The TRINBAGO KNIGHT Riders (TKR) remain the most successful team since the inception of the T20 Caribbean Premier League (CPL) tournament eight years ago.
TKR has won four titles so far and enters the 2021 edition as the defending champions. Even before the competition of the year ends, the Trinidad and Tobago franchise is already one of the favorites in the global fanbase competing to win the crown.
In 2015, Red Chillies Entertainment, led by Bollywood actor Shah Rukh Khan and group businessman Mehta Jay Mehta and his wife Juhi Chawla, purchased a stake in TKR, then called Red Steel.
Red Chillies Entertainment also owns the Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) of the Indian Premier League (IPL) and this was the first time that an IPL team has invested in a T20 cricket franchise outside of India. Ace spinner Sunil Narine remains the only cricketer who currently plays for both TKR and KKR.
Since Khan’s inclusion in the franchise, TKR’s global fan base has grown tremendously due to his iconic Bollywood career and international appeal.
TKR continues to be the centerpiece of CPL.
In last year’s tournament, TKR played undefeated, led by talisman Kieron Pollard, who led the team to a historic clear victory. TKR remains the only team in CPL history to have won the tournament without losing a match.
They also finished the 2020 competition with the most races (1,683) and the most wickets (86) per team.
In 2019, Pollard replaced three-time CPL winner Dwayne Bravo at the helm after the all-round ‘Champion’ injured his finger before the tournament.
KEY CHANGES THIS SEASON
This year, however, TKR has made some significant changes to their squad. The biggest, however, is the surprise transfer of their former captain Bravo to the St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots.
A player swap between the two franchises in April saw former TKR wicket keeper Denesh Ramdin return to the squad as Bravo pursues a “new challenge”.
The all-rounder has been a major player in the franchise since 2013 and TKR fans should be a little surprised when he lines up for the Patriots this year.
Bravo is known for his theatrical performances on the field and his good performances with bat and ball; an asset that TKR fans will certainly miss in the 2021 tournament. Pollard will continue to lead the team while Narine serves as the new vice-captain.
Additionally, on Saturday the quadruple champions said last year’s title-winning coach Brendon McCullum (New Zealand) would not be listed this time around due to personal reasons and covid19 travel restrictions.
They have since appointed former Trinidad and Tobago and West Indies A player Imran Jan to lead the charge. Dinanath Ramnarine, a former TT and WI leg spinner, has also joined TKR’s support staff as an advisor.
Additionally, there have been two changes to the TKR from the 2021 draft, with Pakistani spinner Yasir Shah and New Zealand wicket keeper Tim Siefert returning to the squad. Shah made a short stint on the 2018 title-winning squad, while Siefert was a key member of the 2020 squad.
Shah and Siefert replaced the Nepalese spinner Sandeep Lamichhane and the Zimbabwean all-rounder of Pakistani origin, Sikandar Raza, respectively. Raza was also part of the TKR 2020 outfit.
TKR returns to competition with another cast of talented bowlers. This year, coaches Pollard, Anderson Phillip, Pakistani American Ali Khan, fit Jayden Seales and TKR newcomers Ravi Rampaul and tournament debutant Isuru Udana from Sri Lanka will be in the spotlight this year.
Meanwhile, Narine, Khary Pierre, Akeal Hosein, and Shah lead the spinning attack.
Pollard, Phillip and Khan are seasoned contenders for TKR while Seales makes his second appearance after making his debut last year.
The 19-year-old Seales have been in great shape lately, having become the youngest West Indian player to capture a five-wicket run in trial cricket. He achieved the feat in the first test team victory over Pakistan last Sunday.
Rampaul has returned to CPL since his four-year stint with the Barbados Tridents from 2014 to 2017. He won the trophy the first year and was second the next. He should also bring some extra firepower with the ball.
Udana, who retired from international cricket earlier this month, will be key to TKR, especially in fatalities, which was one of Bravo’s strengths. On top of that, Udana is also able to score some quick runs towards the end.
The T20 format is a heavy hitter’s paradise. Just ask Pollard and opener Lendl Simmons, who led the 2020 edition with the most six (20) and the most four (26) respectively.
Simmons also finished last year’s tournament with the most points (356) and leads the overall tournament standings for the most points (2,436) scored at CPL. Pollard is fifth with 1,966 races.
Colin Munro and Seifert’s New Zealand pair, Darren Bravo, Ramdin and debutant Leonardo Julien are also known to show good form with the bat in the shorter format.
During his previous stint with TKR, Ramdin was instrumental in winning the team in crucial matches.
CPL 2021 takes place on Thursday with TKR v Guyana Amazon Warriors at Warner Park in St Kitts on Thursday. Due to covid19, the tournament will be held in St. Kitts only to limit inter-island travel for home and away matches throughout the tournament.