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India Today - - SPORTS -

not lead to a grand Caribbean resur­gence across for­mats and a friend who heard the roar at the moment of Carlos Braith­waite’s fourth six con­firmed it was the crown­ing moment of the night.

But the raw emo­tions that poured out in the moment of vic­tory in Kolkata weren’t those of a league of party an­i­mals. They were an­gry, di­rect and ur­gent, as Sa­muels tore off his shirt and taunted Eng­land’s dugout, be­fore reawak­en­ing his feud with Shane Warne and re­it­er­at­ing the team’s dis­gust at be­ing de­scribed as “brain­less” by com­men­ta­tor Mark Ni­cholas. “Re­spect us!” was the crie de coeur, and that mes­sage is as timeless as it gets.

And so, those who see only the play­boy life­styles of Chris ‘Uni­verse Boss’ Gayle and his co­horts miss the point about West In­dies’ cur­rent megas­tars. They have with­drawn their ser­vices from the dys­func­tional WICB, which did noth­ing to har­ness the glo­ries of the Caribbean’s hey­day in the ’70s and ’80s and has even less re­spect for the cur­rent gen­er­a­tion. For want­ing to be paid the go­ing rate for their skills, they are dis­missed as mer­ce­nar­ies by the very peo­ple who seek to ben­e­fit from their achieve­ments. When the ex­act same thing hap­pened in the ’70s, the en­tire team pledged al­le­giance to Kerry Packer’s World Se­ries Cricket in­stead.

It may be harder to warm to the cause of a group of play­ers whose pri­mary mo­ti­va­tions are fi­nan­cial, but the im­por­tance of their strug­gle isn’t re­motely di­luted by that fact. Af­ter all, West In­dies’ slide down cricket’s peck­ing or­der has been in­ten­si­fied by the re­gion’s over­all in­abil­ity to com­pete in a glob­alised world. Any achieve­ment that strikes back at the sta­tus quo has surely to be ap­plauded.

What it may do to cricket in the Caribbean in the long term is less clear. Though WICB pres­i­dent Dave Cameron re­sponded to Sammy’s com­ments by fi­nally agree­ing to a meet­ing, he did so through grit­ted teeth and in the midst of an e-mail ti­tled: ‘WICB Pres­i­dent has high praises for World Twenty20 Or­gan­is­ers’. Never mind the fact that both the men’s and women’s team won their re­spec­tive com­pe­ti­tions.

The like­lier fu­ture for West In­dies lies in the for­mat with which they have landed such a shat­ter­ing blow. If the Board was slow to re­act, then the Caribbean Premier League most cer­tainly was not. Its rep­re­sen­ta­tives hailed the achieve­ment of the re­gion’s stars within min­utes of the win­ning hit, and were in­stantly ramp­ing up lo­cal in­ter­est in watch­ing their he­roes in ac­tion when the com­pe­ti­tion re­sumes in July.

All tour­na­ment long, West In­dies have played like a fran­chise team— ut­terly at home in In­dian con­di­tions thanks to their myr­iad con­tracts in the In­dian Premier League—and ut­terly un­con­cerned by the chal­lenge of pick­ing up their dress­ing-room re­la­tion­ships de­spite, in some cases, not hav­ing played a com­pet­i­tive fix­ture for West In­dies since the end of World Cup 2015.

There is no chance what­so­ever that this achieve­ment will lead to a grand re­vival of West In­dies across all for­mats. Test cricket is dead to Gayle & Co, not be­cause they don’t want to play it or are no longer any good at it—Gayle him­self has two triple cen­turies—but rather be­cause the re­wards no longer bal­ance out the risks, given that there are mil­lion-dol­lar con­tracts spread across sev­eral 20-over ta­bles, and peanuts for five days of hard yakka.

And like­wise, the World T20 champions will not be at­tend­ing next year’s Champions Tro­phy in Eng­land, be­cause they failed to fin­ish among the top eight teams dur­ing the qual­i­fi­ca­tion win­dow. No sit­u­a­tion bet­ter high­lights the ab­surd para­doxes cur­rently tear­ing world cricket apart. So ku­dos to Sammy and his men, they’ve done it their way. And it’s been a thrill to be able to watch.

N

AP

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