It was Calypso music and Champion dance all the way. April 3, 2016. One day, two finals, and one name emerges victorious. The West Indies.
First the ladies from Caribbean islands humbled their very strong opponents Australia and won their maiden World T20 title. History was created and the Champion dance began. And then the men's team won a tough battle against England to become the first to win the World T20 championship twice, having done it before in 2012.
It was a heart-stopping, mind-boggling win for the "Men in Maroon".
They needed 19 runs off the last over. Then there was some breathtaking stuff by Carlos Brathwaite. Ben Stokes' first four balls were hit for four sixes. Game, set and championship to the West Indies.
The whole of Eden Gardens and people watching on their TV sets, from India to the faraway West Indies burst into the Champion dance. It was magic. The English fans were heartbroken. But, I am sure they would have also appreciated the way the West Indians played and their passion and emotion for this lovely game.
And this is the amazing thing about the West Indies - fans in every country love them. The West Indies has a rich cricket culture, and indeed cricket is what defines the West Indies. The Caribbeans value their cricket and play the game hard and fair. But that apart, the way they mix with people, wherever they go, and the joy and colour they bring to cricket world make them stand out.
It is unfortunate then that Carribean cricket has had to go through the turmoil that it has. Captain Darren Sammy, in a very emotional speech after the World T20 final, revealed the difficulties that his team had to endure.
The treatment meted out to the players by their own cricket board has been shocking to say the least. But to have reached where they have in spite of all odds makes the achievement of Sammy and his boys all the more special. They were hurt, but never let the smile disappear from their lips.
It is sad to think that a team that once was the superpower of cricket, didn’t have a uniform for competing in a world event as the World T20. There was a lack of funds and sponsors, and the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) wasn't making matters easy.
Just four days before the start of World T20, the players objected to a drastic pay cut. The WICB had imposed a massive 75 per cent pay cut. The prospect of a full strength team coming to the World T20 looked very dim, as there was fear that many frontline players may opt out in protest.
According to the new offer by the WICB, each player was going to get $21,000, instead of $1,35,000 they received in the previous tournament.
In fact, the problems had their roots in 2014 itself. According to the WICB, it had told the West Indies Players Associations about the new pay structure in May 2014 itself.
But the West Indian ODI team under Dwayne Bravo pulled out of the India tour midway in October 2014. As a result, players like Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard and Darren Sammy were not included in the team for the ODI series in South Africa, and the inexperienced Jason Holder was made the ODI captain. Sammy was, however, added back to the side.
Bravo and Pollard were also not considered for the 2015 ODI World Cup. The situation looked very grim before the start of this year’s World T20 too, before T20 skipper Sammy came forward and a truce happened. Just one day before the championship began, 12 players agreed to sign the contract, and make no mistake, they were not happy about it.
And the West Indians came to India to show that they can still make a mark. They had one thing with them: belief. They had a belief that they could beat all the problems and make their point.
They believed that every member of the team was a match-winner. Nobody gave them a chance. Commentator Mark Nicholas described them as being "short of brains", which really united the team and heightened their resolve. The players were almost abandoned by their own board.
Sammy and his boys believed they can win the tournament. And they did. They did it in style and with flair. They did it like Champions. After the win in final, there was joy, but it was tempered with anger.
Sammy said that even after the win they had not heard from the WICB. Dwayne Bravo said that the Indian board (BCCI) gave more support to the West Indian players than their own board. As expected, these remarks didn’t go too well with the WICB.
The WICB slammed Sammy's comments as "inappropriate" but has invited the team for negotiations. Hopefully, there would be something positive.
The year 2016 has been phenomenal for West Indies cricket. The Caribbeans had won the under-19 World Cup earlier in the year, and the women's World T20 on the same day as Sammy lifted the men's World T20 title at the Eden Gardens.
Even with all the hardship, the West Indian players have proven a point. That they are true Champions. The team is going through a transformation. It is still struggling in Tests. Its performance has been more or less average in the 50-over format. It has been almost two decades since the glory days.
But the T20 format is almost made for them. It is still too early to say if the trophies won in 2016 can lead to a revival in West Indian cricket. But, let’s hope, it does.