By: Chinmay Vaidya
For 11 matches, Guyana Amazon Warriors were perfect. They had marched through the Caribbean Premier League group stage with an undefeated record and put away the Barbados Tridents in Qualifier 1. The Warriors would face the Tridents in the final in what would be the fourth matchup between the teams this year.
In the previous three matches, Guyana won by an average of 29.6 runs. This included a 12-run D/L win. The Warriors never had to chase down a score against the Tridents until the final match. In fact, Guyana only had to chase down a target four times during the entire season. Of those four chases, only two targets were above 150. Only one was above 160. The Warriors were a good batting unit, but it wasn't their strength. Barbados leveraged this minor advantage in the final.
Imran Tahir, Chris Green and Romario Shepherd were the reason for Guyana's undefeated run. The trio combined for 42 wickets, making them three of the top seven wicket takers in the league. The average economy rate for those three bowlers: 6.69. It was incredibly difficult to score off these bowlers for Guyana's opposition, translating to wickets for the Warriors on a regular basis.
Barbados flipped the script in the final. The Tridents maneuvered their way around Tahir, Green and Shepherd. Barbados averaged 7.72 runs per over for these bowlers across 11 overs, which is slightly better than the rest of the league throughout the competition. It was the rest of Guyana's attack that paid the price for this; Barbados averaged 8.77 runs per over for the other nine overs. Jonathan Carter and Ashley Nurse finished the innings with a bang, setting a tough target of 172 for Guyana. Keep in mind the Warriors hadn't hunted down a target this high during the entire league season. The highest successful chase in CPL final history was 148. The pressure was truly on.
Guyana's undefeated season would be the first across the four established T20 leagues in the world (IPL, BBL PSL and CPL). The Melbourne Stars went 8-0 in the league stage of the 2013-14 Big Bash League, but promptly flamed out in the semifinal against Hobart. This would truly be a historic moment for Guyana.
Barbados beat Guyana at its own game with a superb bowling performance from Matt Gurney, Ashley Nurse and Raymon Reifer. The trio combined for eight wickets in 12 overs, yielding only 65 runs. Tahir, Green and Shepherd were outdone by Barbados' attack. Brandon King put on a valiant fight with 43 from 33 but once he got out, things looked bleak for Guyana.
The CPL 2019 final showed how truly difficult perfection is in T20 leagues. When the sport gets condensed to 20 overs instead of 50, it puts teams on a more level playing field. A player can impact the match so heavily once you shorten the game. For some teams, it gives them less of a window to mess up. For others, it gives them less time to assert their dominance. The fact that Guyana was one win away from perfection shouldn't be overlooked.
The Warriors were the best team in CPL 2019; they just weren't the best team in the game that mattered most. This is what draws fans to domestic T20 leagues and sports in general. At the end of the day, you have to win the match that matters. Barbados did, and prevented history for at least one more season.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
It's been a conversation since the 2017 Champions Trophy with the initial noise starting over the prior year. India's middle order was going through a rough patch with an aging Yuvraj Singh admirably trying to hold the batting lineup together. With India's superstar triumvirate of Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli cemented at the top, the feeling was at least one player would click every match. India rounded out the rest of its lineup with high-powered hitters while MS Dhoni occasionally played the foundational role late. It worked well; India made the semifinal of the 2015 World Cup, the 2016 T20 World Cup, the 2017 Champions Trophy and the 2019 World Cup. However, the team's downfall in each ODI event was similar.
India's top order would collapse and suddenly, middle-order players who were used to smashing around the ball had to temper their game. Some were ill-suited for the role and some just didn't perform. After the failure in the semifinal of the 2019 World Cup, the calls for young talent like Rishabh Pant (who played at the end of the tournament) and Shreyas Iyer grew louder. India has made those two regulars in one-day and T20I games, but has either justified being kept in the playing XI?
It's important to preface the following with two points. The first is India might not have better options than Pant and Iyer going forward. Young players will take time to develop. Not everyone is going to turn into Sachin Tendulkar or Kohli. The expectations for both players are through the roof, making even good performances look ordinary. Pant and Iyer still have high ceilings, despite their struggles.
The second point is Kohli's comments in an interview with BCCI TV.
"I think firstly, from the team and the management point of view, we’re very clear on the fact that, even when I came into the team, it’s not like you got 15 opportunities," Kohli said in the interview. "You’ve got 5 and you’ve got the make the most of it."
Clearly, there is internal optimism for emerging talent in India's cricket ranks. If a player can be ousted after five poor performances, that must mean there is someone ready to step up. Guys like Prithvi Shaw, Nitish Rana, Shubman Gill and Ishan Kishan have shown promise in the IPL. Perhaps India's management believes these players are ready for the big show.
Pant is one of the most confusing cases in cricket right now. He's wildly talented and his IPL numbers reflect that. Here are his total runs and strike rates in four IPL seasons.
Runs: 198, 366, 684, 488
Strike Rate: 130.2, 165.6, 173.6, 162.6
Clearly, Pant can play. The question is why he is continually being asked to play in a position he might not be best suited for. He's currently the No. 4 batsman for India and the results in 19 T20I innings have not shown anything for him to continue getting chances in the squad.
In 19 T20I innings, Pant has gotten out on zero or single figures 11 times. Seven of those instances came form the No. 4 spot. That's a whopping 58 percent of his appearances. He's gotten a 50 twice. Ironically, both of his half-centuries have come from the No. 4 spot. If Kohli's claim is true about players having limited chances, how many more does Pant get? And how many of those chances will be at a position he hasn't played well in?
Iyer, on the other hand, might not be a T20I player. He's done incredibly well in the one-day format and should be a regular in that lineup with four half-centuries in seven innings. But on the T20 level, Iyer should not be considered the future at the international level. Here are his IPL numbers in the last four seasons for total runs and strike rate.
Runs: 439, 338, 411, 463
Strike Rate: 128.3, 139.1, 132.6, 119.9
The volume is fantastic, but the strike rate is not. At the T20I level, Iyer isn't even showing the volume. His true average is 14.85 in seven innings with a strike rate just below 102.0. He looks like a star in the making at the one-day level, but Iyer hasn't done enough to justify a spot in India's T20I XI. As the captain said, it could come down to a handful of chances.
An under-the-radar name in India's middle order search is KL Rahul. He's been a regular in India's squads and has produced at both levels. His true average is 32.0 in ODIs and 35.96 in T20Is. He's performed tremendously at the IPL level and can also be a wicketkeeper if needed. Rahul is also versatile enough to open the innings in the shortest format if needed. India has younger players like Gill waiting, but Rahul could be the answer at No. 4 in both formats. He has done well in the chances he's gotten, something Pant and Iyer can't say.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
After the attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2009 in Pakistan, the latter's future as a major player on the international circuit looked bleak. Criticism about security arrangements and general playing conditions in Pakistan came from anyone and everyone, resulting in the country losing its 2011 World Cup hosting rights and being boycotted by every other cricket board for home series. Pakistan was forced to "host" series in U.A.E., although an occasional match has been played in the country since the attacks.
A year ago, I noted how much Pakistan cricket has changed since 2009. The country, and more importantly the Pakistan Cricket Board, appears to have made the necessary reparations over the course of a decade to deserve tours once again. Zimbabwe came to Pakistan for a short ODI series in 2015. The West Indies took part in a T20 series. The Pakistan Super League, the country's domestic T20 franchise league, will potentially play a full season in Pakistan in 2020. However, it was going to take an extended tour to get the country back on the international calendar.
Enter Sri Lanka.
A decade after the initial attack, Sri Lanka will return to Pakistan for three ODIs and three T20s. This is the first extended tour of Pakistan since the fateful day in March, giving real hope for an eventual return on the international scene for PCB.
“The upcoming matches will end the long await of the Pakistan cricket fans and supporters to watch modern day stars from both sides live in action," PCB Chairman Ehsan Mani said in a statement. "This is something that will contribute immensely to our revamped domestic cricket structure."
Sri Lanka has undergone its own domestic problems in recent years with a "Golden Generation" disappearing and young players failing to step up. But in returning to Pakistan for what is essentially a trial run, it has shown more willpower and guts than any other board in the world.
This tour is replacing the two teams' scheduled Test fixtures, which were originally going to held as part of the inaugural World Test Championship. That series has now been shifted to December, but both countries saw an opportunity to make a different statement with the opening. Cricket has finally come full circle for Pakistan on the international stage.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
With the rise of T20 leagues around the globe, Canada wasn't going to be left behind. The Global T20 Canada wrapped up its second season with the Winnipeg Hawks taking down the Vancouver Knights to win the title. Winnipeg was led by Shaiman Anwar, who put up 90 runs in 45 balls. Although Andre Russell and Shoaib Malik forced a super over, Chris Lynn and Anwar were able to finish the job for Winnipeg.
GT20 Canada, according to the tournament's website, has 1.5 million subscribers across its social media platforms. It's not on the level of the IPL or BBL, but that's a significant figure. More important, 85% of app users are interacting daily. Retention rates are important for leagues to grow and there's enough traction to here to see GT20 as an annual edition to the cricket calendar. Throw in big names like Yuvraj Singh, Brendon McCullum and Chris Gayle and you'll get fans in the stadium. However, those big names come with some big paychecks and that's where the chaos comes in.
According to ESPNCricinfo's Peter Della Penna, the Toronto Nationals and Montreal Tigers refused to take the field for a match due to unpaid wages. Della Penna reported the protest extended beyond those two squads, with several other teams also making it known they would protest until the checks cleared.
Wage protests can be a death nail for a T20 league. Get enough players to protest and it turns off future competitors from joining. According to Della Penna's report, some players hadn't been paid from their participation in GT20 2018 either. It's quite stunning how the league actually came together this year given players likely had knowledge of these problems.
The wage protest added to the overall chaos of the organization of GT20. Fans weren't able to park at CAA Centre and had to use a shuttle service to get to the ground. The ground itself was, obviously, designed for maximum boundary damage and therefore smaller than a standard field. GT20 lasted 18 days in total. Compare that to some of the other established leagues which span several months.
There is promise for the league to grow. Once the official numbers come through, GT20 will likely surpass its projected 150 million viewers from the beginning of the tournament. A final going to the "super over" will help the cause. However, the infrastructure behind the scenes needs to be cleaned up and the tournament as a whole needs to operate like a legitimate league rather than something seemingly hastily thrown together.
There is always a cost to becoming a regular event on the global cricket calendar. Two seasons in, it's unclear whether GT20 is willing to pay it.
By: Chinmay Vaidya
Shortly after the 2019 World Cup, which was a drag through most of the group stage before erupting on an international level in the knockout round and the final, it was back to business as usual for the ICC. Global celebrations of sport rightfully overshadow the people running the show, but reality eventually rears its head.
This time, it's full member Zimbabwe suffering the penalties. On July 18, the ICC suspended Zimbabwe with immediate effect from international cricket for violation of the ICC constitution, which doesn't allow government intervention. Zimbabwe's economy is in chaos and the ICC rightfully feared the government was diverting money from funds intended for the development of the sport into other sectors.
"We do not take the decision to suspend a Member lightly, but we must keep our sport free from political interference," ICC Chairman Shashank Manohar said in a statement. "What has happened in Zimbabwe is a serious breach of the ICC Constitution and we cannot allow it to continue unchecked."
This is the first time a full member has been affected. Nepal and the United States have been suspended for the same reason and Sri Lanka was dangerously close to getting the same punishment. The ICC rightfully wants governments and the boards to be their own entities.
However, this suspension doesn't actually solve the problem. Zimbabwe board members will likely be reinstated and the situation, according to media reports, is going to re-examined in the coming months. However, the funding eventually has to get back to Zimbabwe cricket to grow the game. The structure of the board isn't likely to change. So how can the ICC ensure the situation will be any better at the next checkpoint?
Another somewhat important note; Zimbabwe's economy has been unstable for a long time. There was never fear of the government reaching into Zimbabwe cricket's coffers to divert funds. So what changed now? As Grant Flower details here, Zimbabwe cricket has had operational issues for years. So why take action now?
The problem now is coaches and players are now out of job for the foreseeable future. The best ones will be able to latch on in one of the many T20 leagues around the world, but this could be the end of the line for a lot of others. There is a human aspect of this decision many people won't realize. These coaches and players are the ones truly affected by the decision, both emotionally and financially. If the ICC was so worried about government intervention in Zimbabwe's revenue share, why not deliver the amounts to the players individually?
Here's the part where it gets really stupid. Shortly before the World Cup, BCCI was considering sending a letter to the ICC to ban Pakistan from the tournament due to a recent terrorist attack. You think that wasn't politically motivated? When MS Dhoni sported gloves with an Indian military symbol, Prime Minister Narendra Modi got involved. Pakistan still can't host a tour because of an incident from a decade ago. You think all the world's cricket boards are throwing away decades of significant revenue to take some moral stand against Pakistan entirely on their own? If the ICC wants to keep the government out of sports, it's up to the boards to keep sports out of government agendas.
BCCI isn't getting suspended. We know that. But if the governing body for the sport wants to keep cricket "free from political interference", it can't be selective in its approach. The solution is to provide Zimbabwe with a structure the ICC wants to see. Meet with the members tasked with running the organization. Ensure they're adequately funded and dedicated to the game. Zimbabwe being suspended, as mentioned above, doesn't actually solve the problem at hand. This is like putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound. Eventually, you have to actually take the bullet out.
Furthermore, the ICC isn't exactly a big proponent of growing the game itself. The most recent World Cup got cut to 10 teams. The 2023 edition is going to be the same. You want to know what it takes for a nation to get involved in the sport? Take a look at this absurdity.
Keep in mind Iceland cricket has zero, and I mean ZERO, incentive to lie about any of this. As the thread states, Iceland wouldn't need help from anyone if it had all those requirements in place to begin with. How does the governing body of an international sport fail to grow the game on this level? If Iceland's government gets involved, the ICC will suspend the team. But if it isn't doing anything to develop the game in the first place, then what's the real difference? Government intervention goes both ways. The ICC has to be capable to differentiating what is and isn't positive government action on behalf of the sport.
If the ICC wants to be taken seriously as a governing body, go after every board for its wrongdoings. Establish real solutions, not meaningless suspensions. Support nations trying to get into the sport from the top down. In short, do more than the bare freaking minimum of putting together a global tournament once a year. Allow a government to be involved in the growth of the sport for the right reasons. At the end of the day, this suspension only affects Zimbabwe coaches and players. They aren't even the intended targets.
The ICC has been backed into a corner over the years and is beginning to fight back. That's encouraging, except it is fighting back at the wrong people.