The West Indies World Cup Victory and the aftermath
The West Indies cricket team won its first international title since 2004 when they emerged victorious in the World T20 Cup played in Sri Lanka on Sunday 7 October 2012.
The victory came at the expense of hosts, Sri Lanka, and therefore all the more precious.
Around the world, Caribbean people rejoiced in the sweet taste of a cricketing victory, a feat that has become all too rare over the past few decades. Of course, since it has been such a long time in coming many are once more anxious to suggest that the West Indies cricket team has finally turned the corner in terms of their fortunes.
Unfortunately, every time we have made such an assertion the reality has been that we ran directly into a Mack Truck that easily steam-rolled over us, reminding us of our persistent failure to plan appropriately for the way ahead.
The joy of the most recent victory is such that our people are hopeful that we can become the steamroller instead, taking us back to the glory days when we were indomitable world champions.
There has been no shortage of criticisms levelled at the captain, Sammy, of St Lucia.
Rumours have been circulating suggesting that had the presidency of the West Indies Cricket Board not been in the hands of the St Lucian, Julian Hunte, Sammy would never have been accorded the captaincy. As far as some people around the region are concerned there may well be more than just a grain of truth in that.
There were many who suggested that Sammy would otherwise have had much difficulty retaining his place on the West Indies cricket team for the longer version of the game, had he not been the team’s captain.
The West Indies chose Sammy as a most unlikely candidate for the captaincy at the time and placed its hopes on him. Some have suggested that at the time there was little to recommend him, hence their scathing attacks immediately following his appointment.
Interestingly, as if in defiance of his critics, Sammy has come to the rescue of the team on several occasions. When it is not with his bowling he does it with the bat.
Whatever about individual cricketing pundits’ views on Sammy’s attributes re captaincy in the longer version of the game, he has certainly led the current team to a world title and he must be accorded due kudos for this achievement.
Despite the critics Sammy has shown he has moulded the outfit into a team. The players seem to be together more so than in the past several years. They seem to work well together and mutual respect seems a characteristic feature.
Gayle’s return to the team has not in any way detracted from the work that Sammy had already done to bring the players to adopt a common purpose through teamwork.
In what amounts to a rather simple yet effective leadership style Sammy has been able to get the best out of his teammates leading up to their victory in the latest World Cup tournament.
Sammy is perhaps not as articulate as a Brian Lara nor does he possess the flair and fear of a Vivian Richards. He does not possess the imposing figure of a Clive Lloyd but he somehow generates enthusiasm for the game amongst his players and that matters.
Of course Sammy has had his fair share of problems. He has messed up on more than one occasion but he has often bounced back, knowing how much rests on his shoulders as the head of the team.
True to form the West Indies Cricket Board may well have fallen short in facilitating Sammy’s personal development, especially in the area of communications. This was all the more evident as the team progressed through the rounds of the T20 World Cup.
Much was made of the absence of Chris Gayle from the West Indies team. Much has also been made of his return to the team.
There is little doubt that Gayle strikes an awesome pose whenever he lines up at the wicket in the shortest form of the game. His record speaks for itself. Once he gets going he becomes a terror to most bowlers.
Gayle’s return to the team in time for the World Cup seems to have been an important component of the team’s performance. Despite what some critics may think the presence of Gayle on the team in a T20 series would have been an immense boost. This is one of the reasons that once his return was announced the international sports media began elevating the chances of a West Indies victory in the competition.
Additionally, the inclusion of Gayle in the team would have done much to bolster the spirit amongst the members of the team, even if some were less likely to get a chance to play in the World Cup competition. It would have gladdened the heart simply to be on a winning West Indies team.
Gayle himself may well have wanted to be back with the West Indies team even though he no longer carried the mantle and burden of the captaincy. He too may well have relished the opportunity to be part of a winning combination at this juncture.
Gayle did not really disappoint. He lifted the team just as much as he hoisted his big bat against one bowler after another.
A team effort
Sammy is correct is lauding the victory as a great team effort. In the field it was clear, especially in the semi final and final matches that the players were hungry for victory.
The semi final extra over per team had the region’s cricketing enthusiasts literally biting their nails and it must have been particularly tense for the members of the team.
Victory in the semi final was a sign of just how badly the current team was prepared to battle for top honours. They did extremely well in the field almost as if transformed into a superior fighting unit. This was the spirit again displayed in the final against the host nation, Sri Lanka.
Every member of the team immersed himself in the team spirit that carried the unit forward together.
Narine was outstanding with is spin. He was clearly a major find for the West Indies and seems destined to go far in the game.
Gayle was his usual self. Once he got the measure of the opponents he was simply devastating.
Marlon Samuel seems to have settled well in the team. He has begun to show a level of consistency and could do well in the future. In the shortened version of the game he has been able to show that he has the mettle to be counted amongst the best.
Sammy was again someone who could readily come in at the wicket late in the innings and belt the bowlers all over the place. He shows utter disdain for any of the opposing bowlers and it worked like a charm during the competition.
Badree turned out to be a very good bowler for the kind of competition. One was not at all certain why he was dropped along the way in favour of the wayward Barbadian pacer but he proved himself the better of the two in the competition.
Dwayne Bravo continues to show himself an impressive all-rounder in the different versions of the game. His consistency is not always there but he always causes opponents to ponder him as a threat whether with the ball or bat.
Pollard has often been a bother to the team in so far as consistency or lack thereof is concerned. He did not make the kind of contribution expected of his throughout the competition. He nonetheless remains a very good player in the field in almost any location and manages to keep a tight bowling average.
It was a joy to watch the team gelling. This has not been present in a West Indies team for several years and it was certainly worth the wait.
Victory in the T20 World Cup is but one important title and the West Indies team must now work towards lifting their standard in the other versions of the game. This is no easy task.
It is important to note the strides made by Sunil Narine who has very quickly earned kudos from every quarter for his outstanding and mesmerising bowling. Many feel confident that if he could have performed so well in the shortest version of the game he would certainly pose major problems for batsmen of every cricketing nation in the other versions, especially test match cricket.
This remains to be seen. He may well find the going much tougher than he perhaps expects. He nonetheless has much going for him, not the least his is tender age and his seeming eagerness to learn.
While many seem anxious to place much of their hopes on Chris Gayle it does appear that Marlon Samuel, if he takes his cricket seriously enough, may well emerge the better of the two in the longer version of the game. It should be noted however that they both now seem to have been bitten by the same level of sporting arrogance common to talented athletes and this may well prove their undoing in test cricket.
One is not sure how much longer Shivnarine Chanderpaul is prepared to stick around with the West Indies. He still seems to have some passion for the game although it remains difficult to say that his is an overwhelming commitment to the well being of the team over self.
Darren Bravo is yet to live up to expectations. Perhaps too much has been made of him being a Lara look alike and it may have taken its toll. The fact is however that if the Board is serious about the future of the sport and the team then someone with Bravo’s talent ought to receive appropriate attention and help to get focused and deliver on his immense talent.
The cupboard is not exactly bare in terms of talented players. The unfortunate reality is that the West Indies Cricket Board may well be the one whose cupboard is bare, bereft of any serious pretension to leadership.
Much of what happens with West Indies cricket going forward depends on the Board. The latter keeps focused on its coffers and seemingly less on developing cricket in the long term.
For years to come the players will continue to utilise their representative organ, the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) to show the Board that it remains near putrid in its dealings with them, caught up as they are in the dark ages of sport management long past.
The players will continue to lead the Board and the game by the nose. Thus the game remains with an uncertain future despite the joyous celebrations of our T20 World Cup victory.