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Paul Nixon column – Few star names, but I’m backing my lads!

The draft for this year’s Caribbean Premier League took place this week and I’m really pleased with the business that Jamaica Tallawahs have done. I will be back in the West Indies in a few months and, having seen our new squad, I’m hopeful of making it three titles out of three – I wouldn’t be going back if I didn’t think we had a chance!

I’ve been having weekly contact with the guys over there and, though I wasn’t at the draft, I kept a close eye on it. We’ve worked together to get a squad that has a lot of talent, even if it isn’t full of the star names like others are.

Our planning starts now. We are already talking about the work the guys can do individually. A lot of the guys we’ve signed are Jamaican – they know each other well and they work with each other on a daily basis anyway. I’m in constant contact with those guys.

We are, maybe, one overseas batsman short at the moment, but we are keeping our eyes open.

We’ve kept hold of Kumar Sangakkara, who was great for us last year, and then brought in a couple of very talented bowlers.

Mohammad Sami defended four runs off the last over in the PSL recently to put his side in the play-offs so that shows the talent he has. And Krishmar Santokie looks an exciting talent so I’m looking forward to working with him, too.

We are going to have to jiggle our order around a little bit this year, having lost Chris Gayle and Chadwick Walton, who got a century against England in one of the Three Lions’ warm-up games before they whitewashed the West Indies. That’s obviously a lot of talent to be losing but we landed Lendl Simmons, who is a world-class player.

Imad Wasim falls into that bracket, too, as does Shakib-Al-Hasan. Rovman Powell is a very exciting young kid, who can clear the ropes from ball one. He also bowls very clever medium pace, and he’s a bit of a Dimi Mascarenhas- type cricketer.

Kesrick Williams is also a Tallawah for this season, and I’m amazed nobody picked him up for the IPL. He was one of the bowlers of the CPL last year, on good pitches, and he’s a real talent.

Gidron Pope is another exciting hard-hitting batsman we have signed and we’ve got Oshane Thomas again. He was in our U19 squad last year and we brought him into the final. He’s one of the most exciting prospects to come out of the West Indies. A 6ft 6ins fast bowler, he bowls 90mph and has only just turned 20.

He bowled brilliantly in the final for us last year and has a very bright future.

So we, maybe, don’t have the big names that people would have hoped for but it’s about who you feel can deliver the match-winning performances. We know we have talent in our squad, and I’m confident any one of them can win a match on their own.

Chris Gayle has joined St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, and they’ve got the base of a very good side with Chris Morris and Ben Cutting there, too. Ben was someone that we were also looking at but it’s all about gaps. You need to fit them into gaps in the team, and also in the financial structure.

St Kitts have also got Phil Simmons as their head coach and he’s bound to get them going in the right direction throughout the tournament. They’re all very evenly balanced squads but Phil is a good coach and will know how to get the best out of his players.

St Lucia Stars’ team looks strong. David Miller, Lasith Malinga, Shane Watson, Darren Sammy are all there but big names aren’t the be-all and end-all. We’ve not got the biggest of names at Jamaica but we’ve got a wide array of talent and the boys there have the local knowledge – you can’t beat that.

A couple of Associate nation players have been picked up, too. Afghanistan’s former captain Mohammad Nabi is at St Kitts while his international teammate Rashid Khan has gone to the Guyana Amazon Warriors. It’s brilliant to see and testimony to the work these boys have put in. For Associates to get picked in that environment is just brilliant because they have to do it the hard way. They don’t play many international class matches so tournaments like these are their big chance.

It puts them on the world map and if they can do well on this stage, with the world-class teams, then don’t be surprised to see them go further. The audience gets bigger and bigger each season at the CPL and it really is a chance to impress.

This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper, March 17 2017

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