Tony Becca, Contributor
For cricket fans around the Caribbean, or wherever they are around the world, once they are fortunate enough to be able to see it, this is the time of the year to sit back, relax, and enjoy the game, enjoy cricket, Twenty20 cricket, West Indian style.
This is the time of the year, in the Caribbean, of the T20 carnival - the time when the six major teams, and one other, all from inside the West Indies, get together in two countries to swing their bats, bowl straight, and to do acrobatic and sometimes unbelievable things in the field.
This is the time when batsmen tend to hit sixes so high and so long that the ball, sometimes, seems to go into outer space before it comes back, if it ever comes back, and when batsmen, sometimes, seem to get themselves into all sorts of contortions in an attempt to hit the ball.
This is the time when bowlers appeal for leg-before-wicket decisions every time the batsmen miss the ball, the time when the umpires truly earn their pay.
This is the time of the year when Trinidad and Tobago flex their muscles over their West Indian brothers, or cousins, following their remarkable record in the competition, and other competitions.
Trinidad and Tobago have dominated regional T20 cricket. They have won it the past two years, they have represented the West Indies in India and in South Africa, they have done well, and they boast players like the much-lauded hitter Kieron Pollard, Lendl Simmons, Darren Bravo, Jason Mohammad, William Perkins as batsmen, Dwayne Bravo as an all-rounder, Denesh Ramdin as a wicketkeeper/batsman, Kevin Cooper, and Shannon Gabriel as fast bowlers, and Sunil Narine and Samuel Badree as spin bowlers.
The question is this: can anyone beat them this time around?
Jamaica, oftentimes promising a lot only to deceive, also oftentimes, have a good team, and could, despite the absence of both Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, produce the goods this time.
They have in their midst the hard-hitting all-rounder André Russell and a string of useful batsmen, including Nkrumah Bonner and the younger John Campbell.
Strength in pacers
Jamaica's strength, however, lies in the bowling of pacers, left-handers Krishmar Santokie and Sheldon Cotterell, and in spinners, left-hander Nikita Miller, right-arm leg-spinner Odean Brown, and off-spinner Jamie Merchant.
From Guyana will come a batting line-up of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Narsingh Deonarine, Leon Johnson, Chris Barnwell, and Jonathon Foo - the star batsman of three years ago, and a bowling attack led by West Indies newcomer Veersammy Permaul and West Indies discard, right-arm leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo.
From Barbados will come the hard-hitting all-rounder Dwayne Smith, Jonathon Carter, Ryan Nurse, Shamarh Brooks, and Ashley Nurse, also Carlos Braithwaite, and an attack led by West Indies pacers Tino Best and Fidel Edwards and left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn.
From the Leeward Islands, from the team that has disappointed over the last few years, will come a batting line-up led by Kieran Powell - the latest in a long line of West Indian batting "immortals", Chesney Hughes, Tonito Willette, and the resurrected Sylvester Josephs as well as wicket-keeper/batsman Devon Thomas, pace bowler Gavin Tonge, and spinner bowlers, Justin Athanaze and Anthony Martin.
And coming from the Windward Islands, the team which surprised all and sundry, including probably all but themselves, by reaching the final two years ago, will be the hard-hitting all-rounder Darren Sammy, André Fletcher, Johnson Charles, and veteran Devon Smith as batsmen, left-arm pacer Delorn Johnson, Kenroy Peters, and Nolan Pascal as fast bowlers, and left-arm spinner Garey Mathurin and off-spinner Shane Shillingford as slow bowlers.
The other team, the team which is in it for experience but with many hoping that it will surprise, is the Combined Campuses and Colleges, the team which parades players such as batsman Kyle Corbin, off-spinner Ryan Austin, and fast bowlers Jason Holder and Kevin McClean of Barbados, and right-arm leg-spinner Akeem Dewar and wicket-keeper/batsman Chadwick Walton of Jamaica.
This tournament is not a Test championship, of which the West Indies are past champions, and it is not a limited-over, a 50-over, contest, of which the Windies are also past champions.
Most exciting players
It is a T20 tournament, and as reigning champions of the world, as their representatives, cricket fans around the world are looking forward to witnessing some of the most exciting players in action, and in Pollard and Dwayne Bravo, in Dwayne Smith and Russell, in Foo and in Charles, and in Sammy and in Charles, there are many exciting batsmen to see.
In Edwards and Best, in Santokie and Cotterell, in Holder and McClean, in Peters and Pascal, in Rampaul and Gabriel, and in Benn and Miller, in Permaul and Bishoo, in Narine and Badree, in Mathurin and Shillingford, and in Martin and Athanaze there are also many bowlers of pace and spin to watch.
And for those who love to see running, fielding, and throwing of the highest quality, plus unbelievable catching, there are players like Dwayne Bravo, Dwayne Smith, Bishoo, Martin, Russell, Pollard and others to see.
The Caribbean T20 goes from today to January 20, it promises a lot of excitement as batsmen go down on their knees to play the 'Dilshan Scoop' off the pacer or off the slow bowlers, over their heads and over the wicketkeeper's head, and down to the boundary, or over the boundary, as bowlers sweat in their effort to stop them, and as fielders break their necks in desperate attempts to cut the flow of runs
Who will win it? It is, as is usual, difficult to pick the winners. Common sense, however, suggests that in this battle of West Indian cricket, of T20 excitement, you do not bet against the favourites - and the favourites, again, are Trinidad and Tobago.