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 They have withdrawn their services from the dysfunctional WICB, which did nothing to harness the glories of the Caribbean’s heyday in the ’70s and ’80s and has even less respect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.