West Indies' team members celebrate winning the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final match defeating Sri Lanka in Colombo. (AP Photo/Eranga Jayawardena)
West Indies have held a certain fascination for followers of the game for the uninhibited, expansive manner in which they have played their cricket and for the awesome talent they have produced over the years. Their steep, stunning decline after the team of the eighties dominated world cricket like no team has probably ever done in the history of the game, is one of the most disappointing chapters of our times.
If you have not followed the Calypso charmers, as they were called for the effervescent way in which they unleashed their batting might and the spine-chilling fear their pacemen put in the best of batsmen, go and watch the documentary "Fire in Babylon", though Stephen Riley's film is a let down for its one-dimensional approach. It reduces some wonderful cricket the team of Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards played to a mere fight between the blacks and the whites, where the exploited get their revenge on the cricket field.
This may be one of the subtexts to their cricket, but to stick to this narrow path does injustice to their awesome talent.
The way the documentary unfolds, it clearly suggests that they were unbeatable because they were black and wanted to avenge the humiliation of their race. It also does not have the footage of some stirring batting exploits of men like Lloyd or Richards, Greenidge and Haynes. All it concentrates on is how the lethal pace of Messrs Holding, Roberts, Garner and Marshall subjugated batsmen across the world into fearful submission.
What it does do though is give you a fair idea of the team's dominance, something hard to believe in the present time where they lose more often than win anything. That is why their winning the World T20 has been welcomed by the world as an event to celebrate even if it is in a format not to be taken too seriously. Unfair judgement
To judge a team's worth in the longer format on the basis of the performance dished out in this mini format would be foolhardy. Since this happens to be the West Indies and their winning evokes nostalgic memories of their formidable past, one hopes this triumph acts as a strong motivation for them to once again enthrall spectators world wide in the format where it matters the most.
However, their return to the glory days or coming anywhere near it could remain a mirage. West Indies cricket may not be short of talent anymore, but it is plagued by many problems at the moment, making it difficult for them to get their best players to play Test cricket together.
Someone like Chris Gayle, a quintessential West Indian batsman in the mould of a Richards or a Lloyd, is on his way to becoming cricket's first mercenary millionaire, willing to forego national duty and play for any team for a price, be it IPL or the Big Bash.
This a serious issue Test cricket is increasingly going to face, and not just the West Indies team alone, unless IPL crumbles under the weight of its own economic contradictions.