THAT CA­LYPSO CONUN

India Today - - SPORTS -

They are the new kings of Twenty20, and could re­main so for a while, but this corona­tion will

As Mar­lon Sa­muels swag­gered into the me­dia con­fer­ence room at Eden Gar­dens in Kolkata, still clad in his pads and with a mas­sive gold win­ner’s medal around his neck, he swung his legs up onto the ta­ble and de­manded re­spect from all who had dissed him.

As Dar­ren Sammy, West In­dies cap­tain, pre­pared to mount the podium to claim the World T20 tro­phy for the sec­ond time in three edi­tions, he first un­leashed a speech that read like a glo­ri­ous in­sur­rec­tion, ac­cus­ing the West In­dies Cricket Board of de­sert­ing his team of champions.

As the Windies play­ers ca­vorted through the sta­dium—be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the pul­sat­ing fi­nal, and then long into the night at the team ho­tel— it was clear we were wit­ness­ing the zenith of in­ter­na­tional cricket’s first T20 dy­nasty. But was it the be­gin­ning of some­thing beau­ti­ful or sim­ply the end of an im­prob­a­ble jour­ney?

All tour­na­ment long, the West In­dies have danced to their own beat, not that of cricket’s pre­vail­ing rhythms —quite lit­er­ally so in the case of their vic­tory an­them, Cham­pion—and they have, to a man, ded­i­cated their wins to the West In­dies peo­ple, whose de­vo­tion to their sport has been tested be­yond mea­sure by the col­lapse of stan­dards in governance and com­pe­tence at both re­gional and in­ter­na­tional level.

And yet, in light of what they have achieved, and as sac­ri­le­gious as it may seem, play­ers such as Sammy, Gayle, Sa­muels and Russell have earned the right to be men­tioned in the same breath as Lloyd, Richards, Greenidge and Roberts. The first West In­dies team to claim two ma­jor one-day tro­phies in the space of four years, in 1975 and 1979, is also re­called as one of the great­est sport­ing teams of all time; an out­fit with the skill and swag­ger to ex­plode pre­con­cep­tions about what their is­land na­tions could achieve.

NThe sec­ond? Not so much. And yet, eight of the play­ers who claimed the spoils in Kolkata were also in the side that beat Sri Lanka in Colombo to seal the 2012 World T20 ti­tle. Then, as now, their achieve­ment has flown in the face of all so­cio-eco­nomic as­sump­tions.

In 1975, the cricket world wasn’t ready for what West In­dies were about to achieve—the sport’s staid, im­pe­rial rhythms would be ex­ploded by a raw and testos­terone-fu­elled ag­gres­sion, with play­ers like Viv Richards openly hitch­ing the team wagon to the wider cause of Black Power. They were an eman­ci­pa­tory move­ment as much as a crick­et­ing team, giv­ing voice to their peo­ple and fight to the cause. Though hind­sight adores the star qual­ity of their leg­endary fast bowlers and un­fet­tered bats­men, at­ti­tudes at the time weren’t any­thing as en­light­ened. Edi­to­ri­als dur­ing their ‘Black­wash’ Test tours in the mid-1980s railed against their lib­eral use of the bouncer, in par­tic­u­lar.

Like­wise, the heady cock­tail of joy and fury with which the lat­est Windies cam­paign has been con­ducted raises some sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween the two eras. Par­ty­ing the pain away has been a sta­ple of the Caribbean tra­di­tion—Sun­day night, in fact, was Ja­maica car­ni­val,

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