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Savouring proud cricketing moments

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One of the challenges I face every week is deciding what to write about. Not so this week. Sunday’s proud and unifying period for West Indians everywhere did it. I was in Barrouallie on Sunday morning and the shouts and roars that blasted into the air reinforced what cricket means to Caribbean people. It was a proud time indeed for all West Indians, fans or not.{{more}} Cricket commentators and writers had even run out of superlatives. The women had set the pace with their calm and smoothing win over Australia and then the men humbled England. This was not a day for the weak-hearted. Our West Indian senior team has done this to us too often. There is really never a dull moment with them, even when losing. This time they had us sitting at the edges of our seats. Sunday was really extra special. They are experts at doing things the hard way. But after all the turmoil in West Indian cricket, we certainly needed it – the tensions, heartaches, anxiety and finally joy.

Let me say upfront that I am a big critic of West Indian cricket. Many of us who have followed our cricketers in the glory days and hope for the time when they would recapture those moments are often left disappointed when, at times, they seem to turn victory into defeat. Fortunately, some West Indian cricket fans are totally dedicated and stand with them, come high or low. With me, it is different. For me, cricket is more than entertainment. It is skill, tactics as you try to outwit your opponent, grace, confidence and bringing a West Indian personality to the game.

We have always been good at the T20 level, but on Sunday we saw a different team, supremely confident and together. Even towards the end when things seemed to have gotten away from them, Sammy and the boys sat in the pavilion with a look that said it is not done yet. The way Sammy handled the team and held it together was important, but they were united in sending a powerful message to their critics and particularly to the West Indies Cricket Board. We should not miss the politics in all of this. While Sammy was critical of the Board, he praised CARICOM and particularly Prime Minister Keith Mitchell, who had been regularly in touch and who, we were told, sent them an inspiring message, while the Board seemed missing in action. Given the current dispute between the Board and CARICOM, this sent a powerful message. There is no doubt that a large part of the problem with our cricket has to do with the shortcomings of the WICB. It needs to be restructured and given new life and perhaps CARICOM is the only body that can force this. But I am afraid of any deep involvement in our cricket by CARICOM. If they can spearhead management restructuring and get out as quickly as they got in, this will be appreciated. After all, CARICOM has not convinced us that they can do anything right. Just look at the CSME, which is a long lost dream.

There is little to say about the women, except that they did us proud and set the pace for their male counterparts to follow. What stood out for me was the batting of 18-year-old Hayley Mathews. Her batting would have been the envy of many men long established in the game. She kept her cool and certainly demonstrated class, moving down the wicket and effortlessly despatching the ball over the boundary. Stafanie Taylor, Dottin and the others had been at it for some time and did a splendid job.

What the men showed is that the team is not a one-man show. When Gayle did not deliver, there were others who rose to the occasion and remember that this was a team without Pollard and Narine. The talk of the town was, of course, young Carlos Braithwaite. As one cricket writer said, he really did not have to hit the fourth ball for six, but he did and he believed that if they were to bowl the other two balls the result would have been the same. The English team was shell-shocked and Stokes must have felt like vanishing into thin air. He certainly wished in hindsight that he had not been called on to bowl the last over. Bishop had been constantly singing the praises of Braithwaite and he rose to the occasion. I am not sure you are going to see something like this for a long time.

But where do they go from here? Of course, there is the burning question of the management of West Indian cricket. The stupidity of the Board in indicating that it was thinking of disciplining Sammy might well be its death knell. Sammy suggested that with the right structures and development in place what they have done could be transferred to the One-Day and Test teams. There isn’t a lot more to celebrate in our region and the style with which the team demolished their opponents, who seemed until the last over to be well in the game, was certainly what was needed for our West Indian psyche. Where we go from here is important. Cricket has always been a unifier in the region, but can it go further and set the pace in other aspects of West Indian life? Let us hope this is not a one-day wonder, but that we can build on what they have done and send signals which will echo beyond cricket. Maybe to say like Obama, we can do it!

Dr Adrian Fraser is a social commentator and historian.

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