A product of West Indian Cricket Board, Caribbean Premier League (CPL) Season 2016 will kick off on June 29 with a game between the defending champions, Trinbago Knight Riders, and St. Lucia Zouks.
Following the previous three seasons, 2016 will feature six franchises to compete in a round robin format where, similar to IPL, BBL, and PSL, each team plays the other five opponents twice. The top four teams on the points table will qualify for the semifinals. CPL’s International Director of Cricket and IPL 2016’s title winning coach, Tom Moody, believes that, due to the inclusion of cricket’s hottest and biggest rock stars, this year will be the most competitive in the history of Caribbean T20 Cricket. Subsequently, despite the immense stardom of the Indian Premier League and the buzz surrounding it, CPL is easily a contender for one of the most anticipated T20 cricket leagues around the globe. Only in its fourth season, the Caribbean Premier League is going to have a much wider fan audience in the next few years and will bring stiff competition to the global T20 market. In addition, CPL is home to Chris Gayle, who is arguably the undisputed King of T20 format and the only batsman to have scored 3 tons in CPL since its inauguration in 2013. Gayle, though, seems like only a piece of the puzzle as we have cricket stars like Hashim Amla, AB De Villiers, Brendon McCullum, Kumara Sangakkara, Shoaib Malik, and Dale Steyn playing in this year’s CPL.
Let us look at the teams and preview each team with their strengths and weaknesses in terms of their squad inventory:
The tridents have probably been one of the better performers in CPL since its inception. Over the 3 seasons, the team, led by Pollard, has ended as table toppers twice while winning the league and finishing runners-up once each. With the kind of squad the Tridents have put together, it is imminent that the franchise will do supremely well in the 2016 season as well.
In the batting department, Ab De Villiers is the man to lead the charge for Barbados. AB is having a frustrating stint in West Indies for the tri-series, but the Tridents need not worry since tri-series is in ODI format. De Villiers’ stint in IPL 2016 is the kind of performance expected of him here. He is going to play a pivotal role in Barbados Tridents’ batting lineup and in carrying forward the success Tridents have enjoyed in the Caribbean Premier League so far.
Shoaib Malik, the underrated hero for Tridents, has played a significant role in Tridents’ incessant triumphs. Malik was the star of 2014 finale, scoring 55* when Tridents won the CPL. In the hard-hitting department, we have skipper Pollard and Robin Pieterson, who have proved their mettle in T20s. As far as bowling is concerned, Tridents boast one of the best bowling departments in CPL, comprising Jason Holder, Ravi Rampaul, and Wayne Parnell.
Safest bet: Shoaib Malik has proved himself on the West Indian soil and currently stands as the top scorer, 887, with the highest average, 44.35, in all seasons for the Tridents.
Having finished in the top two on points table in all three seasons, Guyana is another consistent, top performer of the Caribbean Premier League. Despite appearing in two CPL finals, the Amazon Warriors, unfortunately, have never won the CPL. The unlucky Guyana once succumbed to rain in 2014 finale while lost by a run in the 2013 final showdown.
After losing out on their top scorer, Lendl Simmons, top wicket-taker, Santokie, and retired TM Dilshan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Guyana is destined to suffer this season. Martin Guptill though has retained his spot alongside Dwayne Bravo, both of whom will be heavily relied upon in the batting department.
Apparently, the Warriors re-dependent on their bowling unit comprised of Sohail Tanveer, Adam Zampa, and Bishoo. Australian leggy, Zampa, has had an impressive start to his career, especially after his outstanding performances in IPL 9 and the ongoing tri-series in West Indies. The CPL will only be further evidence towards his smart leg-spin bowling.
Safest bet: Though Guptill is a senior lad but has been out of form since the start of 2016. The safest bet would be Adam Zampa, who took 12 wickets in merely 5 appearances in IPL 9, with an average of 9.58. Zampa has also grabbed 9 wickets in 4 matches in the ongoing tri-series in West Indies.
Recently hailed by Kumara Sangakkara as the team with a real shot at 2016 CPL title, Jamaica Tallawahs surely have a squad full of T20 superstars. After their recent acquisition of Dale Steyn, the Tallawahs look to set ablaze CPL 2016 stage with some power packed performances.
The batting department of the team, which won the inaugural CPL season, includes the mighty Chris Gayle, who is also the top scorer for Jamaica Tallawahs with 2 centuries to his name for the club. The evergreen, Sangakkara, is another big name who will be shining through the ranks and working as a backbone for Jamaica batting. The focal point of the team is the all-around category where Shakib Al Hassan and Andre Russel join in. Russel, in particular, with 24 wickets and 561 runs is the highest wicket-taker and third highest run-getter for the Tallawahs in all seasons. The surprise purchase of slow left arm Pakistan spinner, Imad Wasim, will boost the already strong bowling unit. Wasim, 27, has impressed with his form and temperament through domestic games and the recent international World T20 in India. The Pakistan-born is well suited for spinning tracks in the Caribbean.
Safest bet: Andre Russel, due to his talent with the bat and bowl and his recent performances, can prove to be lethal against any opposition whatsoever. With a fantastic reputation preceding him, the T20 expert is well among the likes of one of the best T20 all-rounders of all time.
Inducted into the Caribbean Premier League last year, St Kitts had a disastrous first season despite having a competitive inventory of players. The team finished in the bottom of the table, missing the knockout qualification by a single point.
Losing Guptill and Marlon Samuels, their two top scorers, St Kitts have brought in Faf du Plessis and Lendl Simmons as replacements to boost the batting lineup. Retired 41-year-old Australian batsman, Brad Hodge, is on the list, too. Hodge, who appeared on the international stage at 31, has found a lot of success in the shorter format of the game, averaging 37.42 in as many as 256 T20s, with experience in all big T20 leagues across the globe. World Cup hero, Carlos Brathwaite, who had a terrible IPL 2016 campaign, is the only real all-around option for St Kitts. The bowling attack, though, is lavish, with a mix of spin and pace in the form of Tino Best, Tabraiz Shamsi, and Samuel Badree.
Safest bet: Lendl Simmons has finished as the top scorer, second best top scorer, and fourth best top scorer in the three season of CPL. Simmons, currently, has the most runs (712) in the three Caribbean Premier League seasons. Lendl’s performance in 2016 World T20 semifinal against India where he scored 82 of 51 balls is a testament to his consistency.
Having never finished outside the bottom two in three CPL seasons, St Lucia has been able to augment their squad, especially the bowling sector that has been their weakness. The top performers Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher retained their spots in the team. David Miller and Michael Hussey have joined the above West Indians in the batting department, which is somewhat a touch-and-go barter since Hussey has not played any cricket recently while Miller had a terrible stint at Kings XI Punjab. Wicket-keeper batsman, Dinesh Ramdin, will play a supplemental role in the middle order.
On the brighter note, though, St Lucia has made a bargain out of Morne Morkel and Shane Watson; the former will strengthen the weak bowling core while the latter will handle all-around duties. Skipper Darren Sammy still makes the fundamental core of the playing XI.
Safest bet: Despite Sammy being the top wicket taker for St Lucia, Shane Watson is the most credible player to bet on. The Australian had a fabulous Indian Premier League 2016 season, grabbing 20 wickets in 16 appearances while taking his team to the final.
The Defending Champions of CPL who beat the Tridents in 2015 final at Trinidad will be looking forward to carrying similar form into 2016. The overall depth, talent, and form of Trinbago’s current squad are mindboggling.
The opening pair of Hashim Amla and Brendon McCullum will be a treat to the eyes for any cricket fan. Then come Darren Bravo and Umar Akmal to throw in solidity to the middle order. Bravo, in particular, has already scored a massive amount of runs for Trinbago while 2015 final hero, Kamran Akmal, has been replaced with brother, Umar Akmal. Supplementing the batting with his experience will be Ramnaresh Sarwan, who has not played cricket since June 2014. In the bowling, similarly, Trinbago has arguably the best spin and medium-pace attack than any other franchise in the league. DJ Bravo, with 47 wickets in 31 games, is the all-time highest wicket-taker for the Knight Riders. Kevin Cooper, Samuel Badree, and Suleman Benn come next. Badree has made a switch; hence, his replacement is Sunil Narine. Narine has not found his feet since his redeveloped bowling action, but has had some magic spells during the IPL 2016 and the Triseries in West Indies. Colin Munro is another prospect who will make the bowling even stronger.
Safest bet: DJ Bravo, undoubtedly, is the best bet in the whole tournament. Bravo took 28 wickets in 13 games in the previous season, taking his tally of all time wickets in CPL to 47. Bravo is also the second highest run-scorer for Trinbago.
With the kind of squad Barbados Tridents have put together for this season, they seem like a franchise that wants a shot at the title, once more. With the likes of the Ab de Villiers, Ravi Rampaul, Pollard, Wayne Parnell, and Shoaib Malik, the playing XI is of international quality and features immense talent from across the globe in all departments.