The recent pictures of blank stadium in Test cricket in the Island of St. Lucia notwithstanding, St. Lucia is a place of cricket and spectators. There is no rich cricket history from that corner of the world, with Darren Sammy being the first St. Lucian to play for West Indies men’s cricket team and Nadine George being appointed as the skipper of the country’s women’s cricket team, the team doesn’t have a really strong history to boast about. However, in the darkest trenches of St. Lucia, therein lies a strong proximity towards cricket and if anything, the St Lucia Zouks squad embodies the very basis of it.
It was in 2013 that the St Lucia Zouks team came into being but with a fabrication, they turned out to St Lucia Stars in 2016 before eventually reverting back to St Lucia Zouks after the Caribbean Premier League terminated its participation agreement with Royal Sports Club, LLC - the entity that operates the St Lucia Stars franchise. It was not a decision that was bereft of controversy as the Stars owners were left furious after the decision.
While Caribbean Premier League didn't elaborate on the reasons behind the St Lucia Stars team’s termination, Jay Pandya, the chief executive and owner of Royal Sports Club, LLC, termed the CPL decision ‘an attempt to bully them” and added that the franchise would fight legally. However, later it was reported that the franchise had several outstanding payments, which was one of the reasons behind its axing from the carnival of cricket in the Caribbean Islands.
In the first season of the Caribbean Premier League, the St Lucia Zouks team ended up at the bottom of the table before the squad managed to finish one spot above the next year. While the following season, the team performed much better, Net Run Rate became the eventual arbiter as the St Lucia Zouks squad had to bow out of the competition and let Jamaica Tallwahs go through - a tournament that they had a really good chance of winnings thanks to their team combination. In the next three seasons, the St Lucia Zouks players continued their fluctuating run and never came close to winning a tournament. Can the St Lucia Zouks achieve the eventual ambition this year as they open the tournament on September 5 at the Providence Stadium in Guyana?
For what it was worth, the St Lucia Zouks team remained a fan favourite in the Island. This year, as the Stars made way for St Lucia Zouks and with local star Darren Sammy at the helm of affairs, it is expected to be a resurrection of the sorts. Or at least, the fans will be hoping for it.
Daren Sammy (c), Andre Fletcher (wk), Thisara Perera, Christopher Barnwell, Krishmar Santokie, Najibullah Zadran, Fawad Ahmed, Rahkeem Cornwall, Obed McCoy, Andre McCarthy, Kesrick Williams, Nitish Kumar, John Campbell, Kavem Hodge, Hardus Viljoen, Keddy Lesporis, Jeavor Royal, Roland Cato
Daren Sammy (c), Andre Fletcher (wk), Thisara Perera, Christopher Barnwell, Krishmar Santokie, Najibullah Zadran, Fawad Ahmed, Rahkeem Cornwall, Obed McCoy, Andre McCarthy, Kesrick Williams
Like St Kitts & Nevis Patriots, the St Lucia Zouks players have always underperformed in the league, and the St Lucia Zouks squad have been able to get past the league phase just twice. That speaks volumes about the St Lucia Zouks team and the current season doesn’t promise a lot too. Although they have an assortment of international cricketers, many of them are in doubt to take part in the tournament and if the St Lucia Zouks squad can qualify for the playoffs, it will be a success.
The team’s biggest strength has to be the presence of Darren Sammy and some of the brightest young stars of the Island. However, as Sri Lanka Cricket decided to cancel the NOC of Niroshan Dickwella and Thisara Perera, the St Lucia Zouks squad will face a big setback as they have a star-studded line-up like others. However, if the back is against the wall, Sammy has always stepped up and it has to be the St Lucia Zouks team’s biggest strength. Add to that, John Campbell is in decent T20 form and his performance holds the key to St Lucia Zouks squad’s success in the tournament.
St Lucia Zouks had built their squad around the Sri Lankan trio of Lasith Malinga, Niroshan Dickwella, and Thisara Perera, but as fate would have it, the trio will miss the major part of the Caribbean Premier League after the board’s directives. It turns out to be St Lucia Zouks squad’s biggest strength might turn into one of their biggest weaknesses coming into the tournament.
Can Darren Sammy marshall his squad in the absence of three of their big overseas drafts? It is a fact that would leave the St Lucia Zouks squad owners with some sleepless nights. The ideal situation is to replace them with new players from the pre-organised draft list but the fact lies that they have to refurbish their plans going forward. Not the kind of situation, or rather headache that the new owners would have thought of while taking over it?
Colin de Grandhomme and Rahkeem Cornwall have somehow shed away their bad reputations of inconsistent performers in the last year and have found a way to score runs and take wickets. They will have a huge opportunity to break through once again and boost St Lucia Zouks’ CPL chances. It lies in the hands of the St Lucia Zouks team management to ensure their workload is maintained and they are used properly.
The St Lucia Zouks CPL squad will start their Caribbean Premier League campaign by taking on the Guyana Amazon Warriors CPL squad at the former’s home den Providence Stadium in Guyana. While it is, of course, a difficult way to start the tournament, more difficulties await them as the tournament progressed. The St Lucia Zouks squad will play all of their first-round matches away. After the Guyana game, they will travel to Trinbago to take on defending champions Trinbago Knight Riders CPL squad. Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Barbados will be the three destinations that St Lucia will travel before returning to the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia where Sammy will lead his side at a stadium named after him.
It is fair to say that the bookmakers have little hope on the newly repackaged franchise St Lucia Zouks, as they've been provided odds of 12.00, which is the joint-worst for any of the six teams in the competition, alongside St Kitts and Nevis Patriots. It is understandable though, like last season, in their previous avatar of "St Lucia Stars", they just managed to win 3 of their 10 matches and finished second from the bottom. But T20 being the unpredictable format it is will definitely give hope to the Zouks and with firepower in their squad in the form of Darren Sammy, Thisara Perera, Colin de Grandhomme and John Campbell, it won't be surprising to see the St Lucia Zouks squad turn their fortune around this season.
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