Friday, February 23, 2018

Red Steel feeling the love


WINNING WAYS: Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel captain Dwayne Bravo celebrates getting a wicket during his team’s nine-wicket win over the St Lucia Zouks in the Limacol Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 match at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain on Sunday. —Photo: CPLT20

Mark Fraser

Last year, Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel left the Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, pitch to a chorus of boos by disappointed home fans who had watched the team get walloped by seven wickets by Guyana Amazon Warriors after being skittled for 103 runs.

Since then, the Red Steel have not lost at the Tragarete Road venue, and of course, owing to their top spot on the table, Dwayne Bravo’s men are feeling the love.

Bravo admitted after Sunday night’s nine-wicket thumping of St Lucia Zouks at the Oval that he had not forgotten the T&T fans’ reaction last season.

It showed, as the Red Steel captain ensured his team made a lap of the ground in thanks to the crowd after the team won their third straight contest there, following earlier triumphs against Jamaica Tallawahs and the Amazon Warriors.

“I can remember last year, losing in the semi-finals, getting a big boo,” Bravo recalled. “I accept it and I understand the fans were hurting and disappointed at that time, and now we’re getting the love again. Trinidad and Tobago people, they love their cricket, they love their sport and you can’t fault them for anything.”

Bravo had a lot more than just the result to be proud about. They players were excited to have met Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar before the encounter. They’ve also developed a “winning habit”, the all-rounder explained, and he was also heartened by the fact that most of his players have come into form.

Much of the credit, Bravo said, goes to coach Simon Helmot.

“That’s the big difference and that’s the plus we have. The level of professionalism he brings within our group, it’s second to none,” said the West Indies ODI captain. The results, he said, are the culmination of focus and teamwork.

Helmot, meanwhile, paid tribute to the mentorship of ex-Windies opener Gordon Greenidge, from which he said he also benefits, along with the hard work of assistant coach David Williams and the impressive energy of former T&T batsman Imran Jan. That combination, he said, has worked well for the team, but he stressed that their job is not yet over with three group stage matches left.

Helmot also paid tribute to Evin Lewis for his blazing innings of 77 (45 balls) that led the Red Steel comfortably home.

“He’s playing beautifully,” Helmot said of the 22-year-old. “I thought tonight he played his best innings. It was his most organised innings, the way he manipulated the strike, he got his opening partner into the game as well, and his boundary hitting and his positivity (was great).

“I thought that was (Lewis’s) best innings for the tournament and we know he’s such a great striker, his strike rate was terrific. We’re glad that we’ve got him and Kevin (O’Brien) opening. In the first four games we didn’t get off to a flyer in the sense of wickets lost, so we’re really pleased that he’s doing well.”

Zouks coach Matthew Maynard was understandably unhappy with how his team have played so far in this tournament. They sit last and winless on the standings after four matches.

“All the individual performances, with our top three batsmen we’ve only got one 50 in the whole series. That’s just not good enough,” was Maynard’s sober assessment of his team.

He lamented the poor start to the tournament, their lack of individual scores and partnerships and “soft” dismissals, and hinted at impending changes in the team’s line-up.

“You’re not going to be putting enough runs on the board the majority of times. That’s where our faults lies. The bowlers aren’t executing the plans, but I think the root of our woes is we’re not (playing) well as a batting group.”