By Veturi Srivatsa
Celebrating their fantastic victories over India and England to win the World Twenty20 for a second time, Dwayne Bravo may have freely added a couple of more names to his West Indies cricket theme song ‘Champions, Champions, Chamnpions…’
Jonathan Charles, Lendl Simmons and Andre Russell may have found their way into the lilting lyrics after the India match and Marlon Samuels, Samuel Badree and Carlos Brathwaite after the final. At this rate, the lyrics of the song can easily be chopped and added after every victory of theirs!
After his stirring post-victory speech, Darren Sammy has become part of Caribbean cricket folklore. His major contribution for his team is to win the Worle Twenty20 twice. He may not have batted or bowled much and winning 10 tosses in a row to give the side a clear edge in Indian conditions.
After all their dominance of world cricket for over a decade-and-a-half in the 1980s and 90s, West Indies have been the most despised team in the new millennium, both the players and the administrators behaving in an irresponsibly churlish manner.
The selectors made it worse by acquiescing with the board in sacking captains and players for standing up for their legitimate rights. All things put together, they saw to it that the players were divided. Any captain or player trying to resolve the issue was branded a crony of the board.
The problem is that a majority of players in the 2016 champion side are not members of the West Indies Players Association (WIPA) which deals with their board and the key members of the negotiating team are from one country.
How can one explain the downfall of a team that has won twice each the 50-0ver World Cup (1975 and 1979) and the World Twenty20 trophy (2014 and 2016) besides being the only team to win all three ICC tournaments other than India, which also were joint winners of the Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka before winning it outright?
The T20 triumph could not have come at a more critical juncture for the West Indies, at a time they were being reviled by commentators for their uncerebral onfield madness, more so after they failed to qualify for the top-eight Champions Trophy next year, thus missing out for the first time playing in any of the three ICC limited-overs tournaments.
The writing was there on the wall when they lost to Ireland in the opening match of the 2015 ODI World Cup. Some of the West Indies greats did not like one bit of the performance of their teams internationally.
Coaches, captains and players were suspended or sacked for speaking out purely on cricket and their pay structure. The team sensationally pulled out of a tour to India midway through.
The global Twenty20 leagues have also not helped in getting the players and their board to the discussion table. Some players are happy to be branded pro leaguers than good Test cricketers.
At last, there are clear signs of resurgence of the West Indies cricket in the last couple of months as they won for the first time the Under-19 World Cup, in Dhaka, also for the first time the women’s World Twenty20 before the men triumphed for the second time.
Will this hat-trick of successes change the West Indies cricket for the better? Skipper Sammy feels it has nothing to do with the game, he is not sure of how many ‘Champions’ will even be playing international cricker after his angry sentimental post-match outburst. Not many may have noticed in the euphoria that their Test captain Jason Holder doesn’t find a place in the Twenty20 eleven!
There are other basket cases in world cricket, Pakistan being one. Unlike the West Indies, Pakistan’s problems are of their own making internally as no international side wants to visit the country and are forced to make United Arab Emirates as their home. They, too, keep throwing out coaches and captains after every loss to India.
Compared to West Indies and Pakistan, the ICC associates are clamouring for better tours and programmes for them. The only team to beat West Indies is Afghanistan whose overall performance in the tournament can be termed excellent. All they need is a little encouragement from India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh to become a tough international side.
As for the Indian players, their equaltion with the board are sound whatever be the problems the latter faces in the courts. Their defeat to West Indies in the semi-final was taken in the right spirit by fans and critics, though the one question that will keep cropping up every now and then is how long Mahendra Singh Dhoni will keep Virat Kohli waiting to take over as captain for the shorter formats.
A slim and trim Dhoni does not appear to be calling it a day in a hurry and his interaction with Kohli both on and off the field gives a clear indication that the two are willing to be part of the team’s think-tank for some more time, irrespective of what the World Twenty20 selectors thought in naming Kohli as the captain of the global eleven selected on performance in the tournament.
The Twenty20 also has some method in its madness. It throws up Carlos Brathwaites, Jason Roys, Mohammad Shahzads, Mohammed Nabis and Mitchell Santners among the outstanding young men.
(Veturi Srivatsa is a senior journalist and the views expressed are personal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)