Unbelievable. An astonishing end to a remarkable match. A thoroughly entertaining, enthralling competition was given a fitting finale with a display of stupendous strokes from West Indies’ Carlos Brathwaite.
All great tournaments should end with a fireworks display. Brathwaite’s final-over flourish provided the pyrotechnics — without the need for a closing ceremony.
With 19 required from the game’s last over, young Carlos rattled off the necessary runs in four clean, successive strikes that took the West Indies to the title.
Given the match situation, I doubt any of us has ever seen anything quite like it before.
The closest I can recall is the incredible assault of India’s Kapil Dev in the Lord’s Test vs England in 1990.
Faced with a deficit of twenty-four to avoid the follow-on, and with his side nine down –and only the feeble support of Narendra Hirwani at the non-striker’s end — Kapil targeted off-spinner Eddie Hemmings.
Back down the pitch he calmly prodded Hemmings’s first two deliveries of the over. Mere sighters. He was lining him up. Then bang: Six! Six!! Six!!! Six!!!! The last four balls of the over he drove high and mighty back over the bowler’s head into the ‘under-construction’ new Compton and Edrich stands at the nursery end. The crisis was averted; and Hirwani was lbw the very next ball.
“Only Kapil Dev could do that! Only Kapil Dev!!” exclaimed Sunil Gavaskar, commentating for BBC television. He was right of course — then. In Sunday’s breathtaking World T20 final a young Barbadian emulated him — arguably, at an even most testing moment.
Crisis? What crisis? West Indies cricket, we are told, is in turmoil. It is in the mire. Yet, how many international teams wish right now that they had Windies’ problems — and West Indies’ trophies?
Their recent Under-19 World Cup victory in Bangladesh was totally unexpected. Their women XI’s superb chase-down of Australia’s challenging total in Sunday’s earlier World T20 Women’s event was a huge upset. And their amazing victory later that night over England in the men’s version was a stupendous hat-trick.
Contract wrangles and disputes have spilled over into the public arena, severely disrupting tours and inconveniencing fellow cricket countries. Internal squabbles over the structure of the West Indies Cricket Board have gone so far as to involve the Prime Ministers of the Caribbean nations. Damning reports have emerged — the most recent calling for the immediate dissolution of the WICB.
Having now won the last three ICC World trophies across a variety of ages, sexes and formats, is that evidence of the absolute decline of Caribbean cricket still sound? If failure was proof positive of the WICB’s incompetence, then surely these triumphs are indicative of its effectiveness?
Some critics of the West Indies, will, sadly, not rejoice in this win because the West Indies Cricket Board will be understandably triumphalist. That is a shame. Politics, and confrontation between the opposing factions, ought to be put to one side. Tonight,tomorrow night — and for a few more evenings yet —calypso parties in the region should abound, wallowing in the win, soaking up the golden rays of glory.
Picture the scenes, if you will, unfolding in Bridgetown, Kingston, Port-of-Spain, Georgetown — indeed, throughout the whole Caribbean Islands. Imagine the dancing in the streets; hear the beat of the drums; sway with the reggae vibe; feel the rhythm of the celebration; taste the manna of victory; inhale the sweet smell of success.
That sensation can’t be taken away from them. They’ve earned it: the players, the supporters, the people. They can’t be denied. And they have every right to their revelry.
On the pages of Firstpost yesterday I said there was a good chance that a Bajan might be the match winner. It turned out that way. I also previously said that this was no ‘one-man team’. That was proved repeatedly. I also reported how several shrewd judges in the Caribbean seriously doubted whether Marlon Samuels still had it in him. How wrong we were.
The Man-of-the-Match did it again. In the World T20 final of 2012 he rescued his side from a dreadful start against Sri Lanka, posting 78 to take West Indies to a total of 137- 6 that proved to be enough. Back then, he added 59 for the third wicket with Dwayne Bravo in a sensible, measured, re-building operation. Four years on, it was these two again that did the spade work, digging the West Indies out of a hole of their own making— and keeping them in the game.
Samuels is an enigma. He distanced himself from his team-mates when he publicly declared he’d opposed the side’s ‘withdrawal of labour’ on the 2014 ODI tour of India. He was a reluctant, disengaged presence in their lacklustre late-2015 Test tour of Australia. And his form in general for the last 18 months has been woeful.
In this final, he brought out an array of dazzling shots, singlehandedly keeping West Indies alive, giving them a chance. He unfurled a series of thunderous straight-drives for four or six; he stepped-to-leg and made sufficient room to cut crucial boundaries; and he even managed to dip into the arcane: playing a late-adjusted ‘dog shot’ to force Liam Plunkett to the square-leg boundary — whipping the ball between his legs to find the fence. Nicholas Felix, a regular purveyor of this stroke (and its illustrator in his 1840’s batting manual), would have purred with delight.
Bravo, by contrast, did not have his best day. His bowling was below his usual high standards, and he was more expensive than his colleagues would expect. Likewise, Sulieman Benn. He’d bowled excellently throughout the tournament, but this was an off-day for him. So costly was his left-arm spin than captain Darren Sammy had to call upon himself to make up his quota: that over cost 14 runs. West Indies won the tournament, but I will always maintain that WI were a bowler short. Pragmatic supporters will say: ‘who cares?’
Elsewhere, Badree was superb; and Brathwaite and Andre Russell, the weak links in the attack, did sterling work, returning excellent figures. Batting wise, Gayle failed again; as did Johnson Charles, Lendl Simmons, Russell and Sammy. Collectively, those five batsmen made eight runs between them. Gayle’s figures for the tournament make for odd reading: 100 not out, did not bat, 4, 5, 4. Perhaps, even more curiously, the two semi-final match-winners, Simmons and England’s Jason Roy both scored 0 and faced three balls between them.
But this was the most unpredictable of finals; and the most fabulous of finishes.
What else could we have expected?