‘We’re go­ing to b gold with smiles

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL -

Was there ever a time when the Caribbean and cricket were not syn­ony­mous? Whether or not you're a player, it is more than likely you've been a spec­ta­tor. Truth be told, cricket as we know it to­day - by which I mean Caribbean cricket - is just about the most ex­cit­ing sport­ing ac­tiv­ity, whether you choose to be at the grounds or to take in a match with friends gath­ered around your TV screen. Of course, noth­ing beats the van­tage from a pav­il­ion seat, as any true cricket fan will quickly tell you, with good rea­son.

There's noth­ing quite like the sound of a bat crack­ing a ball for four or six, or the magic of an im­pos­si­ble catch by a field­s­man up in the air, body in­de­scrib­ably twisted. And then there are the times when a ball is sent six con­sec­u­tive times into the pav­il­ion, lift­ing ev­ery spec­ta­tor to his or her feet, re­gard­less of whether the bats­man is one of yours or not. We need not go into the once unique sounds of Caribbean, now to be heard wher­ever the game is played!

For play­ers and fans the best cricket news in a while cen­tres on the re­branded St. Lu­cia Stars. Just last week­end the team set out on a road­show around the is­land that was greeted at ev­ery turn by hordes of jump-in-the-air fans, young and old demon­stra­bly ap­pre­cia­tive of the op­por­tu­nity to cel­e­brate not just one but three of their own: John­son Charles, Keddy Le­s­poris and the man him­self - Daren Sammy.

“The feed­back was in­cred­i­ble,” St. Lu­cia Stars PR di­rec­tor Manan Pandya re­called dur­ing an in­ter­view this week. “We stopped in La­borie and we had the steel pans, the spe­cial en­ergy that only the kids can cre­ate . . . I mean the youth vibe was over­whelm­ing. Every­one was danc­ing in the street to ir­re­sistible beats. It re­ally was a great op­por­tu­nity to in­ter­act with the com­mu­nity, to en­gage the fans, es­pe­cially the youth who are the fu­ture cricket stars of the is­land.”

Pandya cur­rently works with the Stars mar­ket­ing team and says that al­ready the pieces are fall­ing into place with the new re­brand­ing.

“We're blessed,” he said. “We have an in­cred­i­ble coach­ing staff and an amaz­ing line-up of play­ers. We had our team meet­ing on Wed­nes­day, and the en­ergy was just in­cred­i­ble. The chem­istry is pal­pa­ble, the syn­ergy un­de­ni­able.”

Global Sports Ven­tures chair­man, Jay Pandya (who also hap­pens to be Manan's un­cle) is sched­uled to ar­rive in Saint Lu­cia this week­end. Re­port­edly he has de­scribed his de­ci­sion to in­vest in the Caribbean team as a “no brainer”.

“Jay is in­cred­i­bly ex­cited to be com­ing here,” said di­rec­tor Manan. “He's in­cred­i­bly pas­sion­ate and gen­uinely hum­ble. He grew up in Mum­bai and has al­ways been pas­sion­ate about the game. Cricket is a re­li­gion over there. You get cut, you bleed cricket. It's a pas­sion he shares with the Caribbean fans.”

The St. Lu­cia Stars (ear­lier The Zouks) di­rec­tor ex­plained how the now pri­vately-owned fran­chise came by its new name: “Peo­ple have al­ways looked up to the stars!”

He an­swered his own ques­tion: “Be­fore we had maps, what did we do? We fol­lowed the North­ern Star. It was al­ways there; you could al­ways count on it. Stars never fail. Any time you look at the sky you know they're there. They're re­li­able.”

In Pandya's words: “Daren Sammy . . . every­one looks up to him. He's has be­come an icon, and with good rea­son. He started at bot­tom, con­fronted many ob­sta­cles and ad­ver­si­ties, and came out shin­ing - like a star on the dark­est night. There's a cer­tain pos­i­tive vi­bra­tion to the name.”

And it's caught on quickly. Stars play­ers from all cor­ners of the world, in­clud­ing New Zealand, Sri Lanka, the United States, Aus­tralia and Saint Lu­cia, have been ob­served flash­ing their spank­ing new team mem­o­ra­bilia at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

“We have play­ers from all over,” Pandya boasted. “We have a very di­verse ros­ter that we're es­pe­cially proud of.”

As the team con­tin­ues to grow and evolve, Pandya says, the com­mon thread that keeps the team to­gether, along with their ded­i­ca­tion and pas­sion, is their 'work hard, play hard' men­tal­ity.

“They push one an­other on and off the field. They are strict about their nu­tri­tion, their work­outs and their re­cu­per­a­tion pe­ri­ods. When you push your­self phys­i­cally and men­tally, as they do, you've got to give your­self time

From left: Manan Pandya, St. Lu­cia Stars Dir and play­ers An­dre Fletcher, John­son Cha

Manan Pandya, Sta

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