Champions League Twenty20 2009 October 18, 2009

Ganga's champion team

Daren Ganga and his terrific T&T have delivered in the Champions League Twenty20. Now it is up to the WICB and the WIPA to follow the lead

As impressively composed off the field as on it, Daren Ganga has made a few significant and obviously deliberate points as his amazing Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) team has overcome one supposedly superior opponent after another on their way to the semi-finals of the high-profile Champions League Twenty20 in India.

Even before a ball was bowled, Ganga stressed that, though their outfits would be red, white and black and the Trinidad & Tobago Cricket Board (TTCB) crest would adorn their shirts, they were there as West Indies champions.

"We're not just representing T&T, but the entire West Indian public and cricketing fraternity know that we're here representing them as well," he told Cricinfo. "This is virtually a West Indian team representing the entire region. As much as we want to do well for T&T, we have a bigger role in terms of representing the entire West Indies."

It is a mantra he has repeated at the presentation ceremony following every stunning triumph.

"This is for the people of Trinidad and Tobago and, by extension, the West Indies," he said after the gripping last-ball victory over the Deccan Chargers, the IPL champions, no less, with formidable names like Adam Gilchrist, VVS Laxman, Andrew Symonds, Scott Styris, RP Singh and Fidel Edwards in their ranks.

And, in case anyone missed his purpose, he added: "...especially with the crap in West Indies cricket."

'Crap' is not a word usually found in Ganga's vocabulary. He is an intelligent, articulate cricketer not prone to irate outbursts. But, in this instance, his choice of language was entirely appropriate.

Ganga has witnessed at first hand how the divisions between the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players' Association (WIPA), and within the WICB itself, have crippled West Indies cricket.

He belongs to the WIPA and adhered to its stance that members withdraw from series in Sri Lanka in 2004 and against Bangladesh this year. But I cannot imagine it gave him any satisfaction to do so.

Even as his team prepared for its India adventure, his territorial board boycotted the annual general meeting of the WICB, while its chief executive proclaimed his personal preference for T&T going it alone as an ICC Associate in the shorter formats of the game, if not Tests.

At the same time, even as eminent a mediator as Shridath Ramphal, the former Commonwealth secretary general, couldn't bring the WICB and the WIPA closer together.

In short, West Indies cricket is in a mess, as it has been for the past two decades. Its passionate public is fast losing patience. So, too, is the rest of the world.

Against such a depressing backdrop, it was badly in need of a boost. Ganga recognised it. After a decade of futile acrimony and argument, so have Dinanath Ramnarine, perennial president of the WIPA, and his latest WICB counterpart, Julian Hunte.

Ganga and his terrific T&T have delivered, and how. Now it is up to the WICB and the WIPA - and the TTCB - to follow the lead.

Ganga's men are clearly driven by the pride of carrying the flag of the only sovereign nation among the 12 teams and, as Ganga has drilled into them, the mission of going some way to restoring the reputation of West Indies

Even as T&T were trouncing Somerset in their opening Champions League match in Bangalore, Ramnarine and Hunte were in New York finalising an agreement which, they jointly stated, "creates an environment to engage in building a genuine partnership that can ensure the long-term development and progress of West Indies cricket".

Such admirable sentiments have been expressed in the past only for the accord to prove worth no more than the paper on which it was written.

West Indies cricket has lurched from one crisis to another. If the WICB and the WIPA do not realise that it is unlikely to survive another, they might study T&T's success.

Ganga's men are not distracted by the fallout of the continuing power play between the two organisations supposedly charged with upholding the standard and reputation of West Indies cricket.

They are clearly driven by the pride of carrying the flag of the only sovereign nation among the 12 teams and, as Ganga has drilled into them, the mission of going some way to restoring the reputation of West Indies.

Their pre-tournament status as 22-1 outsiders had to be a further incentive. Whoever devised those odds ignored their performances in the Stanford 20/20 tournaments that got them to India, in which they lost only one match (to Guyana through Narsingh Deonarine's penultimate ball six in the first final).

Their hammering of English county Middlesex and narrow one-run loss to England in the Stanford Super Series were no flukes.

The absence of identifiable superstars outside of Dwayne Bravo was another misleading guide. All they could offer against the formidable reputations of Gilchrist, Laxman, Symonds, Brett Lee, Justin Langer, Simon Katich, Stuart Clarke and the rest were anonymous tyros like Sherwin Ganga, Samuel Badree, William Perkins and Darren Bravo.

What they have confirmed is that it is usually better to have a champion team than a team of champions, another maxim alluded to by Ganga. Whenever they have been up against it, they have found players to respond.

The younger Ganga [Sherwin] was Man of the Match against Somerset. If Dwayne Bravo has managed only 12 runs in three innings, he, as always, has been an enthusiastic presence in the middle and his stirring last over of yorkers clinched an unlikely win over Deccan.

Nothing typified T&T's refusal to say die more spectacularly than Kieron Pollard's ferocious assault that snatched victory from the jaws of defeat against star-studded New South Wales. The giant right-hander's six-hitting shocked those unfamiliar with his history. It has been his speciality throughout his short career - he hit seven in his first-class debut 126 against Barbados in 2007, and six in 117 against the Leewards later that season.

He's clubbed more sixes than fours in both his ODIs and Twenty20s. On his day, or night as it was in Hyderabad on Friday, he is capable of anything.

So it has been with a few others who have worn West Indian colours, Ricardo Powell and Dwayne Smith to be precise. But they never balanced all-out attack with the defence so necessary in the longer game.

In the modern context, Pollard might consider that unnecessary and deem that Twenty20 is his go. But anyone who can score 174 in a first-class innings, as he did against Barbados last season, is not simply an out-and-out slogger. He is only 22 and the ability is there. It is a question of refining it.

As Ian Bishop noted in his TV commentary, Pollard's stocks have been appreciably enhanced after Friday. He is sure to be prominent next season on the IPL's auction block where dollar figures in the high six figures are common. That, and the first prize of US$2.5 million (US$1.3 million for the runners-up) are other beneficial offshoots of T&T's performance to spur on other regional players and teams.

They will all now be keen to find a place in such future events where reputations and fortunes can be made-that is if the WICB can ever get around to organising its replacement for the Stanford 20/20, now that the big, incarcerated Texan no longer has the wherewithal to be involved.

Tony Cozier has written about and commentated on cricket in the Caribbean for nearly 50 years