THAT CALYPSO CONUN
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,