By Karthik Parimal
It’s often said that a captain is only as good as his team. While this argument holds true, the reverse, too, is paradoxically true. The West Indies team of four years ago too consisted of some world-class players in their line-up, but seldom did they trouble even mediocre nations. But things have been on an upswing thereafter, and credit must be given to Darren Sammy for instigating a reversal in fortunes of the West Indies.
To have a star-studded line-up and be favourites on paper is one thing, but to take the field and live up to all the hype and expectations requires tremendous courage. Yes, Chris Gayle has been instrumental in propelling the West Indies throughout the 2012 World T20 tournament, but he has also been part of the team in the years bygone. Yet, the then captains couldn’t get the best out of him. Gayle himself led the side for a considerable amount of time, but the fact remains that he wasn’t adept at marshalling resources either. As a result, despite the presence of skill and talent, the team didn’t have the fuel to go the distance.
However, things have been different this time around. In the past, West Indies has promised a lot but often failed to sustain the momentum. They’ve beaten teams like New Zealand, England and Australia in this edition of the ICC World T20, and they look all the more focused and driven now to win the coveted trophy. Moreover, their fan base has increased exponentially, not only due to the exciting cricket they showcase, but also because very few teams can entertain both on and off the field like the West Indies.
In a matter of months, West Indies has managed to shed the underdogs tag and have given some of the best teams a run for their money - this, despite the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) not quite in harmony with the players. The improvement is there for everyone to see. Moreover, every player seems to understand his role, and despite the differences in age and experience, each of them adheres to the notion that the skipper has the final word.
When Gayle made his return to international cricket a few months ago, Sammy expressed happiness at the fact that one of his best players was ready to don the national colours again. However, he made it clear from the outset that the team no longer revolved around individuals, and that Gayle would have to get used to the ‘hardworking nature’ of present team. Not only did Gayle fit in perfectly, but he’s bolstered the side like never before. Credit must be given to Sammy for handling different personalities in his team with a fine mix of delicacy and authority.
Now that West Indies has come this far, it’d augur well for the game of cricket if they can trump the home side in the final on Sunday. Winning the T20 World Cup could trigger West Indies resurgence. The confidence from this victory will help them in other formats of the game as well. In fact, it could well see the revival of the game in Caribbean. A strong West Indian side is what cricket needs at the moment, and the likes of Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Sammy and Ravi Rampaul have the ability to make that possible.
After he let his bat do the talking, Gayle said after receiving the Man of the Match award, “We love Sri Lanka. But the cup is going to be ours. Sorry about that!” So typical of the man.
How many cricketers can think of doing that, and still not get jeered at? This was a comment received in jest, even by the Sri Lankan supporters, because it is hard not to like a team like West Indies. Not only have they started to take their on-field performance seriously, but they do know how to celebrate their accomplishments too. It appears as though they’re beginning to blossom, and can be a force to reckon with in all formats in a year’s time.
However, they have one more hurdle to cross before that on Sunday? Will we see the ‘Men in Maroon’ do the ‘Gangnam Style’ dance again?
(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal)