With West Indies winning this year's twenty-20 world cup, cricket in West Indies is sure to get a lease of life. In what may be called as the rise of the lowly, West Indies has surprised all cricketing nations by winning this hugely popular tournament. In fact, West Indies were definitely not one of the favourites to win the world cup, given the fact that the success of the team largely depended on the heroics of their marauding opener Chris Gayle. However, in an irony of sorts, in the finals played on October 7, even as Chris Gayle failed to make a significant contribution to the team, West Indies still managed to notch a facile victory to lift the cup.
The victory gives the West Indies a breath of fresh air in the face of the decline of cricket in their land in the last decade or so. In fact, the decline began in the late 90s and has not risen till recently. In the last five years, out of the total 41 international test matches that West Indies played, they managed to win just five of them, including their two victories against Bangladesh in 2009. Out of the total 74 one day internationals played in the last five years, the West Indies won just 23. The statistics speak for the decline of cricket in the land. But this decline had to do more with the internal conflicts in the administration of the sport than the ability of the players. The West Indies Cricket Board had its share of woes in making things more complicated. It was involved in what seemed to be an endless war with the players with regard to the terms and conditions of the annual contract. So much so that a genuinely gifted player of the stature of Chris Gayle was left in the lurch due to certain idiosyncrasies and ego problems from both sides. Such developments resulted in cricket losing its dominant place in the sports psyche of a land that had ruled the world of cricket. The likes of Garifield Sobers, Gordon Greenidge, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Micheal Holding, Vivian Richards and, more recently, Brian Lara had the cricketing nations tremble before their swinging bats and bouncing leather. In fact, when the One-day international world cup tournament began in 1975, it was a foregone conclusion that they would lift the cup. They showed the world why they were considered truly magnificent in the sport by winning twice consecutively, only to falter at the death at the third time. That spoke of the authority and professionalism with which they approached the game. However, things were not the same in the last decade what with West Indies stooping to its lowest ebb in the much loved sport in the Caribbean.
The victory in the twenty20 world cup, though has come unexpected, is surely the result of a much better administration of cricket in the last year or so. Much credit should also go to the duo of coach Ottis Gibson and captain Darren Sammy, who have co-ordinated well to build a formidable side, despite uncharitable criticism from a section of cricketing greats as regards the duo's strategy. The signs of a resurgent team were there for everyone to see. The team convincingly won both the Test as well as the One-day series against New Zealand recently. Now, they have followed that feat with the twenty20 world cup which will serve the cricketing nation well.
For the future of cricket, it is important that cricket survives and grows in West Indies for more than one reason. Though cricket originated in England, it was in West Indies that the sport gained its variety and style. For the cricketers of West Indies, cricket was more than just a sport. It was their passion and life style. They played it with sheer professionalism. All these factors helped the sport grow in their land and world came to recognise these tiny nations. Ever since, the sport has been very popular in the Caribbean Islands.
West Indies cricket team comprises members from multiple tiny island nations. While their present captain is from St Lucia, the mercurial Chris Gayle is from Jamaica. Kieron Pollard and the classy spinner Sunil Narine come from Trinidad. Cricket, in other words, unites these players and, in turn, unites these small independent countries. Coming together of these players to play cricket and many other games is also important for these nations to remain united to withstand the cultural and economic dominance of their mighty neighbour USA. It is for such reasons that cricket needs to survive and to be promoted in the West Indies.
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