Tony Becca: Trinidad and Tobago all the way
The Trinidad and Tobago Red Force, short of some of their better players, by birth, including Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Lendl Simmons, and Samuel Badree, walked away with the Nagico Super50 Trophy a week ago, and easily and comprehensively at that.
Led by batsmen Darren Bravo and Denesh Ramdin towards the end, left-handed opening batsman Ervin Lewis, who dazzled for a while, all-rounder Narsingh Deonarine, and medium-pacer Rayad Emrit, as well as opening batsman Kyle Ottley, pacer Marlon Richards, off-spinner John Russ Jaggesar, and left-arm spinner Akeal Hosein, Trinidad and Tobago were in control from start to finish.
Considered not good enough to win the tournament at the start, the team began well, playing confidently and attractively before they were joined by their two big guns. From there on, there was no doubt, or hardly any doubt, as to who the winners would be.
The Red Force of Trinidad and Tobago rolled past the toothless Guyana Jaguars in the semi-finals by 54 runs, and past the humiliated Barbados Pride by 72 in the final.
In losing one match, to Barbados, when it did not matter, Trinidad and Tobago Red Force were streets and lanes above the others. Barbados, Guyana, the Windward Islands, and Jamaica were no match for the Red Force, and much better than the International Cricket Council (ICC) Americas, who failed to win a game, and the Leeward Islands, who won one.
Trinidad and Tobago's Lewis, who cracked 74 off 74 deliveries and 102 not out off 100 deliveries against Jamaica, and Kyle Hope and Kjorn Ottley looked good at the start, Richards bowled well, Emrit also bowled well, and Jaggesar, Deonarine, and Hosein all bowled well - all three spin bowlers mixing good line, good length, and teasing flight to stifle the opposing batsmen.
Against this, none of the other teams looked good in a tournament during which the batting was disappointing, the bowling was embarrassingly wayward, and the fielding was atrocious.
The batting, with the exception of Darren Bravo, was poor, with the likes of the since-retired Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Assad Fudadin, Nkrumah Bonner, Shai Hope, AndrÈ McCarthy, Chadwick Walton, and Carlos Brathwaite of Australia fame getting only one good score in six or seven innings each.
Bravo was good, stroking 82, 95, and 97 for 274 runs in three innings at a good clip of average of 91.33. That was a far cry from the 259 runs in seven innings for an average of 51.80 by Fudadin in second place and from the 251 at 41.83 in third place by McCarthy.
In fact, after a tournament of eight teams playing in two groups of return matches and before empty stands but for one semi-final and the final, with the top two teams in each group meeting in the semi-finals and final, only seven teams scored more than 200 runs in a match, only three batsmen scored more than 100 runs in an innings, only two batsmen averaged over 50, and regardless of the state of the pitches, that was bad, especially with the low standard of fielding throughout.
It was even worse when one considered the standard of the bowling. Only one bowler, pacer Delorn Johnson of the Windward Islands, took six wickets in an innings, and despite the poor bowling and ragged fielding, only three bowlers, including Jamaica's Damion Jacobs, took five wickets in an innings.
In fact, only Richards, Johnson, Emrit, Jaggesar, and Hosein impressed as bowlers, or looked promising as bowlers.
While the tournament was a success for the Red Force, the one-eyed man in a blind man's games, it was poor for the other teams, and particularly so for Guyana and for Jamaica, who went into it with much hope.
With Trinidad and Tobago playing like champions throughout, especially in the semi-finals and final, knocking off Guyana by 54 runs after posting 259 for 9 and limiting the Guyana to 205 after the Jaguars were reeling at 42 for three after 20 overs, and Barbados by 72 after dashing to 270 for seven and brushing the Pride aside for 198 after the ninth wicket had fallen at 149 with 15.4 overs to go.
Jamaica's feeble attempt included a winning 139 for 8 against Barbados, a losing 139 against Trinidad and Tobago, a losing 176 versus Trinidad and Tobago, and a losing 173 against Barbados.
It is true that Jamaica recorded three victories, but two of those victories, thanks to the leg-spinners of Jacobs, and a maiden century from McCarthy, came when they dismissed the weak ICC Americas for 76 runs in the first match before narrowly squeezing home in the second match in the last over and by one wicket.
The standard of the tournament was best defined by the difference of the batting of Darren Bravo and the rest, including Guyana's feeble offering when they crawled to 42 for three after 20 overs against Trinidad and Tobago in one semi-final, the Windward Islands 175 against Barbados in the other semi-final, and the batting of Barbados in the final.
It was as if the batsmen of Barbados Pride, all of them and every one of them, were playing against a turning ball for the first time in their lives.