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The Caribbean Phoenix

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Marlon_Samuels_West_Indies_cricketIt was touching. Perhaps for many of us. I stopped short of weeping with a sense of admiration.

They say it is difficult to keep soaring (due to Murphy’s Law or the Law of Averages, take your pick). There is a lot of pressure on you to perform, and that turns out to be counterproductive. You get weighed down by the expectations of millions of fans. But having risen, perhaps, you at least have some momentum to build on. It can keep you going. But when you are down and almost out, it takes much more first to rise to the surface and then be contended with as a dark horse.

Some, however, would say that it is actually easy; when you know the odds are stacked heavily against you, you have nothing to lose…and you find the energy and courage needed to ‘have fun’ and prove a point at the same time. And what’s more, you have a stock of excuses which you could conveniently use to justify your discomfitures, if they keep raining down on you.

 

However, expectations of fans and countrymen notwithstanding, if you yourself decide to be guided by how things were once upon a time – say, three decades ago, when perhaps you were not born or were a child running around with a plastic bat whacking a plastic ball, you create your own expectations. This is true for the West Indian T20 team which won the World Cup in Kolkata on the 3rd of April 2016. They were like caged lions being teased by onlookers (read Mark Nicholas) or venomous snakes mistaken for defanged reptiles and being laughed at.

And when such men succeed, inspired by the women and boys who did likewise before them (the latter much earlier this year and the former on the same day), you stand up in reverence, partake of their heroism for gratis, and derive inspiration for your own battles in life and thank God for blessing them. Darren Sammy said in the post-match interview that a pastor travels with the West Indies team and prays for them! God listens to prayers for sure.

Many cricketers around the world have had some kind of problem or the other with their respective cricket boards. But these problems have been the roughest for the West Indians, who have had to become tougher and tougher over time to counter the roughness.

The problems they have been exposed to, partly explain the degringolade the (inter)national team has experienced over the years. Of course, I use the word ‘international’ here as the West Indian cricketers hail from different countries – islands and Guyana; and what glues them together is the love of the game.

But politics creep in…sadly as it has over the years and sullied sports, in many parts of the world. One would expect that victories registered by a team hailing from different countries would contribute marvelously to bonhomie among the islanders in the Caribbean. Perhaps it does…as the fans and aficionados get together to support and the players themselves give it their all – not for their respective countries, but for the spirit of the game. But the higher-ups, the decision-makers, the ones who call the shots, play ‘spoilcricket’.

The year 2016, a leap year, has seen the Caribbeans take three leaps, in quick succession – as Sir Curtly Ambrose indicated to the camera after Braithwaite sealed victory a la Dhoni times four, with three fingers. The boys got the better of Indians, the women trounced the Aussies and the men dispossessed the Englishmen. Does this signal a resurgence? Is this some kind of bellwether which is going to do a good deal of good to the game?

The West Indians need to carry forth the confidence to the ODIs and Test matches as well…and one hopes that the West Indies Cricket Board would let go of its ego and accept that ruffled feathers need to be smoothed for the greater good (read international progress).

 

If one takes a peek at the World Happiness Report, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago (which have provided the West Indies team with a steady flow of cricketers) rank above India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and South Africa. This implies, perhaps, that the West Indian cricketers would not take their defeats on the cricket field as seriously as they would insults hurled at them in the press and being written-off in the eye of the public.

Just as Virat Kohli can be egged on by provocations (there was a joke to that effect circulating before the semifinal against the West Indies), the fun-loving West Indians can be egged on by being written off. Perhaps Mark Nicholas secretly wanted to do just that and was misunderstood (yet ultimately successful)?

What the West Indians have achieved in 2016 is very good for the game – boys, men and women have risen up from the ashes like a Phoenix from the Atlantic. William at the Three-Lions Pub in Trondheim (Norway), where yours truly watched the semi-final, remarked that it is a great sign that all countries have improved so dramatically over the last half-a-decade.

Of course, guys at the pub (which is owned by an Englishman) would be disheartened by the defeat, just as one can imagine Stokes and Root would be; the former for having conceded 24 runs in 4 balls and the latter for having consistently been the ‘Wall’ for the Englishmen (incidentally, India’s Wall and Joe Root are both Capricorns) and seen all his efforts go abegging.

As much as one would like to shake hands with the West Indians and credit Samuels for the déjà vu he experienced (inspired by 2012), one would also want to understand the state of mind Ben Stokes would be in for some months to come.



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G Venkatesh (born 1972) is a senior lecturer in Energy and Environment, at Karlstad University in S...

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