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Harmless aggression gives way to disinterest

If the tentativeness of teams touring the West Indies during the 80s had to do with their might, the fear of being intimidated by a hostile home crowd wasn't very far away from the mind either. Somshuvra Laha reports.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2013 10:18 IST
Somshuvra Laha

If the tentativeness of teams touring the West Indies during the 80s had to do with their might, the fear of being intimidated by a hostile home crowd wasn't very far away from the mind either. West Indies was a tour that made men out of boys.

For them, winning in cricket was a way out of the daily fight against impoverishment and corruption.

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And even if the fans swore, jeered and harangued visitors over the years, trust them when they say they never meant any harm.

“It was like a love affair for us,” said a local taxi driver outside Sabina Park. “Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner would silently break jaws while we would be the voice behind them. We were aggressive but never meant any harm. But we couldn't show any glimpse of friendship,” he
said.

Touring teams in the past, of course, wouldn't know. Steve Waugh has written about the feeling when the team bus used to make its way past the Kingston penitentiary from where inmates could be seen gesturing death to the Australians.

“With their love of the game and expectations of a physical encounter, the fans gave the match an atmosphere more in keeping with a fight night, and they loved nothing more than seeing local boys Patrick Patterson and Courtney Walsh crack a few heads,” reminisces Waugh in his autobiography 'Out of my Comfort Zone'.

Disconnect

It all seems a time warp now, with cricket taking an embarrassing backseat in the West Indies.

Almost everybody opines that this West Indies team isn't worth dying for. “Too inconsistent”, said some. “They win the World Twenty20 and lose to Bangladesh in the same year. In Tests they don't have the ability to bat for a long time.”

And there are organisational problems too. Not a single hoarding about the tournament was to be seen on the way to Kingston. Even the local Indian NRI club didn't know MS Dhoni was coming.

“We came to know about this as we were closely following the Champions Trophy,” said a patron of the club.

The West Indies further erred during the World Cup in 2007 when exorbitant ticket prices kept fans away.

Such was the mismanagement that even Jack Warner, former Fifa vice-president who is now being investigated for alleged bribery, took potshots at them.

Changing profile

The fan too has transformed. “I think we are more educated and well behaved nowadays,” said a porter at the airport. “We just look to have a good time and appreciate good strokes, irrespective of the batsman who plays it.”

It bodes perfectly for India who would be looking to strengthen their ODI setup. They breezed in from London on Wednesday evening, offering tickets to local Indians on their way to the team hotel and were in high spirits after their Champions Trophy win. Come Sunday, they know they would only have to deal with the West Indies team on the field.

The fans, if they at all show up, would be there just to enjoy. Their aggression has been lost. Perhaps, forever.