Here’s a narrative that you might not have heard in 33 years: The West Indies have won the World Cup. They have re-arrived in the ICC Wall of Fame with the force of a gale. Not just Gayle (pardon the rhetoric pun again please).
Their dance is as distinguishing as their unique style – and coupled with a new found passion that seemed to have been nonexistent until not too long ago, ’79 doesn’t seem that distant a memory now. It is easy to forget that the West Indies constitutes a set of nations that are fragmented geographically, culturally and (maybe) politically.
The victory is made more poignant and credible given the hurdles that had to be crossed by Darren Sammy and his men. Revisiting the incidents would remove the sentiment behind this piece, for when the mood is calypso, it is worth celebrating, not contemplating. Their vision for the future must be their distant past. It really is as simple as that.
Every final played leaves an etched memory that never fades with time. From Clive Lloyd’s assault in ’75 all the way to MS Dhoni’s pyrotechnics of 2011, the victorious team has always had a fulcrum around which the scorecards revolved. And in some cases, a moment of magic (not reflected in scorecards) – such as Kapil Dev’s brilliant catch to dismiss Viv Richards in ’83 – announces itself as the difference between glory and gloom.
Marlon Samuels, whose chronological trysts in International Cricket best remain buried, given the moment, stole the thunder from the much anticipated fireworks of Chris Gayle. Gayle had set the tournament alight with his impersonations of the Gangnam dance, a popular South Korean style that came into prominence to rank Psy’s albums above the story of the North Korean soldier who’d crossed fortified borders to enter South Korea. He had, in addition, defied presumptions to bat through the innings during the semifinals against Australia.
Unfortunately, a ploy that had worked in the semi-finals failed yesterday. As admirable as the intent is to allow Gayle to bat through an innings, natural instincts – if left unattended to – could take fortunes for a reversing. But to witness Samuels respond the way he did, albeit circumstances where the run-rates dipped to embarrassingly low levels given the format, is a testament to his temperament and approach. His straight six off Malinga, a monstrous 108m hit, remains the highlight of a battering that cut the Sri Lankan pacer’s stats to pieces.
Not too long ago, the documentary Fire in Babylon seemed to catalyze the process of the rest of the world catching up with the Caribbean in the nostalgia department. Whether it made most of us yearn for the West Indies to hit the glory days again will remain unanswered, but the neutral’s elation – coupled with observations during my stay in Sri Lanka – convinces me that it did.
Sammy’s style and captaincy doesn’t depict the theme behind the documentary – his style isn’t the typical ‘in-your-face’ attitude, but rather the approach that bridged the chasm between altercations and egos. Until yesterday, he probably had a greater share of pessimists (including myself) questioning his very place in the XI. I still do. But he deserves credit for taking up the anchor role that others refused – to accomplish a task that appeared, back then, as monumental as reversing the fortunes of today’s Greek economy. He has had the last laugh in this contest.
But such contests, unlike many others, turn out to be a zero sum game. The West Indies’ triumph was the home team’s loss – in particular, towards two men who’ve steered them to four finals thus far. A fourth final in this century would have, in all obviousness, placed – if I could borrow the words of an economist here – an inelastic demand on their success. But at least, the economy fluctuates. Their luck didn’t. Jayawardena and Sangakkara, for all you know, may never taste the ultimate success that continues to elude them. A friend of mine recently labeled them the ‘Tim Henmans’ of cricket. I don’t doubt that they are.
Their records will have a void that has left some of the best cricketers’ records flecked – from Bradman’s ‘an iota short of a 100’ test average to Shane Warne’s top score as a batsman. It may add fuel to their biographical defensives, but it isn’t something that would compensate for the lack of a trophy in their cabinet. Not when they were so close to repeating what the Indians did in front of their fans last year.
On the brighter side, their performances have disproved notions posed by a few theorists through the course of the tournament. To begin with, the theory that Mendis would fail against bigger nations is blown away when you look at his statistics from yesterday. Add to this the youth fervor that Akila Dhananjaya brings – there is every reason to believe that the near future isn’t as bleak as it appeared to be when a few big names bid farewell.
West Indies, on the other hand, have just carved a beginning. They’re still way off the mark formats that have a stricter measurement yardstick. And if this doesn’t act as a catalyst, I can’t imagine what else would. Just like how a stable currency doesn’t necessarily reflect the prosperity of a nation, this triumph should open doors for more transparent conversations to help elevate standards in ODI and Test Cricket.
They need to have their best players playing in these formats – Sarwan included. Now, who initiates these dialogues is always guesswork, given the egos that battle each other. Unfortunately, the more sensible advocates from West Indies cricket aren’t part of the WICB. The system needs to find a way to get these personalities in, while the momentum is still on. History has shown us that World Cup wins could do wonders to boosting sporting, and non-sporting, opulence to nations.
It will be an interesting few months leading up to the New Year. But until then, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to try mastering the Gangnum. As the cliché goes, grab the trend while it still lasts. Recall something called a vuvuzela now?