Dwayne Bravo believes his Trinbago Knight Riders have a good chance of winning the Hero Caribbean Premier League T20 when this year’s tournament gets underway next week.
That confidence is built on a strong squad, on paper at least, and good recent pedigree in the competition. The Trinidad franchise won the CPL in 2015, although then they were known as Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel before new co-owner Shah Rukh Khan took charge and renamed them. Last year, Knight Riders were defeated by the eventual winners, Jamaica Tallawahs, at the semi-final stage.
With Bravo as captain, New Zealand’s Brendon McCullum and South Africa’s Hashim Amla as overseas players and a host of West Indian talent including Sunil Narine and Denesh Ramdin, TKR look well placed to make a strong bid for the title. An extra incentive is that this year’s final will be played in Trinidad at the new Brian Lara Academy. “This year it’s one of our better-balanced teams,” Bravo said.
“We have very good spinners, a very good quick in Ronsford Beaton, good all-rounders and strong batting, with the likes of Amla and McCullum, Colin Munro. So we have a good team but the CPL is a tournament where all the six teams are very good. It’s not a one-sided tournament but I always fancy our chances.”
The CPL looks to have a greater depth this year than previous seasons with a deeper reserve of overseas players, including Kumar Sangakkara, Martin Guptill and Afghanistan’s 18-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan, who the six teams can call on. The recent additions of Pakistani Champions Trophy winners Hasan Ali, Mohammad Hafeez, both to the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, and Babar Azam to Guyana Amazon Warriors has only added to that depth.
The CPL, which started in 2013, is a tournament seemingly moving from strength to strength with attendances, both at the venues and on TV, growing and the financials improving. The standard, aided by increasingly better pitches, is also getting better.
“It’s up there with the IPL and the Big Bash,” said Bravo. “Most of these guys play in these other tournaments [as well as the CPL], like the Amlas and the McCullums, Sangakkara. The entire tournament is tough. It’s short, six teams only, and anybody on their given day can win.”
In Bravo, who has captained the Trinidad franchise for each of the four editions of the CPL to date, TKR has an experienced cricketer able to call on 344 T20 games’ worth of knowledge. He described himself as a “very proactive captain, very positive” as well as “very approachable.” He credits MS Dhoni, who he played under for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL, as the captain he has mostly learnt from. Brian Lara also taught him “the fundamentals of the game” in his early career.
Bravo’s appearances for the West Indies have been limited because of an impasse with the region’s cricket board and this has given him more time to play in Twenty20 tournaments in India, Australia, England, Bangladesh and the UAE.
Given the riches on offer in these competitions, it is a career choice Bravo advised other young West Indians to make. “The CPL is very important because it’s a great opportunity for younger players to showcase their talent. Not only do they have the opportunity to play for the West Indies but T20 cricket is taking the world by storm and you can make a good living out of just playing T20 formats.
“Everyone looks at the CPL because it’s a very attractive tournament. It’s a tournament where you have some of the best players going head to head. Everyone loves coming to the Caribbean and playing, so it’s good. For guys who don’t have the opportunity to play international cricket, at least the CPL gives them a decent pay cheque where they can get a good start in life.”
Bravo said he was hopeful that the long-standing issues between the Board and the players, a situation which has prevented some of the best cricketers in the Caribbean from representing the region, have been resolved. Bravo, one of the foremost white-ball players in the world, has not played an ODI for the West Indies since 2014.
“It’s good to see that everyone is available for selection and be able to represent the region one more time. Hopefully, this time around, things really work out. It’s about time people put aside their egos, understand cricket is the most important thing and give the fans what they want.”