Trinidad and Tobago have shown consistency in the CLT20 and their performance at Bengaluru was an off day, but it does tell us a lot about Caribbean cricket © AFP

 

By Nishad Pai Vaidya

 

In the space of 24 hours, two units from the Caribbean managed to stun the cricket world with fantastic displays of bowling and fielding. On September 25, it was the West Indies team that bundled out England at The Oval to secure an unexpected win. The next day, a spirited Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) side fought like fierce warriors and made the Mumbai Indians work hard for every run during their chase of 99 in a Champions League T20 (CLT20) encounter. The result at The Oval was convincing as West Indies dominated the England batting. T&T were on a similar footing throughout the Mumbai innings until Yuzvendra Chahal knocked off the required two runs off the last ball. T&T may not have won the match, but they have certainly gained more respect and won many more hearts.

 

The two absolutely unconnected games are up for discussion in the context West Indies cricket finds itself in. Both teams perfectly symbolise the state of West Indies cricket. It wasn’t just the way cricket panned out but also some the off field issues which made their presence felt even as the world watched the games with amazement.

 

The West Indies team in England was a weakened side with several top players missing. The likes of Darren Bravo, Lendl Simmons, Adrian Barath and Ravi Rampaul are on duty for their country T&T at the CLT20. On the other hand, the likes of Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo are turning up for their lucrative Indian Premier League (IPL) franchises in the same tournament. The case of the T&T players is still understandable as they are featuring for a side that represents their nation and people. Then there is a Gayle whose open spat with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) hasn’t allowed him to represent them since the end of the ICC Cricket World Cup 2011. However, Pollard and Bravo’s stories reflect a trend that threatens to rob West Indies cricket of some fantastic talent.

 

Since the emergence of the IPL, cricketers have been lured to play in T20 leagues around the world for a good price. It isn’t just the IPL that attracts such players but also the county sides in England and the Australian T20 Big Bash. This trend has hurt West Indies cricket the most as some of their players prefer to turn up for their club instead of their national side.

 

The picture gets even murkier when one examines the Pollard and Bravo situation. Watching Pollard play against T&T was odd as he was their biggest star in their CLT20 2009 campaign. He and his countryman Bravo didn’t represent T&T in the regional T20 competition as they were in Australia playing for their respective sides in Australian league. It is an open declaration that these players go where the money is.

 

This very monster threatens to eat up quite a few players from the Caribbean. Today it is Bravo and Pollard, tomorrow it can be somebody else. The argument in the players’ favor is that they do not get paid in the same scale in the West Indies. Even the Packer rebels in the 1970s signed up for an unofficial league because it helped them financially.

 

Over the last few years, the West Indies have put in quite a few poor performances. The rich history they boast off seems to be a distant memory as they have drifted towards mediocrity. But whenever they have been on song, they have been looked almost invincible. Bengalaru and The Oval bore witness to this occurrence as the two teams displayed both brilliance and shoddiness in the space of 40 overs.

 

When West Indies finished on 113 in their allotted 20 overs, one would have got the feeling that England would have sailed through with flying colors. That preconceived notion was rubbished by the Darren Sammy-led side which looked completely different after the innings break. Their body language was positive and that translated into action as they bowled in the right channels and fielded brilliantly. The four run-outs in the England innings indicate the effort put in by a bunch of tyros which caught the home team off guard.

 

The story that unfolded at Bengaluru was similar, though with a contrasting end. Trinidad started off in fine fashion and subsequently collapsed like a pack of cards. When they walked out to defend the small total, their bowlers had their tails up and were on top of the Mumbai batsmen till the last ball. T&T have shown consistency in lead up to this game and their previous visit in 2009. Their performance at Bengaluru was an off day, but it does tell us a lot about Caribbean cricket.

 

While the cricket world may have rejoiced the entertainment provided by the two sides, they shouldn’t turn a blind eye towards the inherent message!!

 

(Nishad Pai Vaidya, a 21-year-old law student, is a club and college-level cricketer. His teachers always complain, “He knows the stats and facts of cricket more than the subjects we teach him.)