BIG HIT: Jonathan Foo of Guyana hits Lendl Simmons into the stands at long off for one of his two sixes on Friday during the first Caribbean Twenty20 semi-final against Trinidad and Tobago at the Queen's Park Oval. Foo made 14 and Guyana won the match by four runs to move into last night's final against Barbados. • See Page 51. –Photo: ANISTO ALVES

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Santokie, Foo catch the eye

By Tony Cozier

If confident local expectations were deflated and interest diminished by Trinidad and Tobago's loss in Friday's semi-final, leaving their conquerors Guyana and Barbados to contest the title and a place in next month's second Champions League in South Africa, the popularity of the newest version of the game, already established by the Stanford experience, the Indian Premier League (IPL) and other such events, was again confirmed.

Given the distractions in Barbados, it took time for the attendance at Kensington Oval for the first four days to increase from sprinkling to significant.

Once it moved to Port of Spain, Trinidadians were ready. With memories of their team's widely-hailed runners-up performance in the previous Champions League in India still fresh, close to 15,000 were at the Oval to cheer on Daren Ganga's men to their qualifying round victory over Jamaica on Wednesday.

Almost as many were there for the disappointment of Friday's narrow, anti-climactic defeat. The consolation of yesterday's third place playoff and a final not involving their own were unlikely to bring them out in such numbers. Yet the overview must be encouraging for the WICB.

With ESPN providing live, global coverage, it should have no difficulty finding a name sponsor next year. If it does, it needs to shake up its marketing department.

As brief as it was, a few anonymous players advertised themselves as new limited-overs candidates and one or two on the shelf for some time came back into reckoning.

Coach Ottis Gibson would have noted them all but, even more so, the generally naïve tactics and the inferior fielding that demands urgent attention.

When it comes to its evaluation, the WICB needs to consider an adjustment to the format and a time frame outside the rainy season.

Competition between the six territorial teams, with each playing the other and the top four then moving on to semi-finals, would raise standards and create even more intensity.

As it was, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean's sternest rivals, didn't meet. Nor did Barbados and the Leewards and Jamaica and the Windwards.

Canada came by invitation but were not up to scratch. They simply lowered the quality. They and the US come under the ambit of the WICB but West Indies cricket is in such a state at present that it needs to look after itself first.

The CCC more than held their own but it would be a general boost if they were confined to their first-class status and their best players were freed up for their native teams in the shorter versions.

So why weren't Trinidad and Tobago the same outfit that won so many admirers in the first Champions League?

Some time has passed and the closely-knit effort so noticeable then appeared to be missing.

They had to depend on Kieron Pollard's 53 off 20 balls, with seven typically muscular sixes, to get them across the line against the Leewards and Dwayne Bravo's equally pyrotechnic 55 off 20 balls with six sixes to carry them as close as they got in the semi-final.

Adrian Barath and Darren Bravo verified their already known class but others who played important roles in 2008 disappointed.

There were suggestions of complacency from those in the know that it was taken for granted, by fans if not players, that it is their divine right to be the West Indies' representatives in next month's second Champions League in South Africa.

Whether so or not, the most obvious reason why they were not in the final was the five catches and couple of run outs they missed in the semi. In 20 overs, these were unsurmountable handicaps.

With Chris Gayle available, the prodigal son, Marlon Samuels, back after his two-year ICC suspension and their recent overall regional record, Jamaica were seen as Trinidad and Tobago's likeliest challengers, especially after overwhelming the Leewards and Canada in their first two matches. They then inexplicably switched off and were comfortably beaten by Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados.

Gayle appeared even more blasé than usual in the semi-final, prompting Fazeer Mohammed to ask Jeffrey Dujon on television whether he felt it had anything to do with the much discussed preference of Tamar Lambert for the captaincy.

The former Jamaica and West Indies wicket-keeper replied that he didn't think so, but he wasn't entirely convincing.

So it came down to Barbados and Guyana, two teams toughened by early scares.

While Jamaica breezed past the Leewards and Canada (with the need for only three batsmen) and Trinidad and Tobago did the same in the opener against Canada, Barbados had to come through their double-tie, eliminator over win over CCC and Guyana to eek out last-over victories over the Windwards and CCC. The experience prepared them for later pressure.

The relationship between a match lasting 40 overs and one going as many as 450 spanning five days is so tenuous as to make hurricane hitting and gifted wickets in the former utterly irrelevant to the latter. What would have interested Gibson and the selectors more over the past ten days was the players' reaction under the peculiar pressure of T20.

At least two previously anonymous names emerged out of the mayhem of last-over finishes, swirling catches into the night sky and batsmen with sizeable chunks of wood clubbing the ball into the stands.

Krishmar Santokie had previously played just five matches for Jamaica, all one-day 50-50s. Jonathan Foo was making his debut for Guyana. Their consistency, whenever the going got tough, made them two of the standouts.

The left-arm medium-pacer Santokie zeroed into the stumps on a full length ball after ball. No one could get him away (his 15 overs yielded 79) and half of his ten wickets were clean bowled.

As a teenager, he represented the champion West Indies team in the under-15 Costcutter Cup in England in 2000. While Denesh Ramdin, Ravi Rampaul, Lendl Simmons, Xavier Marshall and Lionel Baker of that squad moved onto Test cricket, Santokie, now 25, has been confined to regional cricket. On this evidence, he has earned another look, at least for the 50-overs game.

Foo's matches for Guyana had all been at under-19 level. He turns 20 next month and, prior to the tournament, only his surname and his Chinese heritage would have merited attention. Now his cricket does.

Every time he was needed, he came up with something special--24 not out off ten balls to clinch the last-over decision over the Windwards and 23 not out off 17 balls for a similar win over CCC in the first round.

In Friday's semi-final win over Trinidad and Tobago, he smashed two sixes off his five balls. His interventions in the field were even more crucial.

When Kieron Pollard threatened in Trinidad and Tobago's chase, he held a sprawling, full length catch at long-off to remove him and then coolly collected Dwayne Bravo in the same position to end his plunder.

The scoresheet against CCC read Currency caught Foo. It didn't explain his quick wit to parry a hit that was heading over the boundary back into play and step back in to gather the rebound.

All of this is not to say that Santokie and Foo will become regular features on West Indies limited overs teams.

It does mean that they merit closer attention from Gibson and his staff, that is if the Indian moguls and Bollywood stars who happened to be watching ESPN's coverage haven't already sent out contracts, as they did with Pollard two years back purely on the evidence of his T20 exploits.

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