Caribbean Premier League - Intro
The 2021 version of the CPL gets underway later this month, with the first game taking place on 26th August, with the final being held on 15th September. Meaning 33 games will be crammed into just under 3 weeks and double headers will be played for the entirety of the group stages, with triple headers for the final two game weeks. There is only two days without games from the start of the competition until the end, meaning we could see plenty of rotation as teams look to avoid fatigue/injuries.
Last season’s tournament wasn’t exactly a close run event. TKR won the tournament at a canter, winning all 10 of their group stage games, before winning both their knockout games, on their way to an unbeaten title run. The squad they have available to them this season is similar, with one major loss being DJ Bravo to St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, in a deal which sees keeper Denesh Ramdin re-join TKR. Trinbago having a similar squad could be good news for other teams in the tournament, as there is a chance conditions could be different to the ones we saw last season, at least for the first part of the tournament.
Every game in the tournament will be held at Warner Park in St Kitts and Nevis, a venue that has traditionally been high scoring in comparison to other CPL venues:
Warner Park looks to comfortably be the best batting track of any of the main CPL venues. As the ground with the highest batting economy rate, boundary percentage and lowest balls per six, as well as being the ground that was least favourable for spinners. So it should initially be a great venue for batting, with some high scoring games, there is a possibility that it could slow down later in the tournament but by how much, is just guess work really. For reference, last season’s tournament which was held at two different venues in Trinidad and Tobago, the first half of the tournament had a batting economy rate of 6.73 and the second half was 6.45, so not a massive drop off.
Despite the apparent improvement in batting conditions that players are likely to face this year, it will be still be interesting to see the impact spin has on the tournament. Over the last few years, Caribbean conditions have been more favourable for spinners than any other countries that host major t20 tournaments:
The difference of 1.51 between the economy rates of spin & non-spin is comfortably the highest, as well as having the highest % of deliveries bowled by spinners at nearly 44%. The actual economy rate of spinners is also much lower in CPL than in other leagues, with a gap of 0.61 between the CPL & BPL.
The change in venue will be pleasing for CPL fans, as they look to forget last year’s tournament, where the pitches were dreadful. The 2020 tournament was one of the lowest scoring t20 tournaments of all time and comfortably the lowest scoring major tournament since 2018:
As you can see the 2020 CPL was the lowest scoring tournament in the last few years by some distance. Traditionally CPL tournaments had been some of the lower scoring tournaments but last season took that to a new extreme, games became predictable and far less enjoyable for spectators.
An interesting quirk of the CPL is that four of six teams qualify for the knockout rounds, meaning that the best teams often go through and there are far less outliers in comparison to other t20 competitions where there are 8 or 9 teams in a group.
The stronger sides often make it through to the knockout rounds and there is very little in terms of obvious anomalies. Where as, in comparison to something like the t20 blast, where only four of nine sides qualify for the knockout rounds, you get less consistency:
Plenty of sides with positive net run rates have missed out on qualification in the t20 blast, in comparison to the last five seasons of CPL, where every team that has finished with a positive net run rate has qualified for the knockout rounds.
The importance of finishing in the top two can’t be understated either. Since moving to the eliminator/qualifier format in 2016, every side that has won the tournament in each of the four seasons has finished in the top two. As well as all eight of the finalists being teams that have finished in the top two. Last season St Lucia became the first side to finish outside the top two and reach the final since 2016. However that was possibly only as a result of the CPL moving back to the traditional style of knockout matches, with two straight semi-finals and a final.
This has remained consistent in other tournaments that use a similar format for knockout rounds. As far as I can see, from the 22 seasons of IPL, CPL, PSL & BBL that have used an eliminator/qualifier format, only two sides that have finished outside the top two have won the tournament. They were — Sunrisers in the 2016 IPL and Islamabad in the 2016 PSL. Of the 44 finalists, 38 were teams that finished in the top two. Which once again highlights how important a top two finish can be in these competitions.
In terms of squad size each team will be made up of 17 players, with up to five overseas players allowed, four of which can be in the XI at any time. Another squad rule the CPL has is the emerging player rule. Each side must have two emerging players in the squad and sides must field an emerging player in at least five games in a season. Briefly looking at the 12 emerging players selected, it’s going to be far easier for some teams than others to meet the five game requirement. Here is a list of the 12 emerging players for the 2021 CPL season:
Barbados Royals — Nyeem Young & Joshua Bishop
Guyana Amazon Warriors — Ashmead Nedd & Kevin Sinclair
Jamaica Tallawahs — Kirk Mckenzie & Joshua James
St Kitts & Nevis Patriots — Dominic Drakes & Joshua Da Silva
Saint Lucia Kings — Kadeem Alleyne & Jeavor Royal
Trinbago Knight Riders — Leonardo Julien & Jayden Seales
Guyana Amazon Warriors will probably find it easiest to meet the requirement as one of Nedd or Sinclar will most likely be in the side anyway. While Barbados, St Kitts and Trinbago should all find it fairly comfortable getting five games out of their emerging players. On the other hand for Jamaica and Saint Lucia there isn’t an obvious solution and the players will probably have to come in when players are injured/rested. Eight players on the list have CPL experience and a few have played international cricket for the Windies in various formats, though Kevin Sinclair is the only one to deputise in the shortest format. None of the players are particularly experienced and only a few have played more than a handful of t20 games, even still it’s far easier to see a route to games for some than others.
Stats from last season
I feel like it’s worth looking at an overall view of how teams faired last season, though it’s not necessarily indicative of where there strengths and weaknesses will lie this season due to different squads and conditions. Below there are some basic batting and bowling stats for each team from last season, as well as the tournament average for those stats:
Unsurprisingly Trinbago were dominant in a lot of stats last season, particularly with the bat; scoring at almost 1 run per over more than the tournament average. Specific area’s in which they stood out were death overs hitting and avoiding dismissals vs spin, which perhaps wouldn’t always necessarily be a benefit but when nearly 55% of deliveries in the tournament were bowled by spinners it certainly is.
Guyana were strong with the ball, which saw them finish the group stages in the top two, despite being the slowest scoring team in the tournament with the bat. While St Kitts have a lot of room for improvement after being the worst team with the ball and well below average with the bat. Initially they looked to have done that but different international series has led to them having to replace their four first choice overseas players! They still look to have improved but the team definitely doesn’t look as promising as it did.
In what was a difficult season for batting, there were still a few players that managed to stand out. Pollard had a freak season, striking at 205, which was over 60 higher than the next player to face over 100 balls, while also striking at 270 in the 55 balls he faced in the death overs. CPL regular Glenn Phillips also managed to have a strong campaign given the conditions, striking comfortably above the tournament average, while averaging 35 in the process. The most impressive part of his tournament was the fact he managed to strike at 140 through the middle overs, a phase where plenty of batsmen were struggling to strike at above 100. Russell, Hetmyer, Bravo and Simmons were other players who had decent campaigns.
On the bowling side of things:
It’s not a surprise that spin bowlers dominate in terms of economy rate. Last season spinners went at 6.08 rpo compared to 7.9 for non-spin bowlers. In terms of strike rate they were very similar; spinners to a wicket every 19.5 balls and non-spin was every 18.94 balls. Jason Holder and Naveen-Ul-Haq were two pace bowlers that had particularly impressive campaigns last time out.
As I said earlier we shouldn’t see conditions too similar to last season given the change of venue. However you can never be certain with all games being held at one venue, there is every chance that the pitches could deteriorate as we progress through the tournament.
Thanks for reading!