By Fazeer Mohammed (23rd November, 2017)
Of all the topical issues floating around the cricket-playing territories of the Caribbean, maybe the most significant is the one that seems to have attracted the least attention.
It was in June of this year, just before the historic first home series against Afghanistan, that the West Indies Cricket Board made two announcements: that it would now be known as Cricket West Indies and that the representative teams were to be called the “Windies.”
Hardly anyone took notice, probably because almost all eyes were focused on the Champions Trophy in England and Pakistan’s come-from-behind triumph via the annihilation of arch-rivals India in the final. But when the authorities put their foot down for the short tour of Zimbabwe in October and insisted that the team be referred to as the “Windies” in all media coverage, including the “live” television broadcasts, the discomfort with the name became immediately apparent.
To put it simply, it just doesn’t sound right. Limitations of space don’t allow for a proper explanation but suffice it to say that more than a few former players have referred to the name-change as tampering with the legacy of West Indies cricket.
It is highly unusual for the CWI hierarchy to backtrack on any decision. However, it would be wise of them to at least pause for a re-think on a course of action that appears entirely unnecessary and could actually be seen, from one angle at least, as quite insulting to those who have represented the West Indies with pride, honour and distinction for almost 120 years.
Speaking of CWI hierarchy, president Dave Cameron was in Lahore for the Pakistan vs Rest of the World XI matches in September which heralded the start of a more concerted effort for the return of official international cricket to the country. It was then that news filtered through that the West Indies would be playing a T20 series in Pakistan following the Zimbabwe assignment in November.
All of these arrangements appeared to have not involved a key component – the West Indies cricketers. Most were reluctant to tour Pakistan and even if a couple like Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels praised the organisation for the final of the Pakistan Super League at the Gaddafi Stadium earlier in the year, the general feeling back at home was that those November matches were never going to take place.
Even if there is some truth to the official reason of weather conditions for the postponement from November to early 2018 (the first step in a five-year reciprocal arrangement), it still looks like an attempt to save face by the administrators on both sides.
One distinctive face who won’t be seen at next year’s PSL is Chris Gayle after he was passed over by all of the franchises at the November auction. Primary reason for not seeking the services of still one of the most sought-after big-hitters in the T20 game is that he will be unavailable for the entire tournament.
Why that is so has been the source of much intrigue, especially since Gayle is making clear his desire to return to Test cricket even if, as is being widely speculated, he merely wants to feature in a farewell match in his native Kingston next year.
Many are in favour of the idea, but a few have poured scorn on the prospect, suggesting that it would be a devaluing of Test cricket and a trivialising of the team ethos to facilitate the wishes of someone who had shown no real desire to play Test cricket over the past three years.
For that to even be considered though, the 38-year-old Gayle will be required to make an appearance in the Professional Cricket League first-class competition in the West Indies, which would explain his unavailability for the full PSL season.
Another West Indian opener, 13 years Gayle’s junior, appears to be muscling his way into at least attempting to replicate the devastating impact of the Jamaican’s flashing blade.
Evin Lewis, left-handed like the self-proclaimed “Universe Boss” but with a very different style, is the rising Caribbean batting star of the T20 circuit. He also has two One-Day International hundreds to accompany the rarity of twin T20I centuries, so it goes without saying that his value is rising in cricket’s most lucrative format.
At a time when the West Indies under Jason Holder’s leadership are showing gradual improvement in the traditional game, with the victory in the Headingley Test of the England tour being undoubtedly the highlight of the year, it is a reflection of the thinking of many emerging talents in the modern game that Lewis is not targeting a Test cap but an Indian Premier League contract.
Given his insatiable six-hitting appetite, Lewis seems destined to fulfil that desire and in the process, give even more entertainment to hundreds of millions around the world in the abbreviated game that he clearly relishes.
By the way, as is obvious in the references throughout this contribution, the team representing the territories scattered across the Caribbean Sea will always be the West Indies to me.