Miller concerned Tallawahs may have lost sense of cheer, camaraderieSunday, May 17, 2020
BY SANJAY MYERS
REFLECTING on his time competing in the Caribbean Premier League (CPL), Nikita Miller says his early spell at Jamaica Tallawahs was typified by high-spirited cheer and camaraderie, a far cry from the seeming dysfunction within the franchise nowadays.
“My first year with the Tallawahs, I would rank as my best season, or the best team I've represented. The atmosphere, the vibe, the whole thing… In Trinidad, probably a couple of seasons ago, rivalled that,” said Miller, part of the Christopher Gayle-captained Jamaican franchise that won the inaugural CPL Twenty20 (T20) tournament in 2013.
“That [Tallawahs] team we operated like a family [but] I didn't see that last season. I can't speak for other seasons, but that's not the Jamaica team we've come to recognise,” he told the Jamaica Observer during a recent telephone interview.
The retired slow left-arm bowler, Jamaica's top spinner during his playing days, left the Tallawahs after the 2015 campaign. But Miller, now a regional cricket coach, notched another two titles during his 2016-2018 spell with Trinbago Knight Riders, formerly Trinidad & Tobago Red Steel.
The Tallawahs, again with Gayle as the skipper, became two-time champions in 2016, but they have not lifted the title since.
Gayle, one of T20 cricket's iconic players, left for St Kitts and Nevis Patriots in 2017.
Widening cracks started to show within the Tallawahs in 2018 when the franchise, supposedly seeking to nurture its fan base beyond Jamaican shores, hosted the majority of its games in the United States.
The team, which is owned by Guyanese/American Krishna Persaud, played twice at Sabina Park in Kingston, and the other three times at Central Broward Regional Park in Florida.
The Tallawahs won both encounters in Kingston, but lost all their Florida-based clashes. In the midst of their travails, some players — both privately and publicly — pointed frustrated fingers at the controversial decision to bump Sabina Park to the back burner.
Last season, Gayle made a heralded return to the Jamaican franchise which reverted to staging all its home games in Kingston. But the team endured its worst campaign yet, winning only two of 10 preliminary matches to place last.
The hard-hitting left-hander, who said he had been eager to enter the second season of a three-year contract with the Tallawahs, was allowed to leave, and last month it was announced that he had signed for St Lucia Zouks.
Gayle later posted on YouTube, claiming the franchise management had lacked transparency in the events which led to his departure. He accused the Tallawahs Assistant Coach Ramnaresh Sarwan of undermining him, insisting his former West Indies teammate was influential in the process.
The franchise and Sarwan denied the latter had any input in the decision. According to a statement issued by the Tallawahs, the move not to retain the 40-year-old player was based on “business and cricketing reasoning”.
Days after Gayle's outburst, swashbuckling all-rounder Andre Russell also went public. Addressing fans on his Instagram Live, he gave further evidence of disarray when he blamed the Tallawahs management for communication shortcomings.
The 32-year-old superstar, named the leading T20 cricketer in 2019 by the Wisden Cricketers' Almanack, declared his intent to leave the franchise when his contract expires at the end of the upcoming season.
Russell, retained by the franchise along with fellow Jamaicans Rovman Powell, Chadwick Walton and Oshane Thomas, predicted an “awkward dressing room” for the 2020 CPL, which is slated for August 19 to September 26, pending requisite approval, given the health risk presented by the coronavirus pandemic.
While reiterating the widely held view that there are seeds of discontent within the set-up, Miller weighed the opposing perspectives.
“I don't have first-hand knowledge of what's been going on behind the scenes. After retiring last year I sat in the stands and I watched the Tallawahs play and it wasn't the Tallawahs I'm used to, or the Tallawahs I represented. Hopefully, they can get back to the level we're used to, always being at the top of the table or in the play-offs and so on.
“It's a business and you can understand what the owners are saying, but you can also understand where the two disgruntled players are coming from. I don't know the full story, so I won't delve into who is wrong and who is right. I'm sure Chris would be disappointed and Russell would be disappointed [about] the treatment based on what they said in the media. There must be a reason individuals are reacting in [that] way,” the 38-year-old said.
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