I’m a Chelsea fan.

Now that is not a popular thing to be in my native Jamaica but I’ve been one since 1995, some 25 years ago.

I was not a fan of what used to be English football and at the time, the only team in the Premier League with any international flavour was Chelsea.

Chelsea boasted a squad with one English starter in Dennis Wise and were the only team in England that played with the type of flair I had grown up seeing from my father’s team of choice, Brazil.

Arsenal had not yet become the free-flowing team it became popular for and Manchester United, though winners, were not a target of my fancy.

But Chelsea, for all their beautiful football, were a mid-table team at best.

When they started to win, courtesy of an injection of cash from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, they lost some of that flair.

Players like Gianfranco Zola, Ruud Gullit and Gustavo Poyet were no longer there and Jose Mourinho had turned the team into something resembling a machine that built cars to exacting specifications. Still I delighted in their success. Now they’re losing again and cannot seem to compete with the might of the Manchester Cities and Liverpools of this era. They have returned to playing with some flair but I cannot be completely happy with all the changes they have made to date.

But I will likely remain a Chelsea fan for the remainder of my time on this planet.

The same is true of the Jamaica Tallawahs. I fell in love with the Tallawahs much, in the same way, I fell in love with Chelsea.

I understood franchise cricket in much the same way I did club football and would have chosen any of the six teams in the CPL to be ‘mine’.

But just as I became a fan of the way the dread-locked Gullit would marshall his midfield and later Zola would turn a game on its head with a moment of brilliance, I could not get enough of big-hitting innings from Chris Gayle.

It was for this reason and this reason solely that I became a fan of the Tallawahs but I cannot now abandon them because, just as in club football, franchise cricket will witness changes.

And there have been a myriad of changes to the Tallawahs since the start of the Hero Caribbean Premier League, some seven years ago.

Now, there is no Chris Gayle, and the latest squad seems a far cry from the exciting days of the big left-hander smacking balls onto the roof of the North Stand at Kingston’s Sabina Park.

Still, I will remain with the Tallawahs as any true fan of a team should.

And maybe, despite the many changes, this Tallawahs line-up has a chance.

They do have more balance than they have had in recent years.

For a while, the Tallawahs batting was their strength but they had to bat teams out of games. Whenever they failed to get more than just a competitive score, they were certain to lose. In fact, I think they have the ignominy of sporting some of the highest losing totals in the competition's history.

This year may be different.

Fidel Edwards is an experienced fast bowler, who, along with the pace of Oshane Thomas, could pose some problems for their opposition in the league.

The Tallawahs also have something they have been missing for a few years now as well. An incisive spinner. Tabraiz Shamsi is the type of slow bowler the Tallawahs may just need. A left-arm wrist spinner, Shamsi is aggressive, with his 19.8 strike rate suggesting he will take wickets in the middle overs where the Tallawahs have been found wanting over the years.

Allrounder Carlos Brathwaite can provide both batting and bowling for the Tallawahs on the odd occasion, while Veerasammy Permaul can also do a job.

Now, I wouldn’t venture to pick the Tallawahs line-up but they have last season’s leading runscorer for them, Glenn Phillips, who should partner Chadwick Walton. The two can be explosive and put any team on the back foot. In the middle order, there is exciting Pakistani batsman, Asif Ali, as well as the power of Rovman Powell and Andre Russell. On a given day, any of those names can hurt an opposition, but there is the question of consistency.

That question has plagued the Tallawahs for years even though they have won the CPL twice.

But on those two occasions, they had Chris Gayle and even though he may not have been the man to provide the finals-winning performances, he did come up with innings of real class that helped them in getting through the season.

Last season the Tallawahs finished last and it is no surprise that Gayle had a poor run throughout.

Without him, the Tallawahs seem less dangerous, but I am still rooting for them. They’re my team and seem more balanced than ever before, even without the mighty Chris.

Trinbago Knight Riders manager Colin Borde is confident the team remains in a strong position to reclaim the title, following the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) draft earlier this week.

The Knight Riders, the tournament’s most successful franchise, did not make too many changes to the previous season’s roster.  The team retained all of 11 players for this season’s CPL, set to run from August 18 to September 10.

The list includes Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Khary Pierre, Amir Jangoo, Tion Webster, Akeal Hosein, and Muhammad Ali Khan.  They have also signed 18-year-old West Indies under-19 medium-pacer Jayden Seales, as well as carrying back Australian Fawad Ahmed and New Zealand’s Colin Munro after they had stints away last season.

“I’m very pleased with the balance of the team, certainly the captain and selection committee would have done a wonderful job in having several discussions about the balance of the team based on the types of wickets we will have in Trinidad,” Borde told Trinidad and Tobago’s 7pmnews.

“Certainly, I must commend them for sticking with the core of players that have worked with us over the years and have built a nice tight unit, and also bringing back the likes of Ahmed and Munroe,” he added.

“The balance, experience, and togetherness in this team is going to be something that will take us over the line.  We are confident that if we do all the things we need to do, do them consistently and have a bit of luck on the way, we will be competing for the title as well.”

Last year’s beaten Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) finalists, The Guyana Amazon Warriors, are boasting the retention of a very strong bowling line-up ahead of August’s start to the 2020 season.

Following a draft yesterday, it was revealed that the Warriors retained 11 players, including South African leg-spinner Imran Tahir.

Tahir, a veteran of 290 T20s has 365 wickets in the format with a best of 5-23 at an incredible average of 19.85.

The leg spinner goes at seven runs per over but more than makes up for that with his strike rate of 16.9. To date he has enjoyed two five-wicket hauls in his career along with 10 four-fors.

For company, Tahir will depend on the pace bowling of Jamaican, Odean Smith, as well as the intelligence of bowling allrounder Keemo Paul, and Romario Shepherd.

There is also some powerful batting on offer for the Warriors who have retained the services of Nicholas Pooran and signed former Tallawah’s player, Ross Taylor.

Taylor, the New Zealand middle-order batsman, is joined in that batting line-up by the return of Brandon King, who had a phenomenal 2019 with the Warriors.

King is expected to partner up with Chandrapaul Hemraj at the top of the order, with the dangerous Shimron Hetmyer also being retained.

Chris Green, last season’s skipper has also been retained, along with Sherfane Rutherford, and Anthony Bramble.

Afghanistan leg-break bowler, Qais Ahmad, was again signed by the Warriors, along with 20-year-old West Indies Emerging Team player, Kevin Sinclair.

There were draft picks for Afghan medium-fast bowler Naveen Ul Haq, West Indies under-19 left-arm orthodox, Ashmeade Nedd, and American medium-pacer, Jasdeep Singh.

 

Guyana Jaguars: Imran Tahir, Nicholas Pooran, Brandon King, Ross Taylor, Shimron Hetmyer, Chris Green, Qais Ahmad, Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Naveen Ul Haq, Chandrapaul Hemraj, Kevin Sinclair, Ashmeade Nedd, Odean Smith, Anthony Bramble, and Jadeep Singh.

Defending Hero Caribbean Premier League Champions (CPL), the Barbados Tridents, have earned the prized signing of the world’s number-one T20 bowler in Afghanistan’s Rashid Khan.

The Tridents were pulling off a coup on last year’s beaten finalists the Guyana Amazon Warriors, for whom Rashid would have last played for in the CPL.

Rashid will be joined by a team similar to the one that claimed the CPL title in 2020, as the Tridents have retained Jason Holder, Harry Gurney, Johnson Charles, Shai Hope, Hayden Walsh Jr, Ashley Nurse, Jonathan Carter, Raymon Reifer and Justin Greaves.

In yesterday’s CPL draft, the Tridents also picked untested Pakistan medium-fast bowler Shayan Jahangir, Afghan wicketkeeper-batsman Rahmanullah Gurbaz and re-drafted Kyle Mayers.

In addition, they have also picked up powerful English opener Alex Hales, despite a relatively lean time with the team last season.

Hales will be joined by new signing Australian middle-order batsman Marcus Stoinis and West Indies under-19 standout Nyeem Young.

Barbados Tridents: Rashid Khan, Jason Holder, Marcus Stoinis, Harry Gurney, Alex Hales, Johnson Charles, Shai Hope, Hayden Walsh Jr, Ashley Nurse, Jonathan Carter, Raymon Reifer, Kyle Mayers, Joshia Bishop, Nyeem Young, Justin Greaves, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, and Shayan Jahangir.

Coming out of Monday’s 2020 Hero CPL Draft, Jamaica Tallawahs CEO Jeff Miller believes the franchise has managed to assemble a balanced team that will be able to do some damage when the competition gets underway in Trinidad in August.

The two-time champions endured a disastrous season in 2019 when they won only two games and finished at the foot of the six-team standings. With the disaster behind them, the Tallawahs decided on a complete overhaul of the squad that included releasing veteran T20 batsman Christopher Gayle while retaining only five players from the previous campaign.

In Monday’s draft, the Tallawahs brought in 2016 T20 World Cup hero Carlos Brathwaite and the big-hitting Glen Phillips to complement Captain Rovman Powell, Andre Russell and Chadwick Walton. They have also added Nkrumah Bonner and Andre McCarthy.

Meanwhile, Fidel Edwards, Veerasammy Permaul, Sandeep Lamichhane and Preston McSween have bolstered the bowling.

“I am hoping that we have a better team. We were rebuilding and that was the whole idea,” Miller told Sportsmax.TV on Tuesday.

“After retaining the five we were looking to rebuild around them.”

Miller explained that they brought in Edwards, the former West Indies pace bowler, to partner young fast bowler Oshane Thomas and McSween to support them both. Right-arm leg-spin bowler Sandeep and Permaul, he said, add a cutting edge to a bowling attack that he expects to be effective on the pitches in Trinidad.

“We expect the pitches to be bowler-friendly,” Miller said, indicating that he believes the pitches in the twin-island republic to wear as the tournament progresses.

Miller is also hopeful that the Tallawahs’ batting will deliver this coming season. He is relying on the experienced Powell, Russell, Phillips and Walton to get the bulk of the runs but in Brathwaite and the returning Andre McCarthy, he is expecting additional stability and firepower.

Brathwaite, he believes, can “do damage” at the back end of the innings but further up the order is where he expects McCarthy to finally deliver on his potential. “I am hoping that McCarthy and Nkrumah Bonner can solidify the number-three slot. I am hoping that a maturing McCarthy can step up to the plate,” he said.

Without going into detail, Miller hinted that they might have missed out on some players they were hoping to sign but those players were drafted by other franchises before the Tallawahs had a shot at them.

 

The St Kitts & Nevis Patriots were happy enough with their Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) outfit from last time out but made two interesting additions during the draft held earlier today.

Joshua De Silva, the only man to score a century during the West Indies intra-match practice games over the last two weeks, has been drafted into the Patriots line-up, while Australian, Chris Lynn has come over from the Guyana Jaguars.

De Silva showed he can bat, but the 22-year-old Trinidad and Tobago wicketkeeper-batsman has never played a T20 match and averages 32.88 from his 16 First-Class games. He averages 41 in List A cricket but that is just from 10 games.

While De Silva is an unknown quantity, Lynn’s quality with the bat is world-renowned and he could form a dangerous partnership with Evin Lewis at the top of the Patriots order.

Lewis has been retained along with Jamaican pacer Sheldon Cottrell, and allrounder Rayad Emrit.

The Patriots also chose to retain Fabian Allen, West Indies pacer Alzarri Joseph, and Dominic Drakes.

As for signings, the Patriots will have South Africa’s Rassie van der Dussen, Former Pakistan medium pacer, Sohail Tanvir, and returning New Zealander, Ish Sodhi.

The Patriots also have the experience of Denesh Ramdin along with Colin Archibald, John Russ Jaggesar, Sunny Sohal, and Dennis Bulli.

The Trinbago Knight Riders have not made too many changes to the team that are perennial challengers for the Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL) title.

The Knight Riders have retained all of 11 players for this season’s CPL, set to run from August 18 to September 10 after a remote draft held earlier today.

The Knight Riders will return this season with Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Khary Pierre, Amir Jangoo, Tion Webster, Akeal Hosein and Muhammad Ali Khan.

They have also signed 18-year-old West Indies under-19 medium-pacer Jayden Seales, as well as carrying back Australian Fawad Ahmed and New Zealand’s Colin Munro after they had stints away last season.

New Zealand wicketkeeper-batsman Tim Seifert is the new name in the line-up after Denesh Ramdin was transferred to the St Kitts & Nevis Patriots.

Seifert comes to the team with 83 T20s under his belt, scoring a century and eight half-centuries at an average of 25.26. He has had 65 dismissals behind the stumps, inclusive of 13 stumpings.

The Knight Riders have drafted four players though, picking up 48-year-old Indian leg-spinner Pravin Tambe, Anderson Phillip, who played with them las season, showing good pace, as well as Zimbabwe all-rounder, Sikandar Raza.

 

Trinbago Knight Riders: Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Colin Munro, Australia’s Fawad Ahmed, Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Khary Pierre, Tim Seifert, Sikandar Raza, Anderson Phillip, Pravin Tambe, Jayden Seales, Amir Jangoo, Tion Webster, Akeal Hosein, and Muhammad Ali Khan.

Former South African top-order batsman Rilee Rossouw is the man expected to replace the hole in the St Lucia Zouks batting left by the absence of Chris Gayle.

Gayle, who had made the move from the Jamaica Tallawahs to the St Lucia Zouks, announced that, for personal reasons, he would be sitting out the Hero Caribbean Premier League.

The decision, meant the Daren Sammy-led unit, would be hard pressed to find another big hitter this season.

Roussouw’s signing could be just the Philip they are looking for.

The South African is a seasoned campaigner, having played 199 T20s throughout his career. He averages 29.72 and though he only has two centuries, he scored 27 half centuries in the format at a strike rate of 135.

Along with Rossouw, Sammy has Afghanistan’s Mohammad Nabi, Chemar Holder, Mark Deyal, Leniko Boucher, Javelle Glen and Canadian, Saad Bin Zafar at his disposal.

The team has retained South African Colin Ingram, Andre Fletcher, Kesrick Williams, Rahkeem Cornwall, Obed McCoy, and Kavem Hodge.

They have also signed West Indies under-19 captain Kimani Melius, as well as Afghanistan left-arm spinner Noor Ahmad and South African fast bowler Anrich Nortje.

 

St Lucia Zouks: Rilee Rossouw, Mohammad Nabi, Daren Sammy, Colin Ingram, Andre Fletcher, Kesrick Williams, Anrich Nortje, Chemar Holder, Obed McCoy, Rahkeem Cornwall, Mark Deyal, Noor Ahmad, Kimani Melius, Leniko Boucher, Kavem Hodge, Javelle Glen, and Saad Bin Zafar.

Carlos Brathwaite will turn out for the Jamaica Tallawahs this season after the all-rounder was drafted by the Franchise ahead of the August 18-September 10 Hero Caribbean Premier League (CPL).

The CPL held it’s online draft earlier on Monday, with the Tallawahs also drafting Nepaleese leg-spinner, Sandeep Lamichhane.

The Tallawahs team threatens to look very different from it has in previous years, though they have retained the services of Andre Russell, Rovman Powell, Glenn Phillips, Chadwick Walton, and Oshane Thomas.

Brathwaite and Lamichhane will team up with fellow draftees Fidel Edwards, Asif Ali, Preston McSween, Nicholas Kirton, Jeavor Royal, Veerasammy Permaul, and Ryan Persaud.

The Tallawahs will also welcome the services of South Africa’s Tabraiz Shamsi, who was a hit with the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in a previous iteration of the CPL.

 

Jamaica Tallawahs: Andre Russell, Sandeep Lamichhane, Carlos Brathwaite, Rovman Powell, Tabraiz Shamsi, Glenn Phillips, Chadwick Walton, Oshane Thomas, Asif Ali, Fidel Edwards, Preston McSween, Andre McCarthy, Nicholas Kirton, Jeavor Royal, Nkrumah Bonner, Veerasammy Permaul, Ryan Persaud

Top-rated cricketers taking part in this season’s Caribbean Premier League (CPL) are expected to suffer a 30 percent pay cut as a scaled-down version of the tournament is expected to be confirmed for Trinidad and Tobago in a week’s time.

According to the latest information players earning between US$21,000 and US$112,000 will receive a salary 30 percent lower, when compared to last season.  Players in the US$20,000 bracket will receive a 10 percent pay cut with no salary cut for players below that bracket.

The entire tournament is expected to take place in Trinidad and Tobago, with players staying in the tournament hotel under conditions overseen by a medical advisory committee and matches played in empty stadiums.

CPL Operations manager Michael Hall claimed the devastation caused by the spread of the coronavirus had made the idea to stage the tournament a trick decision.  But felt it was important to send a message that the region is ready to do business again.

 "Should the tournament take place it will take place entirely in Trinidad & Tobago, which is the most successful country in the Caribbean in controlling the spread of the virus - recording just one new case since April 30 and just 117 total cases overall," Hall, the CPL wrote in an update sent to various stakeholders, quoted by ESPNcricinfo.

"One of the consequences the Covid-19 pandemic will have is that the CPL will be played behind closed doors in 2020. We were therefore faced with the very difficult decision of whether to play the tournament at all,” he added.

"[But] we also felt strongly that it is important for cricket to be seen to be getting underway again as well as to show the world that the Caribbean is open for business.”

Hall added that the executive expected to get approval from the Trinidad and Tobago government next week.  The tournament will be held from August 1 to September 12, with the first matches on August 18 and the final on September 10.

Out of favour West Indies batsman Jason Mohammed is hoping to recover from a disappointing outing in 2019 Caribbean Premier League (CPL), when the upcoming edition rolls around.

Following the disruptions caused by the threat of the coronavirus the exact date and details of the tournament are yet to be finalised, but Mohammed admits he is eager to get back on the pitch. And, he might as well if he is looking to make up for the disappointment of the previous campaign.

Representing the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots, Mohammad had his poorest showing to date. Playing in five games the player got a total of 20 and averaged four. Far from his heyday in 2016 when he scored 287 runs to lead the Guyana Amazon Warriors with an average of 47.

For the upcoming edition, the player hopes to play more to what he believes is his strength in the middle of the innings. “I think I feel most comfortable batting at number four and controlling the middle overs. I feel like that is my strength in T20 cricket,” Mohammed said in a recent interview with T&T’s 7PmNews. “I like to be able to rotate the strike and build partnerships and from there to the end finish off the innings strong.”

Chris Gayle has apologized for some of the comments made regarding his departure from the Jamaica Tallawahs in three videos posted on YouTube on April 27.

President of Cricket West Indies (CWI) Ricky Skerritt has strongly hinted that he expects to see action taken against veteran batsman Chris Gayle, following a recent public outburst, which mainly disparaged former teammate and Jamaica Tallawahs assistant coach Ramnaresh Sarwan.

In the now-infamous YouTube post, Gayle accused Tallawahs franchise chief executive Jeff Miller and owner Krish Persaud of "playing a game".  His fiercest criticism was, however, reserved for Sarwan who he accused of having a role in his unexpected dismissal from the franchise.  In the video, Gayle referred to Sarwan as a ‘snake’ and described the former batsman as ‘worse than the coronavirus’.  Sarwan has denied any involvement in the non-renewal of Gayle’s Tallawah’s contract and insisted the assertions made against him were false.

Skerritt, who called the incident unfortunate, said CWI was keeping a close eye on the situation, but insisted that for now the prerogative of taking action would be in the hands of the CPL to which Gayle is contracted.

"It cannot be good for West Indies cricket obviously. It is certainly not something that I enjoyed reading about," Skerritt told Trinidad radio station i955fm in a recent interview.

“If however, a player is contracted to a club or a franchise or to Cricket West Indies, then (due to) the contract they have signed, that kind of behaviour brings that contract to some level of disrepute. So, I would expect that this most recent matter is not over,” he added,

" I think Chris is going to face…I'm sure there's some kind of discussion taking place at the moment between Chris and the CPL because Chris is signed into a franchise team."

The CWI boss, however, went on to make it clear that the CPL still fell within the remit of the regional cricket governors and as such, they would be keeping an eye on the matter.

"If he was on contract with Cricket West Indies, and to a certain extent it is by being in the CPL, so we kind of have a watching interest. But we'll wait and see what happens,” Skerritt said.

While insisting he expected the due process to run its course, Skerritt said he hoped the outburst would not lead to the cricketer’s career coming to a premature end.

"I hope it doesn't become a world matter in terms of the career of Mr. Gayle because it's been a very outstanding career and I really wouldn't want to see it being brought to an end by this event."

Gayle has since joined the St Lucia Zouks.

 

 

CPL stars Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Brandon King have all been included among the 10 Caribbean players retained by the Guyana Amazon Warriors for the 2020 CPL season scheduled to get underway in August.

Paul and Hetmyer are two of seven Guyanese players retained by the Warriors. Big-hitting Sherfane Rutherford, Romario Shepherd, Chanderpaul Hemraj and Anthony Bramble were also retained as has been the emerging player Kevin Sinclair.

Odean Smith from Jamaica will also be back for the coming season.

“The Guyana Amazon Warriors Franchise has and will always be committed to the continued development of our local and regional players. From the inception of the CPL, we included young Guyanese players in our squad as part of the franchise’s mandate to provide opportunities to young aspiring Guyanese cricketers to assist in their overall development as professional cricketers,” said Omar Khan, Guyana Amazon Warriors Team Operations Manager.

“Shimron Hetmyer, Keemo Paul and Sherfane Rutherford have all benefitted from these opportunities prior to them becoming full-fledged members of our team. 

“We are extremely delighted that we were able to retain the majority of our local and regional players, including Nicholas Pooran and Brandon King, both of whom have been hailed by the cricket pundits as potential future stars of West Indies cricket and who were members of our team last year. The Guyana Amazon Warriors wish all of the retained players great success in the CPL 2020."

Retentions and signings of international players will be announced at a later date.

 This year teams can retain as many players from their 2019 squads as they wish. They could also transfer players to other teams and sign emerging players. 

 The CPL is scheduled to take place between August 19 and September 26, but the tournament organisers are currently watching the current situation with COVID-19 closely and are liaising with medical advisors and governments.

 A decision on whether the tournament can proceed as planned, or at a different time, will be made as soon as possible.

 

Windies spinner Hayden Walsh insists he would have very little issue playing in front of an empty stadium for the upcoming edition of the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) as it would be like playing regional cricket.

The CPL is slated to get under way in August of this year but there is a lot of uncertainty, not just regarding its staging, but also the format it will take as well.  One of the ideas being floated around suggests a ‘social distancing’ version of the tournament, which would be held at Barbados' Kensington Oval.

While some players have claimed an empty stadium could be awkward, Walsh, who is a part of the defending champion Barbados Tridents, has insisted it would be business as usual.  Unlike the massive crowds associated with the CPL, the regional competitions do struggle at times to attract any significant crowd following.

“We still have quite some time to try and get ready while we are waiting for the tournament to come around. We see some progress with the region recovering from the virus, and probably at the start, it may affect the tournament where the social distancing is concerned, and it might not, but I am used to playing in front of an empty stadium in regional cricket where pretty much no one comes sometimes, so I guess it would be business as usual,” Walsh told the Antigua Observer.

Walsh, the tournament’s top wicket-taker last season, was one of nine Barbados Tridents retained.  The list also includes captain Jason Holder, Johnson Charles, Shai Hope and Raymon Reifer, Ashley Nurse and Johnathan Carter.

 

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