Caribbean Premier League Team-by-Team Guide: Gayle to inspire St Kitts

Chris Gayle escapes a run out. He is the undoubted star of the CPL
Chris Gayle escapes a run out. He is the undoubted star of the CPL

As the fifth edition of the Caribbean Premier League completes its early foray into Florida, James Buttler assesses the leading contenders for glory over the next month - you can catch all the action on Betfair Live Video...

"Gayle has been the star of the CPLT20's four years and there are more runs to come. His 111 not out for the Tallawahs against St Lucia Zouks in 2014 was the highest individual score of any CPL and his 1,452 runs in the first four editions is the most by any player."

The T20 format was born in England in 2003, but should have been invented in the Caribbean. The game's shortest format has carnival, calypso and the cavalier at its core. It's a natural fit for the spirit of West Indian cricket and the national side has taken it to their hearts lifting the ICC World T20 crown in 2012 and 2016.

The 2017 edition of the CPLt20 began this week with 30 matches over 37 days scheduled to decide the fate of the six participating sides. The tournament's early trip to the United States is an obvious marketing tactic. If the Americans are ever going to understand cricket without the aid of a T-towel, then T20 is their best chance.

And don't assume that the local talent is representing the islands they are from. Chris Gayle, the talismanic left-hander is as symbolic to Jamaica as Bob Marley and Usain Bolt, but he is skippering the St Kitts and Nevis Patriots this time around.

Gayle predictably revels in showcasing his powerful skills in front of the West Indies public. He hit a total of three sixes as the Patriots made the perfect start with a win double over Guyana Amazon Warriors and extended his tournament tally of maximums to 108. The next best in the all-time list is the currently banned Andre Russell with 62 sixes.

The achilles heel of West Indies cricket has often been a deeply rooted political rivalry between the islands. While the CPL pits the nations against each other, it also unites them in promoting a tournament they know is crucial for the financial wellbeing of cricket in their part of the world. It gets better every year and has already catapulted some young West Indian talent into the IPL and other leagues around the globe.

Let's have a look at the runners and riders. Sportsbook odds correct at time of publication.

Trinbago Knight Riders - 2/1

The artist formerly known as Trinidad Red Steel won the CPLT20 in 2015 and with Dwayne and Darren Bravo, Sunil Narine and Denesh Ramdin leading a strong home base they have all the assets to take a second crown. Add Brendon McCullum, Shadhab Khan, Brad Hogg, Colim Munro and Hashim Amla and you've got a decent smattering of star talent.

Dwayne Bravo has taken 68 wickets in the CPL, the most by any player and if Trinidad can keep him fit he's always a weapon. But Narine is the star man. His economy rate of 5.2 per over in the CPL is the best for any bowler and he's a constant wicket-taking threat. I can see why they have been installed as early favourites at 2/1, but they are not my pick to win the trophy.

St Kitts and Nevis Patriots - 3/1

Early signs are that the responsibility of captaincy is serving Gayle and the Patriots well. His unbeaten 66 from 55 balls to enable his side to post a winning score of 132 for three in their second game was the slowest of his career in this format, but he read the conditions well and showed all of his experience.

Gayle has been the star of the CPLT20's four years and there are more runs to come. His 111 not out for the Tallawahs against St Lucia Zouks in 2014 was the highest individual score of any CPL and his 1,452 runs in the first four editions is the most by any player. Predictably he's also smashed the most sixes. Since his ill-advised comments to a female TV reporter in the 2015/16 Big Bash, Gayle has faded by his own high standards. This tournament provides him with the perfect platform to grab the headlines for all the right reasons.

Samuel Badree, Carlos Brathwaite and Evin Lewis join their skipper to form the spine of a quality Caribbean crop. Tabraiz Shamsi, Chris Morris and Mohammad Nabi are all regulars in the domestic T20 competitions around the world and Hasan Ali and Mohammad Hafeez have benefitted from the success of the Pakistan Super League.

St Kitts and Nevis are my pick to win the 2017 competition and the price of 3/1 is likely to keep you interested all the way to the final at the Queens Park Oval in Trinidad on 9 September.

Barbados Tridents - 4/1

The Tridents lifted the title in 2014 and once again look a balanced unit under the stewardship of their human tree trunk of a match-winner Kieron Pollard. With Tino Best and Nicholas Pooran the leading home contingent and Wayne Parnell, Dwayne Smith, Kane Williamson and Pakistan players Wahab Riaz and Shoaib Malik adding overseas quality the Tridents have a real shout this time. 4/1 is a good price on a quality side that should make the final four at least.

Jamaica Tallawahs 6/1

History would suggest that the Jamaica Tallawahs are the side to beat. Coached by former England keeper Paul Nixon, the defending champions and the winners of the inaugural event in 2013 are skippered by Sri Lankan legend Kumar Sangakkara. The Tallawahs played their great rivals Barbados Tridents twice in Lauderhill, Florida and shared the points after winning the second game by 12 runs after succumbing to a defeat by the same margin in their opening encounter.

Imad Wasim, Mohammad Sami and Shakib al Hasan are strong overseas signings alongside Sanga and with Lendl Simmons at the top of the order they have a spark to get them going. Lendl Simmons has scored 10 fifties in the CPL, the most by any player before this season. Shakib Al Hasan's figures of 6 for 6 for Barbados Tridents against Red Steel in 2013 are the best figures in CPL and he is a genuine all-rounder who can win matches with bat or ball.

The Tallawahs are currently 6/1 to win the title, which is decent value, but I think the last four is where they will bow out.

St Lucia Stars - 7/1

Darren Sammy leads St Lucia and has the knack of winning trophies, however this edition of the CPL may be beyond even his long reach. They've lost their opening two matches and their squad is bereft of talent. Andre Fletcher, Jerome Taylor and Marlon Samuels are the best of the homegrown talent, but there is genuine pressure on Sammy and overseas signings Eddie Leie, Kamran Akmal, Mitchell McLenaghan and Jesse Ryder to turn in match-winning performances. As overseas signings go the are B-List at best and nothing could persuade me to put my money behind them, even at double the existing 7/1 on offer.

Guyana Amazon Warriors - 10/1

The Guyana Amazon Warriors, although currently winless in 2017, have finished in the top four in all four seasons and were runners-up in 2013, 2014 and 2016. They will however do well to maintain that consistency after suffering two early defeats and, led by Kiwi Martin Guptill, they have few household names. Aussie Chris Lynn was forced to withdraw through injury and a lot rests on overseas players Rashid Khan and Sohail Tanvir with the ball. They will struggle this term and the 10/1 on them breaking their title duck this campaign holds no appeal.

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