Another entertaining Caribbean Premier League season came to an end with Barbados Tridents snapping Guyana Amazon Warriors' 11-game winning streak in the final. There was much to take in from the five-week competition, but four points really stood out.
Jason Holder does know how to lead
Being West Indies captain in the modern era is akin to wearing a crown of thorns. Holder has had to shoulder the brunt of public angst for poor results when much of the best talent in the West Indies understandably opted to prioritise lucrative franchise cricket opportunities ahead of representing the region.
Given a level-playing field in the CPL, Holder showed what a galvanizing force he could be. Greater star power existed in other sides, but Holder and the Tridents succeeded by excelling at orthodox strategy and focusing on fundamentals. Take wickets with pacers in the Powerplay, slow down the run rate with spin in the middle, have good yorker bowlers at the death.
Tridents were arguably the best fielding side in the tournament, and Holder led the CPL with 13 catches, including many at long-on or long-off, where he positioned himself in the slog overs to take quite a few catches that would have gone over anyone shorter than 6' 8". Jonathan Carter and Walsh Jr. were electric wherever they were placed, and Holder's support of younger and less experienced players shone most of all in the form of Walsh Jr., the tournament's leading wicket-taker. Give credit where it's due.
Draft well, but make sure to identify solid reinforcements
Nobody had a better draft than the Amazon Warriors, which played a huge role in their undefeated run to the final. Top pick Shadab Khan only played three matches before he had to leave for national duty, but here's the rest of Guyana's top ten picks in order: Nicholas Pooran, Shoaib Malik, Shimron Hetmyer, Ben Laughlin, Chris Green, Keemo Paul, Sherfane Rutherford, Brandon King, Romario Shepherd.
The Tridents got little out of top pick Alex Hales, but made brilliant choices on replacement players when a slew of Pakistanis - Asif Ali, Wahab Riaz, Imad Wasim - and Nepal's Sandeep Lamichhane became unavailable. Harry Gurney and Shakib Al Hasan were vital contributors, while they also had a plan in place for Lamichhane's departure by having Walsh Jr. in reserve.
Jamaica Tallawahs, who finished in last place, got little out of many players in their top ten. Zahir Khan was underwhelming with eight wickets in seven games, considering he was taken in the fifth round, while eighth-round pick George Worker found his way to the bench by the end of the season after contributing just 88 runs in six innings.
Back-up options are key, clearly.
Enforce the ICC Americas player roster slot
Two of the best stories of the last two seasons of the CPL have been the emergence of Ali Khan and Hayden Walsh Jr., who both play for USA and were either retained or taken in the draft using the ICC Americas draft slot this year. However, when four other players who were drafted similarly - US's Xavier Marshall, Saurabh Netravalkar, Aaron Jones and Canada's Nitish Kumar - became unavailable because of national commitments, the CPL officials allowed the franchises to replace them with other players from around the Caribbean islands.
This policy was a shift from previous years where, if a player left, as was the case with Timroy Allen from the Tallawahs in 2017, he had to be replaced by another player from the Americas. Most Associate players are starved of opportunities to showcase what they can do against higher-class opponents, and CPL officials might want to reconsider their stance on replacements in the ICC Americas roster spot. With a rejuvenated Bermuda heading to the T20 World Cup Qualifier ahead of USA, it's evident that the Associate depth in the region is growing and more opportunities can only help.
Consider home advantage for the finals
In most North American sports, the team with the better record gets to host playoff matches, whether it's a solitary game like in the NFL [with the exception of the Super Bowl] or a longer series where the team with the better record begins the series at home and hosts the most games if it goes to five or seven matches.
The Amazon Warriors did have the advantage of hosting the Tridents for a preliminary playoff due to previously announced playoff venues, but that advantage was negated in the final at Brian Lara Academy. The Amazon Warriors have had the best league record three times: in 2013, 2016 and 2019. On each occasion, they went to the final at a neutral venue - Queen's Park Oval, Warner Park and Brian Lara Academy respectively - and lost. Compare this to Trinbago Knight Riders, who have won three titles in 2015 (third in regular season), 2017 (first) and 2018 (first) when they have hosted the final regardless of their performance in the league stage.
It may be more challenging logistically, but there needs to be some sort of incentive for regular season success besides getting a second crack at the final by finishing in the top two.