Rewind one day – When there were only very few mathematical combinations to get 14 off the last 3 balls, all of which appeared improbable, Dwayne Smith of Mumbai Indians blasted Ben Hilfenhaus (who had bowled a maiden over the same day) to a 6, 4 and a 4, won the match for MI in astounding fashion and appeared very cool in his post match celebrations as if one must have made a mistake if one hadn’t expected him to do exactly that!
Rewind one more day – To the match with the highest attendance recorded IPL 2012; The match when the massive audience did not know whether to support their team or to support their man belonging to the opposition team. When the stage was set for Sourav Ganguly to win a match for PWI and also make a sound statement to the owners of his former franchise, a smiling assassin who had already made heads turn with his unconventional bowling during the IPL 2012 made the statement that Sourav would have loved to make. He welcomed Dada with impeccable variety tricking and dodging Sourav to submission; Sunil Narine of the West Indies tamed the Tiger in its own den by virtue of a bowling style which is considered the Tiger’s regular meal! As I write this piece, he is doing the same against the Delhi Daredevils as well.
Rewind back to 2011 and then through 2008 to T20 World Cup 2007 - Chris Gayle was a huge buy for KKR in the inaugural IPL 2008 owing to his massive 50 ball century he amassed in a losing cause against the Proteas in the inaugural T20 world cup the year before. Even though, he couldn’t deliver much for KKR, he made amends with a cracker of a show for the RCB in IPL 2011 where he bludgeoned bowlers across and over the parks with two huge quick fire tons. Chris Gayle was not alone. Kieron Pollard won matches for Mumbai Indians with his hard-hitting in the death overs. So did Dwayne Bravo and this year Dwayne Smith and Sunil Narine have just added themselves to the list.
Rewind by a decade – A Jamaican named Ricardo Powell made people sit up and take notice by beating the record for the fastest century by a West Indian. For India, he was a nemesis, an insidious head-ache who troubled by scoring heavily against them: He tamed the Indian bowlers once in Singapore and then again in Taunton in 1999, scoring 15 sixes in the two games put together! And then, suddenly like many other West Indian talents, he vanished into thin air.
Come to think of Franklyn Rose, Mervyn Dillon, Ramnaresh Sarwan (to a lesser extent compared to others in the list), Marlon Samuels , Suleiman Benn – All of these men and more have got stories that would have placed them in the ‘Huge Prospects’ category and stories that would have got their category get updated to ‘Wasted Talents’ later on.
In more ways than one, the West Indies cricket teams of the past two decades have best represented the geography their players have belonged to. The Caribbean archipelago is made of Island groups that are in bits and pieces. ‘Bits & Pieces’ teams – that has exactly been what West Indies Cricket has been able to churn out after fading into oblivion post the retirements of Ambrose, Walsh.
There could be many reasons to it – a politically influenced board that gives scant respect to players; a laidback attitude that is only typical for men from a group of Holiday Isles to show; a certain lack of patriotism as players are not from the same Isles; a lack of motivation due to repeated failures – the reasons could be manifold.
But, is it not possible to conjure up a system that integrates these individual talents into collective brilliance that can get back the team to the path of glory? Is it not possible to bring back the fire in Babylon? There are no missing pieces in the Caribbean Jigsaw. It merely needs proper integration. Answers to this integration lie with the board, current crop of players and the retired legends who, unlike retired legends of other cricketing nations who are actively contributing to the sport in one way or the other, are in hibernation mode. Come on Curtly, your Guitar band can wait; Come on Lara, your diplomacy efforts can wait; Come on Courtney, your Restaurant can wait! Come to fight for a cause that isn’t lost yet! Play a role in the integrative effort that West Indian Cricket badly needs. But that cause can’t wait for long. The next generation needs inspiration to be instilled in them for them to carry the legacy of Caribbean Cricket forward.
Else, like the many Islands in the archipelago, Cricket would slowly but surely be on the path of submergence. Let that not happen to the land of the Lloyds, the Vivians, the Roberts and the rest!