When they get over the shock of Hurricane Hamilton, sober and honest reflection from the Trinidad and Tobago Red Force camp should awaken them to the realisation that this 2019 Regional Super50 campaign was an accident waiting to happen.
Yes, that missed opportunity by Darren Bravo at long-on off Leeward Islands Hurricanes captain Jahmar Hamilton when Friday night’s semi-final was still very much in the balance is being labelled as the error which cost the home side the match and a place in yesterday’s final.
But Imran Khan’s side have been dropping catches and missing opportunities almost from ball one of this campaign. It’s not as if it went unnoticed because both the captain and coach Mervyn Dillon referenced those errors several times in the three weeks of play before they were eliminated courtesy of the opposing skipper’s spectacular innings.
Yet there was no noticeable improvement in the standard of out-cricket. It’s just that the Red Force were good enough in other departments to get the better of most of their opponents and that may have created a false sense of security which bordered on complacency as the tournament progressed.
Often it’s the little things which point to a bigger problem, and two seemingly innocuous moments in the midst of the Leewards run-chase now appear significant.
With pacer Anderson Phillip hampered by a leg injury and unable to bowl the final delivery of his sixth over, Bravo took the ball and served up a gentle donkey drop that was smashed to the backward square-leg boundary. Was that the captain’s decision to give him the ball to finish the over? Maybe, but it certainly appeared as if Jason Mohammed, more familiar at the bowling crease during the competition, was walking in to do the job.
One boundary halfway through a pursuit of 269 cannot be a telling factor in itself. However it is the manner in which the events unfolded for Bravo to walk up and trundle in with a classic “love me or leave me” delivery that suggested, if not a free-for-all, a rather relaxed attitude by this Trinidad and Tobago team.
Then there was the captain himself, clearly agitated by the picong constantly being hurled in his direction by a spectator, who became preoccupied with responding to the agitator when he claimed the important wicket of Devon Thomas.
I suppose it’s one of the ironies of having such poor attendances (as has been the case for several years throughout the Caribbean) in regional cricket that when a spectator decides to take a lag in any player’s tail, the invective is heard loud and clear throughout the ground. No-one likes to endure abuse while on the field of play. Still, it was not a good look for the skipper to be preoccupied with putting the source of the invective in his place even as his teammates were congratulating him on a timely breakthrough.
Last year there was the preoccupation with what was described as the “Dream Team,” with almost all the top national cricketers comprising the squad which was annihilated by eventual champions Combined Campuses and Colleges in the semi-final in Barbados. This time, with most of the celebrated stars absent, there may not have been the same level of misplaced confidence at the start of the competition, although those two examples just mentioned appear to point to an increasing loss of focus as the tournament wore on.
No reasonable person can expect the national team to prevail every time. Given that they have 11 titles—the most—in this regional 50 overs-per-side competition, it suggests that, in all likelihood, whichever Trinidad and Tobago squad takes the field in this format should be there or thereabouts when it comes to the latter stages of the event.
This team went out in the semi-finals, just like the more celebrated squad a year ago. However the question is, in both instances, did they appear to be consistently giving of their best?
If the answer is “yes,” then defeat at any stage is no real cause for alarm because all you can ask in any sporting competition is for players to perform as if it means something to them. When you see them trying you know they will learn from the mistakes and work really hard to correct those errors at the next time of asking.
But when you see catches being dropped all over the place and the team looking completely lost for a strategy to counter Hamilton’s power-hitting, it begs the question as to whether or not they had put in the necessary work to get the desired result.
On this day of the local government election, it is therefore appropriate to recall the political statement of a former prime minister in a sporting context: performance beats old talk every time.