After a wooden spoon in 2018 and only two wins in the first six league games in 2019, nobody gave Barbados Tridents a chance. They won the three out of their last four league games to secure second position in the 2019 points table, yet no-one looked at them as contenders for the title. They marched to the final winning Qualifier 2, yet they were written off.
The Tridents’ 2019 Caribbean Premier League season was about delivering the message that they can never be taken lightly. They defeated the seemingly invincible Guyana Amazon Warriors in the most convincing fashion to lift the trophy.
Jason Holder will continue to lead them. Stripped of West Indies’ white-ball captaincy, the Barbadian cricketer proved his credentials as a T20 captain last season. The coaching responsibilities have shifted from Phil Simmons to Andrew Richardson. There has been changes in the squad as well, particularly in the overseas personnel.
Alex Hales and Harry Gurney were the only surviving overseas players from the victorious 2019 campaign. However, the Tridents have lost four out of their five first-choice overseas cricketers due to various reasons. Hales, Gurney and Marcus Stoinis have withdrawn because of other cricketing commitments. The swashbuckling opener, Rahmanullah Gurbaz from Afghanistan failed to arrive in the Caribbean because he could not arrange the required transit visa to pass through the UK. The Tridents found only two overseas cricketers to fill these four vacant spots; signing Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner.
Despite the setbacks, the Tridents have a number of tricks up their sleeves. They have done well to secure the core, which did magic for them in 2019 and as stated earlier, opponents will write them off at their own peril.
The Tridents had one of the best, if not the best spin attack in the 2019 CPL. They bowled 103.3 overs of spin in the season, second only to the Guyana Amazon Warriors. They scalped 44 wickets at 14.1 balls per wicket defeating the Warriors in wicket-taking frequency.
Their USA recruit, Hayden Walsh Jr. turned out be a revelation pouching 22 wickets - most in the tournament - and emerging as the player-of-the-tournament. His stunning bowling display fetched him a spot in West Indies’ white-ball side by virtue of his Antiguan father.
This year, the Tridents have further bolstered their spin department by adding Santner, who will take Shakib Al Hasan’s role in the bowling line-up, and Rashid Khan, the top-ranked bowler in T20Is. Two leggies in the same T20 XI - Walsh and Rashid - lends Tridents the much-needed x-factor. Their spin trio, plus Ashley Nurse, is on par with the Warriors’. Overall, it will be a compelling experience to watch which spin contingent comes out on top amongst the two.
In the pace arsenal, skipper Holder was the highest wicket-taker in Powerplays last year. He snaffled 12 wickets striking every 17.5 deliveries with an economy rate of 7.5. If he clicks upfront again, it will make the spinners' job easier and shape the Tridents as a serious bowling unit competent to take wickets with both spin and pace.
The lack of a death bowler remains a major shortcoming in their squad. Gurney’s shoes are too big to fill. Emulating Holder’s Powerplay overs’ feat, Gurney was the highest wicket-taker during the death last season (9). More importantly, his economy rate was 7.6, making him one of the most effective death bowlers in the tournament.
In his absence, Holder and Raymond Reifer are the only experienced pacers in the squad and the former’s quota will be exhausted upfront. The Kiwi allrounder, Anderson might chip in with his innocuous pace but death bowling remains an area of vulnerability for the Tridents.
The Tridents also lack an enforcer with the bat in the top-order. Another consequence of player unavailability - the withdrawal of Hales and Gurbaz - the reigning champions now lay all their eggs in one basket, Johnson Charles, for quick runs at the top. The other potential occupants of the top three are Shai Hope and Shamarh Brooks, none of whom have a T20 strike-rate in excess of 130.
With overseas players opting out, the Tridents could fill only three out of the five available overseas slots (the ICC America’s pick aside). The unavailabilities have led to vacant spots in the Tridents’ quiver. However, a hallmark of their victorious 2019 campaign was how they found a new-match winner every day. Jonathan Carter carting the Warriors’ bowling attack en route a match-winning 27-ball 51 in the final is a fine example. The defending champions will hope the trend continues in the 2020 season.
With a dearth of fast bowlers in their line-up, it will be interesting to see if the Tridents go with a four-man spin attack including Rashid, Walsh, Santner and Nurse or they show faith in one of their young local pacers. In case of the latter, their U19 signing Nyeem Young could prove to be a dark horse.
A bowling allrounder, Young attained limelight winning consecutive man-of-the-match awards in the U19 World Cup earlier this year. He has been deemed as a future star by Ian Bishop. Young recently stated that he loves bowling in the death overs seeking an audition to fill in for Gurney’s absence.
Johnson Charles, Shai Hope (wk), Shamarh Brooks, Corey Anderson, Jonathan Carter, Mitchell Santner, Rashid Khan, Jason Holder (c), Nyeem Young, Hayden Walsh Jr., Raymond Reifer
Barbados Tridents will begin their season on the inaugural day of CPL 2020. They will be playing the second game of the double header against St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots.