October 8, 2012

Good times, but mind the road ahead

West Indies finally have a world title after eight years, but they need to look for consistency on the field and stability off it

Two-thousand-and-four is such a cricketing lifetime away. And of the West Indies players who did their Gangnam dance over and over again at the Premadasa stadium Sunday evening in Colombo, only Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo would have had memories of West Indies' Champions Trophy victory at The Oval* eight years ago.

For both, Sunday's triumph over hosts Sri Lanka was probably sweeter than beating England back then, if only because they have both been through more dark times in West Indies cricket than they might have anticipated when Brian Lara lifted that Champions Trophy. For Gayle especially, the previous 12 months or so may have been the most trying of his career. To experience a tournament victory again in their playing days was a reminder that black clouds must burst some time and then the sun will come back out.

No question, the sun is shining on West Indies cricket right now. The comfortable manner of Sunday's victory in the end over a Sri Lankan side previously unbeatable by the West Indies, was a surprise. It was, however, another beautiful demonstration of why cricket is such compelling drama.

Lasith Malinga, flawless virtually throughout this tournament, suddenly had no answer for the supreme determination that Marlon Samuels - once again in this series - married to his sublime batting skills.

Darren Sammy, underwhelming with bat and ball, made important runs late in the innings and conjured up a well delivered, perfectly executed slower ball to remove Angelo Mathews at a crucial time, halfway through Sri Lanka's slow chase.

Mahela Jayawardene, pivotal all tournament at the top of the order for Sri Lanka, failed to be the anchor this time. Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekeratne Dilshan fell cheaply and suddenly, everything fell apart.

It must have been numbing for Jayawardene to have to find words to explain a fourth failure in a final, and at home too.

But Sammy's team and West Indies cricket have suffered even more, for longer. Victory on Sunday was like that welcome rain in a long season of drought.

"This morning I got an email from [Clive] Lloyd, saying he was very proud of what the team is doing and that the Caribbean people are very happy. He told us just to go out and win," Sammy told the media the day before the final.

Yes, Sunday's win resonated everywhere in the West Indian diaspora. But so did that victory out of the blue in 2004.

Sammy, as fine an ambassador as West Indies cricket has had in two decades, was still sober enough of thought at the trophy presentation to note that the triumph was but "a step in the right direction". "We are not back yet," he cautioned. He is right.

For teams to win tournaments, they need momentum. West Indies got that from surviving against New Zealand in the Super Over. And at the moment, the T20 format is the one that best suits the mercurial nature of West Indies sides.

But prolonged success in international cricket requires consistency of application both by the group and the individuals on the field, and stability off it.

Those ingredients were not in place back in 2004. Even as Lara's team progressed through the tournament, the West Indies Cricket Board was looking to replace Gus Logie, the last Caribbean-born coach before Ottis Gibson. Courtney Browne (now a selector) and Ian Bradshaw, the batting heroes in the final, were out of the team in a year and two years' time respectively.

By the time the 2007 World Cup came around, West Indies were a different team, with a different spirit.

In 2012, however, a different scenario is unfolding. Gibson, whose initial three-year contract ends next February, will surely now be given an extension after delivering a trophy. It should also mean that the management team, which includes the former captain Richie Richardson, will remain in place. Stability.

No one who has been entertained by their dancing and celebrations over the last week could miss the fact that this was, by and large, a group of friends enjoying their ultimate adventure

It is also inconceivable at this point that Sammy will be moved as captain. His individual contributions in the tournament may have been modest, but he has grown even more as a leader; thinking on his feet in the field and generally being in control of what his players did on it.

It is also to the great credit of Gayle, Sammy and Gibson that they have allowed mutual respect to guide their relationship. A happy Gayle makes for a dangerous Gayle, and a dangerous Gayle makes for an even more dangerous West Indies.

Sammy's side had already showed it was making progress this year before Gayle's reintegration into the squad. But that improvement has been accelerated since his return. And the transformation of Samuels this year - at long last - has been just as significant as Gayle's comeback. West Indies now have a worthy leader, a pool of youthful players of promise, and some mature men of experience playing at their peak. They have a real team.

No one who has been entertained by their dancing and celebrations over the last week could miss the fact that this was, by and large, a group of friends enjoying their ultimate adventure. It was a sight to warm the hearts of long-suffering West Indians on all continents.

But the days of the World T20 have been just 20 days in the life. The other realities of West Indies cricket did not melt away into the Colombo night - like the uneasy relationship between the board and the players' body, which ultimately affects everything, and the refusal of the board to alter its governance structure in a meaningful way.

West Indies cricket has had its bubbles burst before. Remember, a rare Test series triumph over England was followed by a players' strike in 2009, which resulted in a humbling Test whitewash by Bangladesh. Such success against a top side in Tests hasn't come since. It pays to learn from history. West Indies have another golden chance to do so now.

*17:30 GMT, October 8: The article had previously stated West Indies' Champions Trophy victory came at Lord's. This has been corrected.

Garth Wattley is a writer with the Trinidad Express

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Douglas on October 9, 2012, 18:36 GMT

    "Gibson, whose initial three-year contract ends next February, will surely now be given an extension after delivering a trophy." - Please deliver us from evil. This guy wanted a star team without stars. He had Chris gayle out of the team for 2 years and Sarwan .We won despite of him. How can be be deserving of a renewal?

  • Nat on October 9, 2012, 13:49 GMT

    Congratulations to OUR TEAM, they did what not many had given them a hope in hell of doing, including me. As much as I love my West Indies team, from the start I had chosen Srilanka to win the competition. However they showed what true grit and determination and a never give up attitude can accomplish. I would just like to remind you that back in the glorious days of West Indies cricket, England had a captain who many thought was not good enough to be in the side, namely (Mike Braley). The one thing they showed in winning the competition is that they are not just dependant on one or two individuals. The spirit they showed reminded me of when Viv was captain, he believed that if West Indies got bowled out for 10, they could bowl the opposition out for 9. Great work boys, enjoy your victory you deserve. Remember though, the next game you play, you are starting all over again.

  • Satish on October 9, 2012, 9:20 GMT

    Let us compare the 2004 team and the current one. In 2004 also, they had branded all rounders for the conditions in Hinds and Smith. They were pure revelations and Collymore, Bradshaw and Bravo were awesome in those conditions. The same now, The likes of Narine, Badree for the conditions and bunch of allrounders to backup. It is upto them to keep the momentum and stop the "We competed better and threatened the opponent" without winning. They got the talent and the team and it is purely their attitude and spirit which need to be maintained the same level as that was in the tournament. I wish they gain consistency and go down as a "On their day" team.

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2012, 3:58 GMT

    O for decent management & planning!!! with Roach, Johnson, Pascal, Bess, Cotterrell & Gabriel Bishoo, Narine, all having potentially @ least a decent 6 or 5 years left in em our bowling stocks r in better standing than most teams except probably Australia England & South Africa If we could keep these guys on track while Bravo, Powell, Edwards, Bharat, Brathwaite , Simmons & fudadin find their feet at the highest level we could be back among the top 5 in all formats by the 2015 World Cup in Australia that sounds like a really good goal

  • Dummy4 on October 9, 2012, 1:35 GMT

    WI won inspite of Gibson and Sammy, Selection of Charles (minus one innings a failure) over Dwayne Smith (excellent fielder and could bowl if needed) They chose not to select Badree who had the MOST economical figures in ALL 20/20, badree got in because of poor performance of others and bowled well and still dropped b4 he was selected again if Badree was not in the starting 11 WI would have lost all their crucial games. Who would have bowled 4 overs for less than a run a ball, and put the pressure of the the batsmen allowing other bowlers to get wickets esp Narine who then could bowl later in the innings with the run rate already increasing. Also in Rampaul did not perform they would have lost he was very BAD in the games WI lost but good in the ones they won. Gayle and Samuels were expected to perform and they did just that..brilliant from both of them. That trio won the games for WI....cause no matter how many runs Gayle and Samuels made the rest of the bowlers could not defend it

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 23:56 GMT

    Great work Sammy. Love you.

    by an indian.

  • Mohamed on October 8, 2012, 21:56 GMT

    Congrats to the WI. Now, back to reality. This is T/20 not Test Cricket. The shots that got the SL batsmen out will not be repeated in Test Cricket. WI won in spite of Gibson, Sammy & Pollard. Just look at their performances over the entire tournament. WI can do better if they replace Sammy & Pollard. Gibson plays ODI like its T/20 and is clueless in Test matches. Rampaul maybe good in this format, but with his weight, he cannot sustain long spells in Test matches. Samuels is a bright spot and some others have shown improvement. Shiv has got to be on his lat legs and as much I want Sarwan back, I believe that the selectors will not pick him. Narine has to prove himself outside WI and in Test matches. Bishoo is done and Barath may also be done. Such is WI cricket these days. A bad patch and you are done except if your name is Sammy or Pollard. I am with Mr. Michael Holding, T/20 is not cricket and yes, I can say that even if I enjoy it.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 20:57 GMT

    Old age adage: Don't change a winning combination!

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 19:27 GMT

    I really cant see why people talking about Pollard. He has nothing in this tournament and get plenty a chance to do so. People are so hell bent on bashing Sammy that they fail to see how the man has really grown. Where is WI history have you ever heard us opening the bowling with tow spinners? and having the confidence in Samuels to let him bowl the death over? Come on people, even if you don't like the man, respect what the man is trying and has done. We are so much into superstars we cant see when players are actually growing because we always want instant results. But let me be frank. Badree was just as effective or maybe even more that Narine but you will always hear about Narine because he is the star, so too the contributions of Samuels but you will always hear Gayle this and Gayle that. But thats life i guess in the WI. You never get a break when you are not a star.

  • Dummy4 on October 8, 2012, 15:29 GMT

    This is a truly great win by the Windies. Really happy to see the fighting spirit and to hear Chris Gayle commending the managment team- a stark contrast to comments in the last world tournament-was particularly pleasing.

    To maintain the momentum, I really hope the WICB now moves to restructure itself-long overdue- and improve the relationship with its greatest assets: the players. Credit to Sammy and Gibson too, and all that made it possible. Gayle's presence has also made a vast difference. Last word to Toto (Samuels) his promise from the early days of our Alma mata (KC) now coming to the global stage.

    Great day for West Indies, Cricket, but we must know this is just a start.

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