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The Calypso brand of batting


Sir Vivian RichardsOne stood as still as possible and only moved his front foot forward before the ball was bowled. The other shimmied around and lifted his bat up like a maestro swings his wand around while conducting a symphony orchestra. One was a brash, in your face, gum chewing destroyer of bowling attacks. The other had a more elegant and calm persona. One is a knight, the other a prince. The thing they have in common is that both are two West Indian batting legends.

If you haven’t guessed it already, I’m referring to Sir Vivian Richards and the Prince of Trinidad Brian Charles Lara. These two batting giants have scored runs by the tons. Generations have accepted their greatness and will always remember their contribution to West Indies cricket and cricket on the whole. They have played some truly breath taking innings. Every young boy aspiring to be a cricketer in the Caribbean islands looks up to these two. Such is the impact of Sir Viv and Prince Lara. Even for the current crop of West Indian batsmen, their influences wouldn’t be too far from the afore mentioned players. However, therein lies WI's problem.

A look at the team and one can see a little bit of Lara or Richards in each and every batsman. Except for Gayle and Chanderpaul, who are greats of West Indian cricket themselves, every other batsman has a hint of one of the 2 past batsmen in their batting styles. They play with the same free gay abandon; the back lift sometimes looks the same and the only thing different about the wristy flicks are the wrists. It has become the calypso brand of cricket. Something every West Indian who begins playing cricket invariably picks up. It embodies the relaxed and fun lifestyle of the islands. The West Indian team has got some talented players. But it seems they lack their own style. Just like a writer, every cricketer needs to have a style of his own. He can model it around his hero, but eventually it must become his. The copycats are often found out.

The thing about Lara and Viv is that they were exceptionally talented. They had a gift not many possess to go along with all their flair. So when lesser mortals try and imitate these greats, falling short is an almost foregone conclusion. Inconsistency has plagued the WI batting line up for a long time. One reason could be the stature Lara and Richards have acquired batting the way they did. The pitfall of idolizing past heroes is one does not realize the amount of effort that went in. Players like Chanderpaul and Gayle have their own style. They know their limitations, their strengths and what they need to work on. For instance, Chanderpaul can play aggressively if he so wishes, but in a Test match which does not call for such batting he does what is required of him. Gayle has redefined himself in recent times. He knows if he stays there, all the dot balls he faces in the beginning will not matter.

The youngsters need to learn from them and learn quickly. It’s good to have heroes when you’re growing up. It is, however, imperative one realizes the hard work those heroes put in when one is old enough. Viv Richards made cover driving and hooking look ridiculously easy with those huge forearms of his. The next gen cricketers maybe better off leaving a few balls outside the off. It has been a while since a batting great worthy of being compared with Lara emerged from the West Indies. Darren Bravo is the closest in terms of style but still far away in terms of runs and records. Of course he hasn’t played as many matches as yet. Maybe with time and experience, he could be seated in the pantheon of West Indies batting. If West Indies are to regain their status as a feared cricketing nation, they need their young guns to fire. The only question to be asked is how quickly will they learn.

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