As we gear up for the 2016 NGC Bocas Lit Fest, we turn to the importance of a good innings: on life and on the field. Commemorating the 125th anniversary of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club, Bocas is pleased to introduce an April 27th discussion panel, Cricket then, now, and when, devoted to the ins and outs of the Caribbean’s own beautiful game. QPCC president Deryck Murray, right-handed batsman Merissa Aguilleira and literary scholar Kenneth Ramchand will debate cricket’s history, innovations and present-day boundaries in a session chaired by journalist Fazeer Mohammed.
In anticipation of this invigorating discussion, festival founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown shares her thoughts on the recent double-win of the men’s and women’s cricket teams at the 2016 World T20 tournament.
Cricket T20: Fun and woes
It is not every day we can celebrate a WI cricket win. So it is incredible that the much maligned and often demoralised West Indies men’s cricket team and the under-resourced WI female team should emerge double winners of the 2016 World T20 tournament .
Add their wins to the Under- 19s’ in February and the West Indies are confirmed as the sharpest cricket players in the world. It feels as random as a lottery win and definitely off-side .
I watched the women’s game feeling certain we could beat the three-times winning Aussies, even though it was our women’s T20 debut final. Chasing 149 runs, the playing was thrilling but steady, the batting well judged, the talent and experience of skipper Stafanie Taylor and the elegance and patience of the young Hayley Matthews, making an unbeaten 66 and being named Player of the Match in her debut World T20 appearance, were very impressive. The team had played to win from the very start .
When men’s captain Darren Sammy led the charge onto the field to congratulate the women for their unequivocal win over the veteran Australians, it was clear that the WI men would feel both inspired and under pressure to equal the women’s record- breaking result. Few of us watching appreciated that the WI players’ desire to win was being fuelled by a bigger desire — to get even. There was fire in their bellies .
Windies’ fine bowling and fielding limited England’s runs but I looked on in disbelief as the first two WI wickets went for five zealous runs, bowled by Root for easy catches. Our opponents had planned to make our big hitters hit high and we had fallen for it .
“Brainlessness” fell from my own lips. Samuels did well to stay in the crease and push to a match top score of 85 and Man of the Match. We just snatched victory, with T20 newcomer Brathwaite’s exhilarating, record-breaking four sixes off four balls .
Then Sammy’s victory speech turned the delightful win bittersweet .
Was he right to air the truth of the ills of WI cricket to the world? Given the depth of the players’ grievances and the conditions he described he must have felt a duty to do so and to explain that this was no ordinary win .
Sammy only complained about the late delivery and branding of the players’ shirts but I had wondered about the suitability of the fabric used to make their outfits that seemed to encase their bodies in sweat bags .
He may have been very wet but I was not pleased to see Samuel rip off his shirt at the end of the match and behave as if he were in a boxing ring. And I agree with his fine for verbally abusing an opponent. Nor was I happy to see our big star Wayne Bravo, whom I admire, accept his medal out of uniform. As for the WICB, Sammy may have embarrassed the ICC and non-Windies fans at the match but many of us in the region felt appalled that the WICB had not cheered the players on through their games and had failed in some of its duties .
It was appropriate for the WICB to apologise to the ICC for Sammy’s considered outburst but the WICB owes us an explanation about the state of relations between it and a team that showed cohesion and determination .
Caricom is rarely seen as proactive but something radical must happen to allay a false dawn of the rebirth of West Indies men’s cricket and to realise the promise of the women’s.
This column originally appeared in the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday, April 7th, 2016.