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Is it really a turning point?

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It was Aristotle, I believe, who said that ‘One Swallow does not make a summer’. When I reflect on last Saturday’s fine moment in West Indies cricket, I have to go back to that famous line that is so often quoted. We have over the years at different junctures been flattered only to be deceived by the West Indies Cricket team. How many times have we not said that they have finally turned the corner only to realise that they had never even reached the corner.{{more}} Our team has suffered defeats in recent times by Pakistan, India and Australia. In 2004, they were thoroughly humiliated by England at the same Sabina Park, scoring only 47 runs and going down to defeat by ten wickets. Is there something now that is different? Can we be guided by or take heart from Gayle’s comment, “It’s definitely a turning point but we don’t know how big yet…We just have to wait until the series is finished”.

I must admit to being one who has all but given up on West Indies Cricket. I am an enemy of torture (which is why I never liked George Bush), and over the years it has been sheer torture looking at the dismal display that has come to be associated with our team. But have we reached a turning point? Should we wait until the end of the series as Gayle is suggesting? Gayle is, however, saying more. In his view, we are definitely at a turning point but what is at question is the magnitude. ‘We don’t know how big yet.’ This is the point of reference. In the final analysis, the answer is not about winning the series. In fact, many of us were turned off not by our losing streak, but by how we meekly surrendered like spineless people. (Interestingly, this was a description used about the English team by Boycott after last week’s defeat). We really saw a different approach by our cricketers in Jamaica. There was a great deal of maturity, something that has stood out in recent times with Gayle’s batting. After all, this is his second successive hundred. The display by the Captain and Sarwan was truly remarkable. When last did we see two centuries coming like that? A partnership of 210! Recently, that has been hard to come by. After a slight collapse Ramdin and Nash, holding up the middle order. Benn 23 batting at number 9.

The overwhelming victory by an innings and 23 runs in four days when it looked most likely to go into a fifth day and to end in a draw was in itself remarkable, but it was the overall discipline of the team that stood out. Taylor was something else. He brought back memories of the golden days when our pacers ruled. And even more remarkable to get the splendid back up he had from a spinner of all people! Nash is performing a role reminiscent of Larry Gomes and people like Solomon before him. Ramdin is a mystery. You never know what to expect, but if he can settle down and perform the role that many think he can play then we will have things going for us. Gayle’s opening partner is still up for grabs. Devon Smith flatters to deceive. Time is running out for him. He has reached a critical point where he has to perform or he will be forced out. Powell I have always considered erratic. After Taylor had the English batsmen under pressure Powell came in and began spraying the ball around like some mad man.

Last week’s sweet victory would reopen all the debates that had been going on over the years about the future of West Indies Cricket. We always have to remember that cricket means so much to us, that it is more than a game. When the Jamaican crowd sang ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ there was a lot of history garbed in a lot of emotion. Bruce Golding, Prime Minister of Jamaica, reminded us recently that Cricket was the only part of our colonial heritage that has never been questioned or challenged. He is right, but part of the reason for this is that we made cricket our own, transformed and removed it from the staid gentleman’s game that the British made it into to something else that was often described as calypso cricket, although that carried negative connotations. But remember that when we ruled the cricket world we still played calypso cricket. This is what continues to bother us. We consider cricket as much our own as the British obviously do so when our players fail to appreciate this we get angry. But on the other hand the English critics have been giving their boys a beating. They always want to have our boys grovel in the dust. They cannot forget our glory days and the humiliation they suffered. So a lot is at stake in this series. Is it a turning point and are we simply looking to see how big it is? Stay tuned.

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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