Sunday was one of those rare days in Caribbean cricket that will go down as truly unforgettable; the West Indies captured the two ICC World T20 men and women’s titles, (to go along with the T20 Under-19 title won just a few weeks ago). On Sunday, both wins were wrested in a manner that has become familiar to our cricket ‒ final, nail-biting stanzas that leave us on the edges of our seats, our emotions raw, run ragged by twists and turns that render us as exhausted as the players themselves, then, eventually, there are the explosions of unbridled delight. The one on Sunday compared favourably with the great Brian Lara’s 1994 surpassing of Sir Garfield Sobers’ record as the world’s highest run-getter in Test cricket.
Sunday was all the sweeter for the fact that it happened at a time when our cricket has little else to celebrate and the behaviour of the regional media in the wake of the achievement has sent a poignant message about what really matters to the people of the Caribbean.
Both finals, on Sunday, despite the earlier prediction that at least the men’s side stood as good a chance as any of winning the title, took us deep into those labyrinths of tension and uncertainty that have become a familiar propensity of West Indian cricket. Perhaps that is simply a burden that we, West Indian cricket fans, are destined to have to bear. We thrive, it seems, on drama. As it happened, Sunday’s somewhat laboured efforts preceded (for a change) a euphoric emergence at the other end of a familiar emotional tunnel.
Setting the victory aside and pointing perhaps to a portent for the future, we celebrated, as well, the heroics of two players in particular, an eighteen-year-old girl named Hayley Matthews whose talent and technique were something to behold on Sunday and a physical giant of a newcomer to the international men’s stage named Carlos Braithwaite, whose four consecutive sixes in the final over of the men’s game must surely have left the West Indies’ English opponents dumbfounded to the point of trauma. The most that can be said of the significance of Sunday for the regional game is that it marks the recording of a remarkable piece of history; the simultaneous capturing of a unique collection of World Championship titles in a game where we had been written off by the rest of the world as hapless has-beens and more than a little insulted by those of cricket’s critics who continue to regard the regional game as stuck in the ‘calypso’ era.
Our cricket, on Sunday, recorded a piece of positive history that would have rekindled the hopes of the eternal optimists (and even a fair few enduring sceptics) in the region regarding the future of the regional game. It might even have caused us to hope that the self-belief that would have been drawn from the T20 triumphs can extend itself into the beginning of a renaissance in the longest form of the game where the decline has been most catastrophic.
Sunday’s region-wide euphoria in the wake of the cricketing triumphs would also have provided a reminder that when all is said and done and our ambitions for a Caribbean Community notwithstanding, cricket, up until this time, remains unique in its binding effect on the region, which is precisely what makes the leaden-footedness of our regional heads to intervene decisively to save our cricket from the ruin of bureaucratization is such a crying shame. Surely, Sunday now provides more than ample reason for Caricom heads to go way beyond the familiar-sounding congratulatory messages that would have reached the teams in India even before the on-field celebrations would have concluded.
Cricket, like so many other things that are important to the region, has become a prisoner of the region’s inexplicable tendency towards inaction in the face of emergency. Perhaps the most important message sent by our men and women on Sunday is that Caribbean cricket is more than deserving of being rescued from its present malady. To borrow, ironically, from one of the pet pronouncements of Caribbean politicians, it’s time for action.
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), as Darren Sammy stated more or less bluntly during a post-match interview that would have been watched by millions all over the world, has come to symbolize the counterproductive bureaucratization of Caribbean cricket. It has thrown up small men who cast long and inhibiting shadows over a game that was never meant to be harnessed in that way. Rules and regulations have been set down to place restraints on those things that really matter in Caribbean cricket, including, perhaps above all else, the celebration of talents that match and frequently outdo those of the rest of the world ‒ and Sammy is right, all that has to end if Caribbean cricket is to breathe again.
It might have been best if what Sammy had to say in India had been spared the altogether inappropriate response of WICB President Dave Cameron who, for some inexplicable reason, apparently fails to comprehend that for all its travails, for all its debilitating difficulties with a Board that has simply been unable, for the longest while, to reach a modus vivendi with the players, it was our ‘boys’ and ‘girls’ who, in the final analysis, put their hands up in India, fought through the on and off-field adversities and handed the people of the region something to celebrate on Sunday. In the fullness of time the Board will come to the realization that it cannot match that and for all its behaviour to the contrary it is the cricket itself rather than the bureaucracy that matters.