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Revival of a great cricketing legacy

K.C. Vijaya Kumar
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CRICKET / West Indies’ inherent cavalier streak was coated with consistency

A great cricketing legacy seems to have gained that much-needed shot of oxygen. Darren Sammy’s men have shown the world what the West Indies can achieve provided its inherent cavalier streak is coated with a liberal dose of consistency and everyone plays his part.

Incidentally the redemptive title triumph in the ICC World Twenty20, here on Sunday night, comes at a time when there is an increased retrospective look at the glorious past of the West Indies teams.

‘Fire in Babylon’, a recent movie that documents the exploits of men like Clive Lloyd, Vivian Richards, Gordon Greenidge and a battery of supreme fast bowlers ranging from Andy Roberts to Michael Holding, has revived nostalgia. This fabulous history of untrammelled cricketing riches that suddenly vanished within the Caribbean, has often lent a funereal under-current to the West Indies teams of the last decade and a half despite Brian Lara’s genius, Courtney Walsh’s incisive perseverance and Curtly Ambrose’s menace.

Remarkably different

When you see this backdrop, it is obvious that the achievement of Sammy’s men is remarkably different from what Kapil Dev and Arjuna Ranatunga achieved by winning the World Cup in 1983 and 1996 respectively. Those key years marked out the ‘we-can-rule-the-world’ first steps for both India and Sri Lanka, but for the current West Indies team, Sunday presented an opportunity to make a comeback of sorts because the past-masters had marked territory and ruled it ruthlessly until the sudden thud and the subsequent wilderness.

Player-of-the-Final Marlon Samuels pointed out that the latest epochal victory is also a tribute to yesteryear greats. “This is a great achievement for past cricketers and cricketers from my country,” Samuels said. Besides seeking to extend a glorious past, the triumph against Sri Lanka has also made the West Indies team believe that victories are no longer mere speculative dreams but they are indeed attainable realities. “This is definitely a step. We believe we can win matches. We are not trying just to compete any more. We believe we can win against good opposition,” Sammy said.

New-found resilience

The fact that the West Indies could cope with Chris Gayle’s failure in the final and yet emerge on top speaks a lot about a new-found resilience within the ranks. Gayle though remains the livewire and lodestone for the squad. Incidentally Samuels (230 runs) edged past Gayle (222) in the West Indies’ run-scorers’ chart.

The emergence of Samuels, from the scars of a ‘suspect’ bowling action and the trauma of being banned for an alleged involvement with bookies, is a positive sign for the West Indies.

Most importantly, the champion’s strut was gained slowly over three weeks as diverse players contributed at different stages of the tournament. Johnson Charles, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Ravi Rampaul and Sunil Narine (the last two claimed nine wickets each) chipped in at various points, though the big-force moment was Gayle’s annihilation of the Australian attack in the semifinals.

Sammy proves himself

Sammy, often considered a compromise captain and a quiet bits-and-pieces player, proved his mettle in the final and he seems to have a happy dressing room with Gayle, preferring sixes and dancing over captaincy aspirations. “I get paid to play cricket. And I always say I live my life one way. Christ came to this earth, did nothing wrong and yet was crucified. I am nowhere close to that man,” Sammy said.

A winning biff in Twenty20 cannot be a sure-fire hint towards equal progress in Tests and ODIs but, surely, Sunday’s triumph will bolster self-belief within the West Indies ranks.

Similar hopes and romanticism were raised when Lara held aloft the ICC Champions Trophy at Lord’s in 2004 but after that the team continued its downward spiral. The West Indies and the cricket world at large, cannot afford another free-fall.

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