So which is the stronger side, Daren Ganga’s Champions League finalists of 2009 or Denesh Ramdin’s 2013 outfit?
That was the strange question for the fans watching on TV during yesterday’s game between Trinidad and Tobago and Hyderabad Sunrisers.
Yesterday’s four-wicket loss to the Sunrisers may make the answer to such a question seem obvious. Ganga’s pioneers did not lose a single match until the final itself where the New South Wales Blues made up for their spectacular loss to T&T earlier in the series by claiming the first CLT20 title.
Two games into their 2013 campaign though, Ramdin’s men have already tasted defeat. But Ramdin could argue that Group B, from which his team is seeking to progress, contains tougher opposition in IPL sides Chennai Super Kings, Sunrisers, Titans from South Africa and the Brisbane Heat side from Down Under than did the group in 2009 that contained, New South Wales, Somerset, Diamond Eagles and the Deccan Chargers.
Comparisons are often a waste though, especially when the time period is so close that the nucleus of the two sides has remained intact. And while this 2013 team cannot call on established T20 heavyweights Pollard and Dwayne Bravo; and Daren Ganga is no longer guiding the side as captain, T&T are still a “Red Force” because of Sunil Narine and his spinning tricks. Narine did not play a game in that 2009 series. But so great has been his impact in the shorter formats since then, that it can easily be forgotten that he only began representing the West Indies in 2011.
However, T&T’s reputation in T20s was not built around the “mystery spinner” or in fact any one man. That is perhaps the legacy of Ganga’s Champions League trailblazers. The aggressive, flamboyant batting at the top of the order by Lendl Simmons, the then new hotshot Adrian Barath and William Perkins, was combined with Dwayne Bravo’s work with bat and ball and Pollard’s explosiveness, supported at times by the captain and wicketkeeper Ramdin. They were complemented by the skilful efficiency of Ravi Rampaul and Samuel Badree opening the bowling, backed up by Dave Mohammed and Sherwin Ganga.
The discipline and tactical nous that skipper Darren brought to the team helped to knit together a unit; one which never lost their Caribbean identity and played with a freedom that wowed India.
That 2009 side set a standard that has been difficult to match. Ramdin’s men have the same challenge this time.
Some of T&T’s old strengths remain. As they showed in the first match against Brisbane Heat when their side defended 135 surprisingly easily, Rampaul and Badree remain among the best in the T20 business when it comes to getting early wickets (Rampaul) and stifling quick scoring (Badree). Narine is an even bigger weapon—capable of performing both those roles—that can be deployed at any stage in an innings. And even though he has not come off in the two matches so far, Simmons still gives the side the ability to put early pressure on the opposition inside the first six overs.
Like Ganga, Ramdin is also a proactive leader in the field. He can use his bowlers to suit as the situation demands, as he has shown in the two games thus far.
Ramdin also continues to be an important contributor with the bat; too important a contributor perhaps.
On paper, it would have seemed that T&T should have had an easier time defending 160 as opposed to 135, but the venue yesterday, Mohali, with its heavy due, was different to Ranchi. And so was the opposition.
The combination of Shikhar Dhawan, JP Duminy, Thisara Perera and Darren Sammy is a serious one to contend with in this format. All it takes on a given day is for one, or two of them to get off in combination and a decent total can become inadequate. So it proved yesterday.
Perera was devastating, hitting with real power and precision. Most important of all, he batted through to the final over to ensure that the momentum he had helped to establish for the Sunrisers did not fizzle. Rayad Emrit had a horror 17th over, yes. But perhaps the lack of a few more runs was the true difference between victory and defeat for T&T yesterday.
Beautifully as he played for his 66, Darren Bravo gave his hand away at just the wrong time—the 14th over with the total on 110. This was the stage at which real acceleration should have been about to begin. Instead, Bravo and Jason Mohammed, having put on 61 together for the third wicket, fell without a run being added. Two new batsmen were suddenly at the crease and in the last two overs especially, T&T failed to pick up the extra ten runs or so that Ramdin reckoned they needed.
It was by no means the first instance that Bravo, the younger, has failed to go all the way when well set. It is something he needs to correct as a matter of urgency if T&T are to progress far in this series. There is extra responsibility on him and Simmons to do the business, since Simmons’ opening partner in the first two games—Evin Lewis—is a rookie in this arena. Nicholas Pooran is just as green and Ramdin’s is not a power game. It is in the middle that Dwayne Bravo and Pollard are still sorely missed. As useful as the lower order can be, none of Navin Stewart, Narine, Emrit, Badree or Rampaul can be relied upon to for consistent output. So it is almost a case of top or nothing.
This side, built upon the spirit of ’09, will fight hard in every game they play. But to be champions, T&T will need that “ummph,” that extra force to get them over the boundary sometimes.
Not sure they have it this year.