Once popularly known as the “Gentleman's game”, cricket's credibility to the usage however, had taken a major blow in recent times, owing to several reasons like the rampant match-fixing and spot-fixing allegations, the doctoring of pitches, tampering with the ball, unfair and biased umpiring, player fights, and so on, so much so that it caused the ICC's cricket committee to sit up and take note. The committee in its recent meeting, decided to take immediate stock of the situation and advocated greater authority to match officials to improve player behaviour. In such an atmosphere of hostility, the Twenty20 International fixture played for a worth cause between Windies and World XI last Thursday, May 31st at Lord's, was a much-needed antidote which will play a part towards the eradication of the bad blood that has taken the focus off the game itself, in addition to its original objective of charity.
In August-September last year, Hurricanes Irma and then Maria wreaked havoc in the Caribbean region and the United States. The cataclysmic effects of the storms classified under Category 5 (Wind speeds greater than 156mph/252kmph) included a huge number of casualties and damage to property. Ronald Webster Park in Anguilla, Sir. Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua, Windsor Park in Dominica, AO Shirley Recreation Ground in British Virgin Islands and Carib Lumber Ball Park in St. Martin were among the cricket stadiums that bore the brunt of the storms. In what was a massive wave of support, the cricketing world came together to provide a whole lot of help to the ailing regions. As a result, the ICC World XI vs Windies game was conducted at Lord's, with the proceeds from the game going to the funds for rebuilding the tarnished stadiums and the surplus going for charitable causes in the same regions.
This is not the first time that the cricketing fraternity has come together for a noble cause, with the previous one being the three T20Is played between World XI and Pakistan in a bid to bring top-flight cricket back to Pakistan. The “World Cricket Tsunami Appeal” was a similar effort by the ICC to raise funds to support the humanitarian relief efforts following the Indian Ocean Tsunami of 26 December 2004. The match was played at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on 10 January 2005, and featured a World XI pitting against the Asia XI. The games were designated as One Day Internationals by the ICC, the first time a game between teams not representing separate cricketing nations to be hence designated. This time again, ICC granted the World XI vs Windies game international status, by categorising it as a T20I.
Pakistan veteran Shahid Afridi led the World XI, while Dinesh Karthik was the lone Indian. Shoaib Malik, Thisara Perera, Rashid Khan and Tymal Mills were a few prominent others. Nepalese leg-spinner Sandeep Lamichhane, who is just 17 years old, made his international T20I debut with the squad. The Windies XI featured a lot of regulars, with Carlos Brathwaite captaining the squad which featured the likes of Andre Fletcher, Chris Gayle and so on.
Winning the toss, World XI captain Shahid Afridi opted to bowl. Thanks to outstanding efforts from Evin Lewis (58 off 26, 5 * 4, 5 * 6), Marlon Samuels (43 off 22, 2 * 4, 4 * 6), Denesh Ramdin (44 off 25, 3 * 4, 3 * 6) and Andre Russel (21 off 10, 3 * 6), the Windies finished at 199/4 in 20 overs. Rashid Khan picked up two wickets albeit by giving away 48 runs in his alloted quota of 4 overs.
In return, the World XI could only gather 127 runs in 16.4 overs, before they were bundled out. They were never really in the chase, losing their first four wickets in under four overs itself. Thisara Perera (61 off 37, 7 * 4, 3 * 6) tried to inspire a comeback, but found a serious lacking of partners in the other end. Kesrick Williams of the Windies returned with 3/42 in 3.4 overs, while Samuel Badree (3-1-4-2) and Andre Russel (3-0-25-2) supported him well by upsetting the Worldies' top order. Windies won the match by an impressive 72-run margin and thereby proved that they are one of the strongest sides in T20Is, living up to their name of being World Champions. Evin Lewis wasadjusdjed man-of-the-match for his knock of 58 runs which helped the Windies post a good total.