The Resurgence of Windies

3rd April 2016

Chris Jordan runs in to bowl to Marlon Samuels. Shane Warne questioned Marlon Samuels coming in at No.3 after his poor dismissal in the semi-finals against India at Wankhede. Here, in yet another T20 World Cup Final, Samuels finds himself in the eye of the hurricane. Even as the heads around him keep falling, he keeps himself still. 85 valuable runs have been scored off 65 balls. 19 runs needed from 7 balls. West Indies need a six. The ball from Chris Jordan is full and wide, Samuels fails to score. 19 runs needed from 6 balls. Singles and Twos aren’t important anymore. They need those thunderous hits over the boundary ropes that would torment England.

Carlos Brathwaite. The man from Barbados was called as a replacement to Kieron Pollard. Eoin Morgan gives the ball to Ben Stokes, the man expected to replace the memories of Andrew Flintoff as a gifted all-rounder. They need a six. Like the one an Antiguan hit off an Englishman thirty-seven years ago.

June 23rd, 1979

“The good times of today are the sad thoughts of tomorrow” – Bob Marley

The world was different back then. One-dayers were played in whites. They lasted 120 overs and were played with the red ball. There were no fielding restrictions. No bouncer rules. Games weren’t batsmen friendly. Outside the cricket world, the world pretended to be peaceful while the noises of war could still be heard. South Africa had its disgusting policy of Apartheid. Berlin Wall was intact. A Revolution was taking place in Iran. Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were playing music to packed crowds. It was a time of high hopes. The world was healing itself from the memories of the Second World War. The future could only bring in peace and with it, freedom.

Viv Richards

On that day, when Viv Richards hit the final ball off Mike Hendrick over mid wicket, he had seized the World Cup for a second time for the archipelago. That knock, 138* off 157 balls along with ‘Big Bird’ Joel Garner’s fiery spell of 5/38 pulverized England. Clive Lloyd’s men had won the inaugural edition of the World Cup in 1975. But this victory was even sweeter. The first victory can always be dismissed off as a remarkable attempt. The second marks you as a Champion. And West Indies had beaten England, their colonial oppressors for many centuries in the game they had conceived and at Lord’s, the Mecca of Cricket.

West Indies were a great side then. Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes would open the batting. The great Viv Richards, the elegant left-hander Alvin Kallicharan and the bespectacled Captain, Clive Lloyd would form the middle order. In Jeff Dujon, they had an excellent wicket-keeper who was also a useful lower-order batsman. But the strength of West Indies was their pace battery. Andy Roberts, ‘Whispering Death’ Michael Holding, Colin Croft and ‘Big Bird’ formed the pace quartet. But that was way back in 1979. Thirty-seven years ago. Steve Jobs and Bill Gates were yet to become the most worshipped icons of the modern age.

Carlos Brathwaite, the man from the same island as Sir Garfield Sobers faces Ben Stokes.

19.1 – Ben Stokes runs in and bowls a half-volley on leg stump. Carlos Brathwaite slams it over deep backward square leg for Six! Thirteen needed from five. West Indies need to score another.

People are excitedly tweeting what they just witnessed. Radios have been replaced by Social Media. Can they repeat the magic of 2012? Can they silence Mark Nicholas?

“Sri Lanka, Pakistan and Bangladesh are short of class but will cope okay with the conditions. West Indies are short of brains but have IPL history in their ranks. New Zealand are worth a look for they have a savvy bunch of scrappers and some mighty hitting power to boot.” – Mark Nicholas, Who will rain on Dhoni’s parade?

But the journey to their supremacy did not begin in 1979. No great journey begins like the spontaneity of a wildfire, on a certain date at a certain place. Sometimes, it begins in the words of other men, in other places.

It was 1976. The year in which a plot to assassinate the Jamaican Reggae legend, Bob Marley would fail. It was also the seventh year of cricketing exile for South Africa because of their apartheid policy. West Indies would tour England after suffering a humiliating 5-1 series defeat against Australia.

The English side was led by a tall, lanky, talkative South African-born Tony Greig. In his interview to BBC on the eve of the tour, he would say, “I’m not really sure they’re as good as everyone think. These guys, if they get on top they are magnificent cricketers. But if they’re down, they grovel, and I intend, with the help of Closey [Brian Close] and a few others, to make them grovel.”

Tony Greig was a White South African leading England.

“The word ‘grovel’ is one guaranteed to raise the blood pressure of any black man,” Lloyd said. “The fact they were used by a white South African made it even worse. We were angry and West Indians everywhere were angry. We resolved to show him and everyone else that the days for grovelling were over.”

England would lose the series 3-0. Stories of Viv Richards and ‘Whispering Death’ Michael Holding would fill the cricket gossips.

Tony Greig

19.2 – Ben Stokes attempts a Yorker. The ball ends up as a low full toss which the young Barbadian dutifully despatches over long-on. The crowd screams. The West Indies women, who had won their first T20 World Cup earlier that day, are celebrating. Ben Stokes is shocked. Seven runs needed off four balls.

“Memories warm you up from inside. They can also tear you apart.” – Haruki Murakami

June 25, 1983

India, in their previous two World Cups, had won a single match. That was against East Africa. They lost to Sri Lanka in 1979. A new low. They were the minnows in cricket back then. And so, when a 24-year-old Haryana lad captained the side in the 1983 Prudential World Cup, the odds given to the young Indian side were 66:1. West Indies would taste their first defeat in World Cups in their group match against India. Weeks later, they would find themselves facing India in a World Cup final.

Clive Lloyd won the toss and chose to field. India managed to score a paltry 183. This was respectable considering that India faced Michael Holding, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Andy Roberts. The kind of pace attack that opposition teams were not just apprehensive but scared to face. 183 was a total West Indies were expected to walk away with. Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Clive Lloyd were names opposition feared. And then, India had to contend with Viv Richards.

Kapil Dev catches Viv Richards

But the moment, Kapil Dev ran backwards, keeping his eyes on the ball to complete a crucial catch of Viv Richards, the signs of hope began to appear. Soon after, Indians world over would be celebrating their first World Cup triumph. It was the beginning of things to come. It would inspire a 10-year-old curly-haired boy from Mumbai to pick Cricket. Many legends from Rahul Dravid to Anil Kumble, Sourav Ganguly to Virender Sehwag would play for Indian colours. By the time, India won the inaugural edition of the 2007 T20 World Cup and the 50-over 2011 World Cup, India had become the Cricketing Superpower.

To West Indies, 1983 was the sense of an ending. Some of the finest legends to play Cricket — Andy Roberts, Clive Lloyd, Micheal Holding, Joel Garner, Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall, Desmond Haynes and Richie Richardson would retire from Cricket one by one. Courtney Walsh, Curtley Ambrose, Carl Hooper, Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul would emerge. They would lose the Hero Cup Final in 1993 against India at Eden Gardens by 102 runs. They would lose to Australia in the semi-finals of 1996 World Cup. It would be a good eight years before they would win a one-day tournament.

19.3 – Stokes tries to land the ball between off and middle stump, Brathwaite lifts it. You think it is a mishit. But the ball has sailed several metres back over long-off. Third consecutive six! Scores are level. One required from three. Ramdin thought they won and was halfway on the field.

“Living people wait and see because they fool themselves that they have time.” – Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings

January 29, 2016

In the days leading to the 2016 T20 World Cup, West Indies found themselves in a quagmire. There were disputes between the board (WICB) and the players. The players had not received their dues. They had not even been promised of their future. The One-Day and Test team comprising of young men had failed to deliver. The selection panel recalls members from the T20 World Cup winning squad of 2012. They include Sunil Narine who has been suspended by the ICC for his illegal action. The selection panel is headed by Clive Lloyd, the two-time World Cup Winning Captain.

In the days to follow, Darren Bravo and Kieron Pollard make themselves unavailable. In the nick of time, they manage to send a final list that includes eleven members from the 2012 World Cup winning squad. Chaos. Confusion.

Between 1980 and 1995, West Indies did not lose a single test series. They were the undisputed champions of the World. And so, when India defeated the West Indies in the 1983 World Cup final, we began to believe in ourselves. We were the David and they were the Goliath. The ascent of India ran in parallel with the descent of West Indies. Since 2000, West Indies found newer ways to embarrass themselves. They couldn’t free themselves from the burden of expectations. They couldn’t unchain themselves from the burden of memories. Memories of the happy years were sad to carry now. How high had they climbed? How low had they fallen? The fans waited. Perhaps a victory here or a victory there would be the beginning. After a gap of 35 years, West Indies ended their trophy drought by defeating England by two wickets in the 2004 Champions Trophy. The stories of defeat would again follow. Their poor 2007 World Cup campaigns (both 50-overs and 20-overs) made them wait longer. Even as the world around was changing, the ineptness of West Indies in trying to become a winning team was a sad sight to behold.

The 2004 Champions Trophy win seemed a consolation. The players waited because they thought things will change by the passage of time. India’s triumph at the inaugural T20 World Cup would lead to the beginning of the Indian Premier League (IPL). The IPL offered the Caribbean players plethora of opportunities and they made the most of it. From Dwayne Bravo to Darren Sammy and Kieron Pollard to Lendl Simmons, they were all vital cogs to their respective sides. Soon enough, they were invited to play in T20 leagues in other parts of the world. They got comfortable in a format that suited their brand of cricket.And 2012 happened. Marlon Samuels tore into the Sri Lankan attack, produced one of the finest innings in a World Cup final. When every other batsman had failed, he had scored 78 vital runs that would prove to be decisive in their inaugural T20 triumph. Fans all over the world celebrated. This was the Redemption Song for the Calypso Cricket. T20 cricket suited the attention spans of the people in the digital age. T20 Cricket was not a connoisseur’s delight. Cricket had traditionally been a five-day game. It was shortened to one-dayers to draw in more crowd. Kerry Packer commercialised it. But then, fans got bored. Cricket was not attractive as other sports. And so, T20 Cricket. If this format could see the revival of the Caribbean, was there a reason to complain?

19.4 – The ball has to be changed. Three balls had resulted in three sixes. A crestfallen Ben Stokes errs again by bowling the line outside leg. Carlos Brathwaite lifts this over long-on, lifts his hand in triumph. Six! West Indies have become the first team to win the T20 World Cup title twice. They are the Champions of the World!

This time, it is a lot more special. The young lads have won the U-19 World Cup. The women defeated Australia to lift their first T20 World Cup Trophy. The men have captured their second T20 World Cup title. The crowd was overjoyed. The Champion Dance began.

The future appears uncertain. The players aren’t sure whether the disputes will be settled. But for now, the victory is theirs.

Why trust in the promise of tomorrow when today offers a time of merry?

West indies

“West Indies are the Brazil in Cricket. Like Football cannot be without Brazil, Cricket cannot be without West Indies.” – Sourav Ganguly

 

 

Author: Kavir Nair

A bespectacled lad from the filter coffee preferring south Indian coastal city of Chennai. The Japanese coined a word just for me - Tsundoku, which means the act of buying a book and leaving it unread, often piled together with other unread books. Although I must add, having an unread library is the way I could truly honour the late Umberto Eco. When not watching movies in theaters or beach walking on Marina, you can find me at home reading a book or writing a journal or Netflixing. While I do all this as Ravi Kiran, my alter ego - Kavir Nair needs an exclusive space to write. Hence, he has chosen this abode.

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