Inside that Windies T20 conquest
MANY West Indians weren't just surprised by their team's triumph at the ICC twenty20 World Cup. They were absolutely shocked.
No matter that much of the cricketing world had installed Darren Sammy's team favourites. Caribbean cricket fans had seen their team lose too often for too long. Some even rejected the suggestion that there was genuine talent in the team.
I know what I am saying is true. I have heard it first hand: "Yu talking foolishness, dem nuh good!"
I believe that almost cynical loss of belief in West Indies cricket triggered the absence of live (visual and audio) broadcast coverage in the local (non-cable) media. It's heartrending that not a single Jamaican radio station had live coverage.
I suspect that much of the irrational talk about Sammy's leadership in the tournament is related to shock at the final result. I was amazed to hear one highly respected radio personality criticising Sammy because "he led by committee" during the tournament.
Sammy, he insisted, was a poor captain and it was really Chris Gayle leading the team.
It seems to me that we could swing high or swing low, this tournament was won by a West Indies team led by Sammy. If in winning, he led by committee, kudos to him.
After all the bitterness of last year and early this year, Sammy found a way to embrace Gayle on the latter's return to the West Indies team. Many small-minded people would have attempted to sideline the influential former captain, keeping him at a distance. Such an action would have spelt disaster.
Instead, Sammy kept Gayle at the centre of his on-field decision making, along with other 'elders', not least the irrepressible Dwayne Bravo. He reaped rich reward in team unity and ultimately heady success.
Legitimate questions surrounding Sammy's place in the team will not simply disappear because of this triumph. In Test cricket for example, he will need to substantially and consistently elevate his results as batsman and bowler in order to quell talk about his spot as the specialist all rounder in the team.
He will be aware that the classy Dwayne Bravo (if at all available given the numerous T20 leagues) is breathing down his neck; and others such as the Barbadians Jason Holder and Carlos Braithwaite are awaiting their turn.
But no matter what happens from here, Sammy will be remembered by the world as the man who wisely and graciously led the West Indies to a great triumph in the ICC World T20 2012. In my view it is mean-spirited to suggest otherwise.
An aspect that fascinated me throughout the tournament was the pitch. People who watch cricket know that apart from the players and the umpires, the pitch is the most important ingredient.
That pitch for the final was tailor-made for the Sri Lankan attack — slow but providing bounce, cut and sharp turn. In the circumstances, it was essential that the West Indies win the toss and bat first when the pitch would presumably be at its best.
But even then, they were surely dead and buried at the half-way mark because of the slow, shaky start against the pinpoint accuracy of Sri Lankan seamers and spinners.
No accident then that the most technically equipped West Indies batsman, Marlon Samuels, was the one who changed and ultimately won the game. As it turned out, his reading of the situation was extraordinary. For in hindsight, his decision to target the dangerous Lasith Malinga — the man coming fastest on to the bat — was spot on. But at the height of the battle it would not have been obvious and the decision once taken, required tremendous resolve and great skill to execute.
There can be no ifs, no buts: this was an awesome performance from Samuels.
One last thing. We should all stop saying Twenty20 cricket is 'curry-goat' stuff. When all is said and done, the fundamentals of the great game are still very much there.