The golden era of West Indian cricket may have been long over, but there is such a wonderful vibe in the air following the Caribbeans' dramatic World T20 triumph at the Eden Gardens on Sunday (April 3) that most of us cricket fans want to join Dwayne Bravo's celebratory "Champion" dance and try those happy moves. Even if it was just T20s - the shortest format of the game - the world of cricket is ecstatic that the Calypso boys, and not to forget the girls, are back, attacking and yet entertaining.
If there was a team that was underestimated in this tournament, it was the West Indies. We were happy to play the Caribbeans and not England in the semi-final, for logic is never a big part of a cricket fan's strategy. So we chose to ignore that they topped their group and instead laughed at how they were beaten by minnows Afghanistan.
Most of us including yours truly dismissed the West Indies as a team that comprised Chris Gayle and ten other players. To be honest, that is perhaps how other teams now look at India too. Once they have dismissed Virat Kohli, they know half the battle is won.
A friend who, until recently, worked for the International Cricket Council (ICC) told me how one day her phone rang and she asked the caller to identify himself. The answer left her gobsmacked. "Clive", then after the briefest of pauses, "Lloyd". She practically dropped the receiver but then who would not have? Such has been the history of Caribbean cricket.
|Carlos Brathwaite (right) and Marlon Samuels celebrate as Ben Stokes is distraught in the World T20 final on Sunday.|
West Indian players, most of them legends, feature prominently in some of my earliest recollections as a cricket fan. It was a time when people were still talking of Sir Garfield Sobers and the phenomenal talent of Alvin Kalicharan, and indeed Clive Lloyd with his distinct gait. The youngsters waiting in the wings to replace them were even more merciless.
Consider the West Indies' batting line-up during the 1980s. Once you got rid of the openers Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes, there was Viv Richards to follow. During Richards' captaincy (1985-1991), the team never lost a Test series. I don't ever remember Richards wearing a helmet, possibly because the West Indian fast bowlers who he practised against in the nets, threw absolute missiles at him when compared with the rival pacers he faced in matches.
Pakistani legend Wasim Akram once said his idol was Malcolm Marshall, but Joel Garner, Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose were also part of a fearsome brigade that made West Indies almost invincible in the 1970s and 1980s. No list can be complete without Jeffrey Dujon, the iconic wicket-keeper-batsman. The 1983 World Cup victory by "Kapil's Devils" was all the more special because it was achieved against such a dominant team.
|Wasim Akram considered Malcolm Marshall (in pic) as his idol.|
Since that golden era, West Indians' fortunes have ebbed. Brian Lara, Carl Hooper, Richie Richardson, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Chris Gayle have all shone individually but failed to take their team out of the abyss. Darren Sammy's team may just have started the big revival.
But it won't be easy. Sammy has been bitter about the lack of respect for his team, which almost didn't make it to the World T20 because of a long-standing row with their board. He and his teammates aren't even sure if they will play again as a team. The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) will hopefully now be forced to keep the politics aside and remember the cardinal rule, the game is always bigger, and the West Indian talent even mightier.
This tournament has shown that this team no longer has to depend on just Gayle. Carlos Brathwaite's unbelievable innings showed anyone from the middle to lower order is capable of effortlessly hitting a few into the stands. And that may be the Calypso twist, instead of their lethal bowling of old times, this team may be feared more for its batting.
It has been an amazing start to the year for the Caribbeans. They have not only won the World T20 in both the men's and women's categories, but also the under-19 World Cup which means they also now have a rich pool of talent on standby.
In all this, one Indian though may be the happiest. Chetan Sharma, who was at the receiving end of the famous last ball six by Pakistan's Javed Miandad, has finally bequeathed his legacy to Ben Stokes, the only English player likely to be remembered from this World T20 final. And it is four times harder for the Englishman.