2019 World Cup | Cricket

West Indian cricket: all we have is nostalgia!

Sole sample: Chris Gayle, albeit in the twilight of his career, is the last of the West Indian greats still standing.

Sole sample: Chris Gayle, albeit in the twilight of his career, is the last of the West Indian greats still standing.  

Perhaps the phoenix will rise from the ashes, but for now time is running out

Defeat’s shadow has trailed the West Indies for quite a while. If India’s 1983 World Cup triumph against the men from the Caribbean Islands was deemed a miracle, the one conjured by Virat Kohli’s men at Manchester’s Old Trafford on Thursday was presumed to be a certainty. Such has been the inexorable decline of the West Indies which is often everyone’s second-favourite team after their national squad.

When middle-aged fans summon nostalgia, it is replete with the swagger of Vivian Richards, the menace of the late Malcolm Marshall, the athleticism of wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon, the bruises inflicted by ‘Whispering Death’ Michael Holding, the audacity of Gordon Greenidge and the sheer domineering captaincy of Clive Lloyd. There are many more heroes but what overwhelmingly lingers is the aura that the West Indies possessed from the 1970s to the 90s.

Foes and friends

For the opposition, they were foes on the field and friends off it, who laughed a lot, swayed to music and nursed their rum-punches. If any team exhibited the primordial joys of playing cricket — hitting the red cherry hard or hurling it at insane pace, it had to be the West Indies. However, a sport that bound different countries like a Jamaica and a Barbados together under a common umbrella, went into a tail-spin over the last few decades.

The lone relief was watching the exploits of Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose, Courtney Walsh, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Chris Gayle. Sadly, the last-named is headed towards the twilight but this above-mentioned quintet is the link to greatness from within a string of teams that flattered to deceive. Yes, the West Indies did win the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, and the 2012 and 2016 ICC World T20I titles but, overall, its performance has been nothing but the flickers of a dying flame.

Extra stanza

It is tragic and with Jason Holder’s men failing to stay alive in the current World Cup, the dirge got an extra stanza. The inability of the parent cricket board to pay adequate wages; the lure of basketball in the United States of America; the gradual waning of cricket as a tool for scoring brownie points in race-dynamics — Richards wore his ‘Black identity’ as a badge of honour; and the magnetic pull of global T20 leagues, have all contributed to the free-fall, which, hopefully, won’t become the final full-stop.

There were glimpses of the old regal touch over the last few weeks. Pakistan was swatted away with disdain, Gayle had his moments and Carlos Brathwaite tugged at tear glands after his incredible innings failed to get past the finish line against New Zealand. But more often than not, these are stints that pump up the adrenaline, plaster awe on our faces before it is time to sigh deep and mull over the good old days and think about that iconic poster held aloft in Australian grounds: “Rain, rain go away, come when the Windies come.”

Perhaps, the phoenix will rise from the ashes. The willow game needs the West Indies to be up and running, but for now the sands of time are running out.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 8:24:28 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/cricket/west-indian-cricket-all-we-have-is-nostalgia/article28219808.ece

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