The West Indies cricket team’s win over India in the second One Day International (ODI) is not being afforded the accolades that this comprehensive victory requires.
When the election for President of Cricket West Indies (CWI) came up, there was a contest between the incumbent Dave Cameron and the challenger Ricky Skerritt. The cricket team was at its lowest ever ranking in world cricket and there was a boast of the excellent financial state of regional cricket where an unprecedented number of players were offered and accepted lucrative contracts just to play the game: real professionals. However in virtually the last minute, the delegates who have a vote, “switched” and the reigning “king” of Cricket West Indies was defeated.
What happened since to cricket in the West Indies was the unusual sight of players once sidelined, ostensibly because they were either “feisty”, “chat too much”, or “don’t bow to the king” etc, were given an opportunity to rejoin the fold, once their present cricket form met the required standard. A “new” coach was hired, a “new” captain of two of the teams named and proven players with a long and credible history of performing under pressure made their reappearance in the team.
The defeat of fellow minnows Afghanistan in matches was met with the retort: “They couldn’t help it.” The conventional wisdom being that no matter what team was selected to face the Afghans, victory was almost guaranteed. Next came the series against the world’s finest: India. If any West Indian cricket fan tells me that he “KNEW” that we could beat the Indians by 8 wickets in a T20 game, I would immediately request the numbers for the next Lotto draw!
The present team of West Indian cricketers appear to the observant eye of die-hard cricket fans, to be playing with a freedom unprecedented in the recent annals of West Indian cricket. They seem to be able to play without worry, play knowing that their performance and place in the team would have absolutely nothing to do with their relationship on a personal level with members of the Board or other designated holders of office in the boardroom.
For the first time since the heydays of West Indian cricket, skill and ability to respond to the nuances and intricacies of a game in progress are what matters. The recent acquisitions to the team, who were in danger of being sidelined, suddenly began playing as their talent and skill promised and those who were previously sidelined and now given an opportunity to parade their nous and skill, guided a team ranked 6 places below India to a dramatic and visually pleasing “facile” victory.
This is not to say that we have “turned the corner”, as some are quick to postulate, but what is on display in how these players approach games and respond to the inspired leadership of Keiron Pollard gives all of us hope — hope that no longer will we have to play in qualifying tournaments in order to play cricket at the highest level. The report of delay in payment of salaries owed set off alarm bells until the chairman of the Finance Committee of CWI let us know of a US$20 million debt that had to be met on the take-over of the new Board. This is what was at the root of the payment delay.
So much for the much ballyhooed boast of the previous administration of financial well-being.
So, on we go, playing cricket in a manner that should result in us, the fans, enjoying each victory, and understanding each defeat, safe in the knowledge that for the first time at last, our cricketers are being assessed on their form and skill on the field of play, not on how they respond to “Bucky Massa” or members of the non-playing hierarchy of CWI. Go Team!