CricViz analyst Freddie Wilde examines Guyana Amazon Warriors’ CPL so far.
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Guyana have already lost more matches this season than they lost in their entire campaign last year. While they remain one of the favourites for the CPL it was always highly unlikely that they would replicate their astonishing 2019 season where they won 11 consecutive matches. That is not only because such a run of wins in the capricious T20 format is highly dependent on luck going their way but simply because last year their whole team worked in sync with one another, in form, fit and firing, to a degree that was always unlikely to happen again. It is rare a T20 team ever plays as well as Guyana did for as long as they did.
This season their spin attack, the feature that defines their cricket, has been excellent once again. Only St Lucia Zouks’ spinners have recorded a lower average so far. Their pace bowling has been a little more mixed: Keemo Paul and Naveen-ul-Haq have impressed while Romario Shepherd and Odean Smith have struggled a touch. Guyana’s defence of 118 – the lowest total successfully defended in CPL history – underlines that the scrappy, parsimonious Guyana are still very much alive and kicking.
The major issue however, has been their batting. Last year Guyana were ostensibly a team defined by their strong bowling which would restrict and choke teams and their batting—while packed with explosive players in the middle order—was set-up to complement that strong bowling, rather than the other way around.
Their batting last year was defined by the excellence of their top order – particularly Brandon King who had an outstanding season and Shoaib Malik anchoring at number four. These two players enabled the more explosive players to bat around them but given the brilliance of King and Malik and indeed the bowling attack, those explosive players: Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran and Sherfane Rutherford, did not have much work to do. The question always was how would they fare without the solidity provided by King and Malik?
Well, this season may provide the answer because King has only scored 40 runs from his four innings so far while Malik has been replaced in the team by Ross Taylor who batted nicely in the first game against TKR but has since struggled, registering 40 runs at well below a run-a-ball. These issues have turned the spotlight on Guyana’s local batsmen and so far the returns have been mixed. Hetmyer and Pooran have both scored fifties (two in Hetmyer’s case) but struggled aside from those knocks while Chandrapaul Hemraj and Rutherford – at either ends of the innings, have found it tough going in terms of volume and rate of runs.
Notably Guyana have particularly had issues batting against spin – something that was considered a pre-tournament strength. No team has scored more slowly against spin than the Amazon Warriors’ 5.58 RPO. They haven’t all suddenly become bad players of spin but their form against the slower bowlers is a growing concern in a season likely to be marked by slow, low pitches.
Guyana don’t need to panic yet. They’ve not been anywhere near their best with the bat in three of their four matches but they’ve won two of their four matches and are third in the points table. Additionally, the straight semi final structure means finishing in the top two doesn’t matter. It would still be a shock if Guyana were even in a qualification dogfight let alone not make the top four.
It will be fascinating to see for how long they persist with their current structure if they continue to lose. They are a team who know their method and are likely to stick to it, at least for the next few matches. They’ve got no real batting quality to add from the bench so solutions can only be found in reshuffling the order.
Giving Pooran more time at the crease should be a priority. Indeed the fix may be as simple as making Pooran the first man to come in if a wicket falls outside the Powerplay, even if that means Taylor sliding down. A winning team can afford to waste Pooran at five but a losing team cannot.
Promoting Rutherford to open to better exploit the Powerplay is also an option but that would be a bold move to make at this stage and risks leaving them light at the death. Better pitches at the Queen’s Park Oval, Pooran facing more balls and imminent matches against Jamaica and St Kitts should provided Johan Botha’s team with the release they need.
Freddie Wilde is a CricViz analyst, @fwildecricket.