KOLKATA: The year has begun well for the West Indies. Somewhere, the cricketing gods still seem to have a soft corner for them. After boys won the under-19 World Cup, their women’s team led by Stafaine Taylor clinched a maiden WT20 crown in stunning fashion. By winning the men’s final, Darren Sammy & Co did their bit.
For a region that has gone through many lows and embarrassing moments over the last two decades, this is a big step towards redemption. That is still a long way away, given their lacklustre showings in whites, but for a change they are making news for right reasons. ‘Despite you,’ is what Chief Justice of India TS Thakur had said, after being told by BCCI that its team has won three World Cups. It could also be used for the West Indies Cricket Board. Their teams have done well despite them!
We may not have seen Sammy and his men in India. The pay dispute which is long bothering Caribbean cricket resurfaced just before WT20 and players threatened to pull out. They arrived after taking a massive pay-cut. Every time these issue pop up, players are slammed, often by former stars, for choosing money over cricket. They make do by playing various T20 leagues. In the process, they have also become the most sought after. This format matches their style. “People paint us as money-grabbing cricketers because of our success in T20 cricket. And they don’t respect us in that format. We even get it sometimes from our own board. Everybody is entitled to their opinion. The key for us is to have belief in our circle,” Sammy said.
When Sammy speaks about his board, there is frustration. Unlike WICB, or may be Pakistan Cricket Board to an extent, no other body does more bad to their players. From being invincible for two decades, mismanagement and lack of vision from WICB has pegged their cricket back. Their own task force appointed to end the dispute between players and the board found the men in charge as culprits and recommended the dissolution of WICB as it was way behind acceptable standards. But players have soldiered on, despite losing Sunil Narine to illegal action and Kieron Pollard to injury.
As Taylor said after beating Australia in the women’s final, cricket is no more a sport kids take up in schools. They choose athletics and basketball. Even football is catching up. “You know that would be the challenge. Winning the trophy and all is great, but it should help cricket in the region. We need to go to schools and give children cricket bats. If we don’t, we will definitely fall behind once more,” she said.
A couple of nights back, former pacer Ian Bishop was beaming with pride. “It gives so much belief that cricket will be back where it used to be in the Caribbean. In India thanks to the IPL, West Indies is the second favourite team for most people. In recent times that may have changed, because of Mankading (in the U-19 World Cup) and the power of social media. But now, they’ve a chance to win it back,” he said.