On Sunday night, the curtains came down on a glittering sixth season of CPL T20 with an anti-climax of a Final. Fittingly, the two best teams of the tournament did battle. And fittingly, Dwayne Bravo’s Trinbago Knight Riders cruised home – and became the first ever CPL T20 team to have won the title thrice. The defending champions had no problems dispatching the spunky Guyana Amazon Warriors at the Brian Lara Cricket Academy, winning by 8 wickets. Their path to the final was more complicated after they lost Qualifier 1 to the Warriors, which forced them to down Chris Gayle’s St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots in Qualifier 2.
In the end, the Knight Riders won 9 out of the 13 matches they played in the CPL this season. Here are some of the key highlights of CPL 2018:
The Universe Boss is Fading
Chris Gayle, widely known as the greatest batsman in the history of T20 cricket, is well into his twilight years in the game’s shortest format. In the last two years now, he has only shown glimpses of his destructive past. But his performance in CPL, as captain of the Patriots, clearly shows why IPL – RCB let go of him, only for KXIP to punt on him in 2018 – does not consider him a big-ticket anymore. 283 runs in 11 matches is mediocre in his home league, more so because it came at a paltry strike rate of 120 – by far the least strike rate in the top 10 run-getters of CPL. Even in the successful chase against Jamaica Tallawahs in the eliminator, his 26 came off 30 balls.
David Warner is still Hurting
Banned Aussie opener Warner, till a year ago the premier T20 opener in franchise cricket (look at his record for the Sunrisers Hyderabad), is low on confidence after the ball-tampering controversy. This reflected in his tentative performances as the opener of the bottom-placed St. Lucia Stars. 220 runs in 9 games is poor by his standards, but that strike rate of 111 is the clincher – Warner is probably in the toughest mental battle of his life right now. And it’s showing.
Shimron Hetmyer is the Real Deal
The Guyana Amazon Warriors MVP, Hetmyer, carried their batting with 1 century and 2 fifties in 12 innings. His 440 runs were much lesser than Colin Munro’s consistent brilliance for the Knight Riders, but the strike rate of 150 proves that he can adapt to all forms and that West Indies will have to nurture and invest in him. Otherwise, his career might resemble that of the man right below him in the runs table – Darren Bravo.
Colin Munro Future IPL Star
Munro hasn’t quite set the Indian Premier League on fire yet, but the Kiwi opener has come into his own in the last few months, setting the CPL on fire. His 567 runs with 6 fifties in 13 innings is the highest ever run aggregate for a batsman in the six seasons so far – and it was only fitting that he hit the championship-winning runs for the Trinbago Knight Riders in the Final after chasing down the 150-odd score.
Khary Pierre The Underdog
Trinbago Knight Riders’ trump card, 26-year-old West Indian bowler Khary Pierre, shaped their playoffs with some defining performances, especially with his three-for in the Final. Pierre only played 7 out of their 13 matches but came away with 11 wickets at the least average in the CPL (13.3) and the best economy rate (5.65). The Knight Riders greatly profited from his skills when it mattered – because the Warriors hadn’t seen enough of the bowler in the group stages.
Better Late Than Fawad
36-year-old leg spinner Fawad Ahmed, the Pakistan-born cousin of Yasir Shah who is now an Australian citizen, spun a web around the CPL batsmen in his favorite format. Ahmed hasn’t played any international matches for Australia after 2013, but he threw his hat in the ring for the shortest format with a mesmerizing performance – 22 wickets in 13 games at an average of 13.7 and an economy rate of 6.2. Not once did he take more than 3 wickets – which goes to show how consistent he was for the Trinbago Knight Riders. In the end, it was between Munro and him as the player of the tournament.
Pollard Trying Hard
Kieron Pollard, almost an honourary Mumbai citizen by now for his loyalty to the Mumbai Indians, tried his best to raise a sinking team. But the St. Lucia Stars were doomed for their reliance on him – he scored 330 runs at an average of 48 (including a blazing century) and took 4 wickets in 9 games. But it wasn’t enough, and Pollard may not be the force he once was in T20 cricket.