Keemo Paul back in squad as GAW eye 1st CPL title

GAW Captain Imran Tahir and TKR Captain Kieron Pollard got a feel of the CPL Championship Trophy during a pre-match press briefing on Saturday

Thumping hearts, sweaty palms and bitten finger nails are only a fraction of what to expect at the Guyana National Stadium at Providence, East Bank Demerara this evening as the final game of the 2023 Republic Bank Caribbean Premier League (CPL) gets underway.

What can be considered the biggest rivalry in the CPL’s 11-year history will take centre stage with the Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) and the Trinbago Knight Riders (TKR) contesting the highly anticipated final.

While recent history will be on the side of home team the Guyana Amazon Warriors, their having won two of the games in these teams’ three meetings this year, Trinbago Knight Riders have the occurrences of years past to back them; having not only bested the Warriors in the 2019 final, but winning a perfect 4 out of 4 in their CPL final appearances.

Each team is confident they would uplift the CPL Trophy, as articulated by TKR captain Kieron Pollard and GAW captain Imran Tahir in a pre-match press conference on Saturday afternoon at the Pegasus Suites and Conference Center in Georgetown.

“It would be great! It is something that has eluded us for the last couple of years. We did not have the best of seasons last year, finishing at the bottom of the table and watching everyone bask in their glory. I think for us we went ahead and stuck to our plans, and being able to get to the final now, it would be a magnificent feat for us as a franchise and our supporters around the Caribbean. So, we are looking forward for a good game tomorrow, and let’s see what happens in the end,” Pollard told media operatives on Saturday.

Imran Tahir said, “If you ask me, even for me – and I’m not Guyanese – I feel like it’s been six years and I’ve been on many occasions (in the) semifinal, final. So, this is a big year for this nation, and they’re right behind us, and I just want to say thanks for their support. And look, it is a big occasion, especially for myself and whole team, and we know how important it is. Kids looking up to their heroes, and people have a lot of expectations from us. Results cannot be guaranteed, but one thing guaranteed from myself and team (is): we’re going to give everything that we have.”

It is by now no secret that the Amazon Warriors have come up short in all their final appearances, while the Knight Riders have secured 4 wins out of 4 appearances at the final. As such, the captains discussed the psychological impact that history may have on the 2023 final.

“If you look back, then you always think about it. But for me, how I look at it, there will be a day when someone’s going to cross the line, and I feel like this team has all the ingredients to do this. We truly believe this, it’s just on the day we have to believe a little bit more, help each other, like how we’ve been (doing) in the whole competition,” Tahir said on the topic.

“Honestly, I don’t think we’re playing any psychological games or anything like that. We worry about what TKR needs to worry about. So, I’m not sure what they’re thinking about psychologically, or whatever; but what I can safely say is that it’ another game of cricket for us, and we’re going to prepare as such,” Pollard related.

Keemo Paul return

Earlier today, the previously injured Keemo Paul underwent a fitness assessment and was cleared for play in tonight’s game.

“Keemo Paul has returned to the Amazon Warriors squad ahead of the final today. His temp replacement Shamar Joseph has left the squad,” it was announced this morning.

From a TKR perspective, everyone is fit and ready to play, except Martin Guptill who suffered a little niggle on Wednesday last.

Regarding selection, TKR are a star-studded team, and according to Pollard, that is good for the team. A smiling Pollard shared, “Headaches and selection is something we are accustomed to. Being West Indies captain around the world, what is good is that (at) some point in time, that everyone put up their hand in this campaign. Going into the final and having that selection headache is great for us as a team.”

Tahir said he is not worried about the unsettled question regarding the opening pair for the Warriors. He noted that once players in the middle are contributing, he is unfazed.

“We supposed to have Gurbaz, and we have been struggling a bit, but no complains. We are (satisfied), we just need to look at different options in our middle order. Everyone is chipping in; I am not thinking about that.”

With a chance to grab their first title in their first final at home, Captain Tahir is confidence this bunch of GAW fighters can make history.

“I’m extremely proud for myself and for my team. What we achieved so far, just one game away and I think we can make history and be heroes for this country. And I truly believe that we’re going to give a good fight to the opposition,” Tahir vowed.