Today is the long-awaited Caribbean Premier League (CPL) final and after 32 matches, only two teams remain standing - the favourites Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR), and the St Lucia Zouks (SLZ). Many of you would have predicted TKR to reach this far but who would have chosen SLZ to get this far? Certainly not me.
I owe skipper Daren Sammy a huge apology as I did not even have his team getting out of the preliminary stage. But boy has he led this team well; they play for one another and they fight down to the wire. When one looks through the team, there are no outstanding stars and before the tournament started they lost Chris Gayle which, in the end, may well have worked in their favour as there are no prima donnas in this team. They have proven to be well organised, tactically sound and are great to watch.
The two semifinal match-ups were disappointing games as the Jamaica Tallawahs (JT) is just so inconsistent that you never know what to expect from them and playing against the well-oiled TKR, they were destined to come out second best.
Batting wise, the dependency syndrome on Glenn Phillips and Andre Russell is too much to bear and if they both fail, the team does not have another two or three batsmen who will stand up to be counted. In short, they have big names but poor performances.
Admittedly, I felt extremely sorry for Russell. He went in to bat with the score on 63 for 5 in the 12th over and had to score runs quickly if the JT were to get a competitive score. Unfortunately, he was on the receiving end of an awful decision and was given out caught off of his pads in the 14th over with the score on 68.
His emotions sadly got the better of him and he was visibly angry and may well have to answer for his behaviour. But, this ordeal could have easily been avoided had there been the Decision Review System (DRS) in place. Why after all these years does the CPL still not have DRS? Surely if we have the technology, it is there to assist the umpires and Russell would have appealed the decision and continued to bat. Come on CPL officials, we must use the technology for the sake of the players and the tournament.
The other losing semi-finalist, the Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW), with a supposedly powerful batting line-up were a disaster bowled out for 55. Yet another year without winning the title. I am not so naive this time to stick my head out to predict a winner as the SLZ are riding high at the moment and the TKR must guard against complacency as the Zouks are a confident team.
Next week, I will give my thoughts on all the teams of the tournament as a whole but thus far, it has been a well-organised tournament, incident-free and most importantly sport, especially live cricket, was back on the television and across the airwaves.
On the topic of sport back on television, what a week we have had in addition to the CPL; England played Australia in a T20 series; NBA basketball; the UEFA Nations League and the US Open tennis championships are nearing completion.
In the US Open, just like Russell, another superstar let their emotions get the better of them as Novak Djokovic was defaulted out of the tournament after having struck a line judge in the throat with the ball by accident when his serve was broken. It was indeed unfortunate but it is a lesson all world superstars must learn - to control their emotions.
Unlike in Russell’s case, Djokovic had nobody but himself to blame. What was even more startling is in the aftermath of the incident, the line judge has been subjected to abhorrent abuse on social media after a Serbian newspaper published her social media usernames. She had absolutely nothing to do with the default of Djokovic and I feel really sorry for her.
Turning to a brighter note, this weekend my favourite football league, and I am sure that of many fellow Trinbagonians is back up and running on our screens - the English Premier League. It is indeed wonderful to say that Liverpool will be defending their Premier League title. This year promises to be close and exciting but dear me, it is difficult to predict.
Last season, Liverpool waltzed away with the title by March even though COVID-19 had threatened to spoil the Anfield party. I expect Manchester City to be challenging again as their manager Pep Guardiola hates to finish second best. Chelsea has gone into the transfer market and basically bought a whole new squad as they are eager for success.
Manchester United finished strongly last year and have bought a couple of players to sustain their challenge for the top four. Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur should fare better this season as both their managers would have learnt not only from their mistakes last season, but they would now know the strengths and weaknesses of their squads.
The foregoing teams, as I see it, are the top six but there is always a fly in the ointment - Leicester City back in 2016, Wolverhampton Wanderers in 2019 and Sheffield United in 2020. Could it be newly promoted Leeds United or Carlos Ancelotti’s Everton? What about the relegation scrap? Can all three promoted clubs stay up? What about those who escaped the drop last season: Aston Villa, West Ham and Brighton? Will they be there again fighting the drop?
It promises to be another jam-packed European season with Spain’s La Liga also starting this weekend and Italy’s Serie A, a week later. Some clubs have suggested they may let up to 3,000 spectators in their venues by October which is encouraging. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope that when football resumes, it will be safe and incident-free. Enjoy the viewing, fellow sports fanatics!
Editor’s note: The views expressed in this column are solely those of the writer and do not reflect the views of any organisation of which he is a stakeholder.