Of all the islands in Caribbean, St Lucia comes closes to the picture postcard one can send home. The runway of the George FL Charles airport itself is no wider than the national highways in India. The terminal is no bigger than the press box of Cuttack’s Barabati stadium. Flanking the airport are two roads, one of which passes by a cemetery just before giving a sneak peak of a quiet and beautiful beach with pristine blue water. Beyond that is a green volcanic island with pretty houses, winding roads and beaches preparing for the Mercury Beach party next weekend.
But cricket comes to St Lucia in confusing times. Not only were the St Lucia Zouks eliminated from the Caribbean Premier League playoffs last night, more shocking news followed in the form of Darren Sammy more or less announcing his international retirement after he was informed that apart from losing his T20 captaincy, he didn’t merit selection to the West Indies team anymore.
“I got a call yesterday morning, it was probably 30 seconds, from the chairman of selectors telling me that they have reviewed the captaincy of T20 and I won’t be captain anymore of the T20 team, my performances have not merited selection in the squad,” Sammy said in the video put out on social media, hours after scoring a brave 40 in vain.
“That’s okay, I have always believed West Indies cricket is not about Darren Sammy. They are looking to the future and I want to wish the new captain — I don’t know if it’s out yet so I won’t call any names — all the best as he looks to lead West Indies cricket and take it forward,” he said.
It marks an unfortunate end to one of the best captain of West Indies cricket in recent years. More than his skills with the bat and ball, Sammy was valued for his leadership that gave West Indies two world titles in the last four years. He was always ‘in it to win it’. But as has been the trend with West Indies cricket, those who mattered and could have made a difference have been slighted by indifference.
In an island as small as St Lucia, news spread quickly of how that boy from Micoud, a small village on the south-east coast, has been quietly removed from anything related to West Indies cricket. “I think this will be it. It will take a long time for another cricketer from St Lucia to make it that high again,” said a porter waiting outside the airport near Castries. That the only other cricketer from St Lucia --- Johnson Charles --- is yet to break into the Test ranks doesn’t make the future of this island look bright. Cricket in St Lucia started with Sammy. It has now died a premature death.
So it’s back to tourism, oil, bananas and beer for St Lucia. Big boys’ cricket has arrived but taxi driver Garvin said the Caribbean Premier League has stolen the show. “All this time we had matches here and there was a lot of traffic jam because of that. I doubt if you will see the same now,” he said. The decline of Test cricket’s popularity has a lot to do with that, as has been the case on other islands. But in St Lucia, it’s hard to imagine why people would show up at a stadium named after their local boy to watch a match that doesn’t feature him.