Besides a six-wicket win over Barbados Tridents, St. Kitts and Nevis Patriots’ best result in the 2020 Caribbean Premier League was a washed out game against Jamaica Tallawahs, which got them a point. However, it did not help them to move from the bottom of the table, where they ended their campaign.
After an overhaul of their roster and the coaching staff, the Patriots looked a pale shadow of the team that reached the play-offs a season before.
For the 2021 edition, the Rayad Emrit-led side have stuck with eight of their squad members from the previous edition while adding the vast experience of Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle and Fawad Ahmed to their ranks. In Gayle, the leading run-scorer in T20 history and Bravo the highest wicket-taker in the format, Patriots have the star power to aim for a big turnaround.
The team were unlucky to miss out on the services of Rassie van der Dussen, Anrich Nortje and Wanindu Hasaranga, who will be on international duty during the CPL. They have also added the young talent of Netherlands pacer Paul van Meekeren who became the first Dutch player to be featuring in the CPL with the experience of Sheldon Cottrell and Bravo to keep him company.
Despite Patriots’ abysmal performance across parameters such as runs per wicket, powerplay scores and strike rate, they had individual brilliance to show in the form of opener Evin Lewis who scored 235 runs from 10 innings last year. When he is on song, the 29-year old can hit the ball a long way and with Gayle by his side, Patriots can expect explosive starts to their innings.
They also have two of the best batsmen from this year’s Pakistan Super League in the form of Sherfane Rutherford and Asif Ali in their ranks. Rutherford, with 276 runs from 12 innings played a pivotal role in Peshawar Zalmi’s journey to the final while Asif Ali’s total of 224 runs from 10 innings in the middle-order were crucial for Islamabad United reaching the play-offs this season. Both the batsmen have batted at a strike rate of over 150 which is something Patriots were looking for.
In the bowling department, Patriots have the combination of Sheldon Cottrell and Paul van Meekeren upfront with captain Rayad Emrit for company. Van Meekeren, with 49 wickets from 50 innings, is the fifth highest T20I wicket-taker for Netherlands. The medium-pacer is a great option with the new ball as he has an economy of 6.1 in the powerplay. The line-up is something the Patriots will depend on this season after hitting rock bottom in the economy, average runs/wicket and average balls/wicket last year.
Starting from scratch wasn’t something captain Rayad Emrit would’ve wanted in 2020. Despite having a talented squad at their disposal, the Patriots failed to execute their plans. Emrit is not a stranger to the format or captaincy having played franchise cricket all across globe and leading Amazon Guyana Warriors for two seasons. But the 40-year old’s communication with his bowlers was poor which reflected in their numbers. With the entire tournament set to be played at the Warner Park in St. Kitts and Nevis and enough matches to assess the conditions, Patriots will need to deliver on their plans this time around.
Contrary to the traditional green tops in the ODIs and Tests, the Caribbean pitches for the CPL have been tailored to aid spin. In 2019, Hayden Walsh Jr and Imran Tahir led the wicket-taking charts while last year, six of the top-10 were spinners. Despite the riches in the pace department, Patriots’ lack of spin options continue from the previous season. For the past two seasons, they have the least wickets claimed by spinners (12 in 2019, 14 in 2020).
The arrival of Fawad Ahmed, who claimed 13 wickets last season, from defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders is a good sign but there is no one to look past him. Fabian Allen has added few international caps to his resume and is an excellent fielder, but is not of the same league as a spinner. He has played 17 T20s so far this year, claiming 12 wickets at an average of 30.9. Jon-Russ Jaggesar was impressive last year but hasn’t played a T20 in 2021. Chris Gayle can be an effective part-time option but is not a strike bowler by any means.
Probable Playing XI: Evin Lewis, Sherfane Rutherford, Chris Gayle, Asif Ali, Joshua da Silva (wk), Rayad Emrit (C), Dwayne Bravo, Fabian Allen, Jon-Russ Jaggesar, Paul van Meekeren, Sheldon Cottrell
Coach: Simon Helmot
St. Kitts & Nevis Patriots will begin their campaign against Barbados Royals on 26th August.