By *Jomo Sanga Thomas
(Plain Talk, Jun 28, 2019)
Cricket lovers in the Caribbean need to get over themselves. The current West Indies team is not in the mould of the great teams of Lloyd and Richards. If we remember well, that mighty team with Greenidge, Haynes, Richards, Lloyd, Gomes and Dujon as batsmen, and a pace attack comprising Roberts, Holding, Garner and Marshall, lost the 1983 World Cup finals to India. False expectation breeds sadness.
The current team is weak, disorganiSed, and lacks the ability, experience and technique to go deep in this World Cup. We knew it before a ball was bowled, but fanatics are allowed to dream.
The West Indies’ hopes started to sink when we lost the game against Australia. Having held the Australians to 285 runs, our players approached the game as though they intended to win the 50 over game in 20. Those at the top of the order failed to remember that 50 overs consist of 300 balls. Words such as if, could, and should, cannot be tested. However, if Holder and those remaining had played sensible cricket, the West Indies could have pulled off a gutsy win. They folded under pressure and threw away the game.
At 236 for 6 wickets, West Indies needed 50 runs off 48 balls. All Holder and the others had to do was to hold their heads and play dogged, determined cricket. There was no need to think boundaries. They simply needed to stroke the ball into the gaps and take ones and twos. But they kept pressing for the big shot, lost an additional 3 wickets, and forced cricket lovers in our region to endure a bitter defeat.
Game lost, downward spiral sets in; defeat after defeat followed.
When Bangladesh soundly whipped West Indies, the common cry across the region was “even Bangladesh beating us now”. So what’s wrong with Bangladesh? Their cricket is moving forward, ours continues its mad dance down the cellars of world cricket ranking.
If you are serious and truly understand cricket and the competition arrayed against the West Indies, you really could not, in good conscience, expect them to lift the trophy as world champions. The chances were slim to none.
All West Indies cricket lovers should have expected was fight, determination and grit to the very end. After all, we have endured worse. We went through slavery! What we got was a senseless display of “calypso cricket” flickers of fun and laughter, even moments of real joy, expectation and at times, anticipation. But protect your nerves and safeguard your hearts, disappointment and defeat will bring us all back to the real world.
Classic example: West Indies and New Zealand. After witnessing a masterful display of elegant stroke play, flare and responsible batting by Williamson, the West Indies took off like racehorses. Even when they were way ahead of the ball-count, they seemed not to take the time to mentally adjust and ensure that they didn’t lose precious wickets going for the big hit, when six singles would have driven fear into their opponents. Truth is, T20 cricket spoilt our players. Russell, Hetmyer and Pooran are only accustomed to making cameo appearances. A quick 30 or 40 coming in late can win a T20 game. Not so with a 50 over game.
But cricket is played from the head down. Williamson knew that he had to make more than 80, so he steadied his hand and made 148. Gayle, coming in at the top of the order, ought to have known after his long years of experience, that 80 plus at the top of the order does not guarantee success. Yet he swung wildly once too often and gave his wicket away.
Heroics were left to Carlos Braithwaite. He tried gallantly and got himself a century. West Indies came charging back; from 160 for 6 they got to 285 for 9. Seven balls left, 6 runs needed. Old people would say he was fart-frightened; never knew he could get there. He was still thinking of the four 6s he struck off Stokes to win the T20 cup for the West Indies!
Easy stuff; you just got a century. Take a deep breath, calm yourself down; a batsman who scores a century takes a new guard. Not so Carlos Braithwaite. He could have pushed the 7 balls anywhere, take a single, then concentrate on getting 5 runs off the remaining 6 balls. He did not do that. He swung for the hills and landed in the safe hands of the fielder purposely placed just inside the ropes at long on.
Sunken West Indian hearts. What was most sad were the after-game comments of Braithwaite. Asked by Ian Bishop if, in retrospect, considering where the game was, whether he would have done anything differently.
Braithwaite said he would have done the identical same thing! Gary Sobers is right. Cricket is played from the head down. Bob Marley is even more on point: “Live for self you live in vain. Live for others, you live again.”
Braithwaite wanted personal glory. He could not divine that he was playing for a higher power, a higher calling, a West Indian nation. He needs to go to the tapes and watch Marshall bat with a broken hand, Richards playing through pain, or Brain Lara fighting with grit to ensure a victory for the West Indies.
Those who blame the Cameron administration are looking for a scapegoat. Cameron’s aloofness, his strong-headed rhetoric, coupled with differences with players and their association will long be highlighted. We will never remember that it was during Cameron’s administration that West Indies I won two T20 championships. It is well known that success has 1000 friends, while defeat remains an orphan.
West Indies cricket needs much more than new administrators. We need to stop blaming selectors. We need to go back to the drawing boards, groom a new set of players with mental toughness and a strong desire to win. They must learn that cricket, like all sports, is much more than entertainment.
*Jomo Sanga Thomas is a lawyer, journalist, social commentator and Speaker of the House of Assembly in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
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