, and as their Coach
Brendon McCullum has rightly envisioned, this
indeed is becoming a dynasty. Within the Knight
Riders squad both Dwayne and Darren Bravo have
been involved in all four triumphs. Anderson Phillip,
Colin Munro and Khary Pierre have won it thrice,
while Amir Jangoo, Fawad Ahmed, Ali Khan and
Sunil Narine are among those who have been on
the winning side twice. McCullum and Nikita Miller
have won it twice as a player and now as head coach
and spin-bowling coach respectively, while Kevon
Cooper has won it thrice as a player and now as the
seam-bowling coach.
The continuity within the squad certainly helped
them ease to a fourth title, but the additions of
Kieron Pollard and Lendl Simmons in 2019 and
then Pravin Tambe and Sikandar Raza this year
have also made a difference. Pollard was adjudged
Player of the Tournament, while Simmons was the
Player of the Final. The 48-year-old Tambe bowled
economically in his three appearances while Raza
finished with seven wickets at an average of 15.71.
The Knight Riders’ also enjoyed the distinct
advantage of being the only squad that didn’t have
any changes after the draft and all 17 members got
a game this season. However, nobody was dropped
because of performance or lack thereof, according
to Pollard. Just how strong was their bench?
Akeal Hosein, their fourth-choice spinner, stepped
up in the semi-final with a Player-of-the-Match
performance.
Another indisputable factor behind TKR’s
Tournament dominance was Pollard’s extremely
astute leadership as captain, characterized as it was
by his uniquely out-of-the-box strategies. Notably,
Pollard installed himself at silly point or short leg for Guyana Amazon
Warriors’ Ross Taylor in the opener and Daren Sammy in the final,
amplifying the threat of his spinners.
Pollard was also quite savvy with his match-ups, unleashing his
legspinners and left-arm spinners on right-handers and largely
using his offspinners against left-handers. In the second leg of the
tournament at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, the tracks became
better for batting, but Pollard and Bravo shifted their lines wider to
stop batsmen from lining up the smaller boundary.
With the entire tournament having been played in Trinidad across
two venues in the wake of the corona virus pandemic, TKR also had a
massive home advantage, which played a part in their success as well.
All 11 of their local players, right from rookies Amir Jangoo and Tion
Webster to leaders Pollard and Bravo, are based out of Trinidad and
Tobago. In addition to that, some of those players had the chance to
train outside the bubble, before the start of the
tournament, when other squads were cooped
up in their hotel rooms.
Knight Riders also had tosses go their
way. They won seven tosses this season -
no other side had won as many. It was
the outstanding adaptability of TKR’s
batsmen which may however have
been the final, most telling factor of
influence in their eventual dominance.
While the 2019 champions Barbados
Tridents were routed for three successive
sub-100 scores on turning tracks - and
other teams similarly struggled to force
the pace - Knight Riders and runners-up
Zouks were the only sides to breach 170 this CPL.
While Zouks did it just once, Knight Riders topped
170 four times, all while batting first.
It helped that they had bonafide power-hitters in
the middle order who could take the pitch out of
the equation. Pollard and Darren Bravo often took
the opposition attack out of the equation as well,
shellacking 20 sixes each. After a sedate start in the
tournament and even in the final, in isolation, opener
Lendl Simmons made up for his lackadaisical running
between the wickets with some brutal six-hitting
when everything was on the line. He, too, finished
with 20 sixes this season, and went past Chris
Gayle to became the leading run-getter
across seasons in the CPL.
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