West Indies cricket October 8, 2012

Time to shed 'Calypso cricketer' tag, again

MV Swaroop
'Calypso cricketers' was the term, those happy-go-lucky entertainers, who might just pull off something exceptionally brilliant, but just don't do it with the regularity or professionalism of a champion

For as long as I can remember, I've been a fan of West Indies. It started, I think, in 1989, when, as a five-year-old living on the western coast of India, I watched an India-West Indies game, and thought that the West Indians were my own people - from the west of India.

By the 1992 World Cup, I was old enough to have checked an atlas to find the islands that made up the West Indies, but I loved Richie Richardson's hat and Curtly Ambrose's bowling action enough to continue supporting them. Even over India.

While my lasting memory from the Hero Cup was Sachin Tendulkar's over against South Africa, I remember being quite upset when West Indies were mowed down by Anil Kumble in the final. When the 'Padams' series of 1994 happened, in gully cricket, my bat became completely secondary to my batting. A year later, West Indies surrendered a Test series for the first time in my life - to Australia, at home. In 1996, Australia stole a World Cup final berth from under their noses. Then, they lost a Test series 3-2 to Australia, this time away. Something told me that being a West Indies fan would be infinitely tougher that point onward.

Brian Lara remained an obsession. I derived warmth from the sight of the ageing duo of Ambrose and Courtney Walsh continuing to make batsmen tap-dance. It got tougher after their retirements. The tireless Shivnarine Chanderpaul provided much comfort, and occasionally, the others provided some excitement. Overall, though, I consoled myself with sporadic displays of spark, or the rare successful skirmish, the occasional individual brilliance amid a regularly shambolic team performance.

I watched Fire in Babylon recently at Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai. The crowd was of two kinds - youth, who had heard so much about "that West Indies team" and old men who had felt the fire of that team crackling through their radios. It was nostalgia for some, and reflected nostalgia for the others.

Fire in Babylon is a compelling narrative. It has bright, striking and awe-inspiring protagonists who speak with honour and pride about the time when they ruled the world. It sets them among the cultures - as the movie reminds you repeatedly, there is no one West Indian culture - they are so proud of. It sets them amid the politics that so defined their existence (CLR James wrote that, in the West Indies, you had arrived if your company was of a lighter skin-tone than you).

It also tells of the reputation they carried prior to those glory days, that of the entertaining losers. 'Calypso cricketers' was the term, those happy-go-lucky entertainers, who might just pull off something exceptionally brilliant, but just don't do it with the regularity or professionalism of a champion. Those amiable, popular, fun losers…

The term could also be used to describe the West Indies team of today. In Chris Gayle, Kieron Pollard, Darren Sammy, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell, they have a surprising number of batsmen who can clear the boundary with damaging consistency. In Sunil Narine, they have a freak spinner, whom, despite two years of video analysis, no one seems to have an answer to. All these cricketers, barring Sammy, are among the top-billed in T20 leagues across the world. Still, people would not have been surprised if they had imploded in crucial games at the World Twenty20.

The batch of '76 was humiliated by defeat to Australia. That made them push themselves harder. World Twenty20 aside, the current team has been losing consistently for a decade and a half. Clearly, the humiliation of defeat can't jolt them much anymore. Clive Lloyd's men were pushed into a corner by racism and discrimination. They represented, symbolically, black peoples all over the Commonwealth - no other blacks played international cricket at that point. Sammy's team does not face that pressure.

But the West Indies today have their own set of issues. The players have had innumerable issues with an erratic board. The ensuing rift within the side led to the exile of their best batsman. The coming together of various "dots on the map" into one regional team seems artificial. Perhaps this is the reason why West Indian players find it easier to choose club over international cricket - it is one artificial entity over another, isn't it?

To that extent, the success of the West Indies lies in something similar to what Lloyd's team faced - an assertion of their identity. Of showing that there is more to their game than raw power, but retaining that power, unquestionably their biggest strength, at the centre of their game. Of showing that the common West Indian cricketing identity still means something to them. Of showing that they can play, consistently, effectively, efficiently and yet thrillingly, flamboyantly, instinctively, as one single cricket team. If those guys did it, why can't we?

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  • testli5504537 on October 28, 2012, 16:27 GMT

    The WINDIES have won the T20 with a bunch of very talented players, and according to CRICINFO --- THE ORIGINAL GLADIATORS of CRICKET. However, the selection continues to be appalling !!! First, although they won the T20, they picked the wrong 11 for the final; in every game the selectors must continue to tweak the final 11 depending on the opponents, the ground conditions, and the form of the players.

    Talent abounds in the current contingent of players that are available to play for the WINDIES, hence every player should be assessed on their worth at the moment of selection; in other words be fair to the players, the WEST INDIAN PEOPLE of all the islands and Guyana, and the rest of the world.

    WHY? The rest of the world is watching us ! They want us to succeed because they want to see the ‘CRICKET GLADIATORS’ bring the best to the game that they love; no one else ‘lights; this game up as we do ! The necessity to be fair in selection means that the hard work and dedication of our WINDIES PLAYERS must be rewarded with their selection on making us, once again, ‘THE GREAT WINDIES’. To continue to make selection that does NOT augur goodwill across the WEST INDIES would only perpetuate the insularity that exist with each individual WEST INDIAN NATION.

    The sooner we get around to picking our best team for each format of the game, the better off the whole WEST INDIES will be because if we get right in cricket, one day we may see a ‘GREAT WEST INDIAN SOCCER TEAM’ and a ‘GREAT WEST INDIAN OLYMPIC TEAM’; and maybe a ‘GREAT WEST INDIAN FEDERATION’!!

    HENCE: It is not necessary for Sammy to be captain of the team for every format! Shillingford should have been included for the upcoming tour; and please don’t discard Bishoo for upcoming series. Fidel Edwards should also be there, as well as Adrian Barath. And the the Jamaicans do not want their Krishma Santokie to be ignored since he performs well enough to be groomed for future selection (but not this tour). The WICB should consider spending the extra money and add Shillingford, Edwards, Barath to the touring team; remember the world is watching us and expecting us to delight with ‘GREAT WEST INDIAN CRICKET’, gladiators playing the game at their best. And on a final note: PLEASE, PICK OUR BEST TEAM ALWAYS, AND THE INSULARITY WILL STOP !!!

  • testli5504537 on October 13, 2012, 5:20 GMT

    Don't fool the uninformed,Ms.Donna. Our winning just papers over the cracks and divisions which exists amongst Caribbean people. I don't like it but we must tell the truth. What passes for unity is superficial,temporary and shifting. Look how long the concept which is CSME has been around and it's still not a reality today. I always smile to myself when I hear sports commentators say that cricket is the only thing that unites us. If you're honest, you will know that this is not entirely true. Am sure you won't agree but the only person who is able to truly unite people/organizations is the Prince of Peace Himself,Jesus the Christ.

  • testli5504537 on October 13, 2012, 2:48 GMT

    Let's not spoil the moment with petty divisions! I am a Barbadian whose favourite player was Alvin Kallicharran and who simply loves Shivnarine Chanderpaul! Bajans loved Carl Hooper so much they dubbed him "Sir Carl" There was no Barbadian in the semifinal or final but without Dwayne Smith's run out they would not have reached those stages. There have been many Guyanese before and there will be Guyanese again in the West Indies team. Most Caribbean people love eachother unless they perceive that they are being taken advantage of or misused in some way. Please let us enjoy eachother! There is so much about us to enjoy!

  • testli5504537 on October 13, 2012, 2:31 GMT

    Wow! I always knew that most people were West Indies fans and supported them against countries other than their own but to discover that so many people support them even against their own country is trully amazing. I wish all parties involved in W.I. cricket could read these comments and realise that the whole world is counting on us to bring that X factor to cricket that only Caribbean people can supply. Onward and upward people! Or as Rastaman say, Forward ever, backward never! Let us move fast forward!

  • testli5504537 on October 12, 2012, 23:09 GMT

    It appears that many Indian fans failed Geography for failing to make a distinction between the West of India and WI!(lol). Am from Barbados and have followed our cricket team for a long time. Actually, this year marks the 50th anniversary of the first ever Test match which I saw live- WI vs India at the Jerusalem of Caribbean cricket, venerable Kensington Oval.

    The only game played as a young boy growing up in rural B'dos was "cricket, lovely cricket." We played morning, noon and night. Well not literally, but I'm sure you get my drift. One of the nurseries of WI cricket was a strong village game. Unfortunately, that's a thing of the past. Of course we all backed the WI except for one or two Afro-Saxons who would hail for the former colonial ruler, England.

    Bajan (one of the nicknames given to the people of Barbados) fans are known to be very knowledgeable about the game. We tend to favor elegant batsmen whether foreign or local. Seymour Nurse, Tom Graveney, Greg Chappell, Lawrence Rowe and Carl Hooper readily come to mind. We like our bowlers tall, strapping, hostile and quick. Back in the day, tiny B'dos would produce the bulk of the WI players. For instance on the '63 tour to England, half of the tour party of 16 players were Bajans: the legendary Frank Worrell, (captain), Conrad Hunte (vice-captain), Wes Hall, Garry Sobers, (all subsequently knighted), Charlie Griffith, David Allan, Nurse and Tony White (replacement player).

  • testli5504537 on October 12, 2012, 22:24 GMT

    there was no guyenese on the team how can sammy the board man say they celebrating in guyana when he and gibsion do not like guyenese people eg)swarn and deonarine ..these are two cricketers who must be on the team

  • testli5504537 on October 12, 2012, 20:23 GMT

    This West Indies cricket team is a very humble and respectful team. God bless Sammy and the rest of the Guys. As a Jamaican, Sammy plays with such passion and it is now helping the team. Just wish we had a magical Lara to go with Gayles aggression and Samuels' artistry with the bat.

  • testli5504537 on October 12, 2012, 18:40 GMT

    i wonder whether this article is about West Indies or India...???

  • testli5504537 on October 12, 2012, 9:03 GMT

    Not very often me and my wife sit and watch a cricket match, the ones i can remember is WT20 2007 when we were screaming when India won, then WC2011 again screaming..and recently WT20 that Windies won..we were so excited, and happy..we enjoyed it as much as if India would have won. My bowling hero was and will be the one and only 'Raging RED Bull' Curtly Ambrose. I've watched that youtube video when he knocked of Aussies down under a 100 times. No team can entertain as much as Widies, not in the past and no way in future. Windies are synonymn for celebration and our sport needs pure celebration, just the carribean way!! Rock on Windies Cricket. the world is with you.

  • testli5504537 on October 12, 2012, 4:34 GMT

    Calypso cricket is enjoyable cricket.Even when W.i was losing badly they would score faster than the opposition.Stroke play is a big part of the game.I remember seeing Seymour Nurse on news reels and started playing strokes like he did.it gave me great joy when my captain who saw Seymour for many year would comment to me "well played Seymour".A bouncer was always thought to be a ball that you could only get caught from,so it was not a ball you would want to have go by by ducking.It was said that Conrad Hunte would hook off the peak of his cap,so that was how we tried to play the hook.when we played against each other I was Norman Oneil if I was on the Australian team.Roy Marshall,Barry Richards,Majid Khan and an W.Indian batsman that was not taken.

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