In the news conference, Samuels put up his legs on the table, literally giving the boot to a section of English reporters.
A day after they lifted the World Twenty20 trophy, West Indies team manager Rawl Lewis visited Mother Teresa's Missionaries of Charity in Kolkata and made a donation on behalf of the team. Interestingly, these Twenty20 champions had to buy their own kits for the tournament, have been embroiled in a contract dispute with their cricket board and are the only team to have won the World Twenty20 twice. Though West Indies cricket might be struggling to remain relevant in world cricket, the Caribbean boys still spread their joie de vivre wherever they go.
Said captain Darren Sammy: “This Twenty20 team brings smiles to the faces of all Caribbean fans. Even here in India, the crowd was behind us. As a Twenty20 outfit, we entertain. I don't know about the glory days when we dominated Test cricket for 20 years. This is an area where we have to improve. But this Twenty20 team cannot be unnoticed.”
Last October, during a Test series against Sri Lanka, in Colombo, the Caribbean islands were moved by the sight of Sir Garfield Sobers in tears. The West Indies legend was saddened by the fact that the once dominant team was languishing at the number eight spot in the world Test rankings. “My whole obligation was to West Indies cricket... I have never made a run for me,” he had said. “The records meant nothing. The team was important. ...I don't think we [now] have that kind of person who is prepared to play and give it everything. I think Twenty20 competitions are destroying West Indies cricket.”
On April 4, the team proved Sobers wrong by becoming world champions. This has, in fact, been the year of West Indies cricket. They won the under 19 World Cup in Bangladesh, the women's team won the World Twenty20 and the men did so again.
Carlos Brathwaite, who hit the winning runs against England in the final, joined his Indian Premier League team, the Delhi Daredevils, on April 5. As he entered the team hotel, he couldn't control his laughter—guests, staff, chefs and his teammates all broke out into the signature West Indies champion dance. The Barbados all-rounder had hit four consecutive sixes against Ben Stokes in the final over. The West Indies needed 19 and the talk between Brathwaite and partner Marlon Samuels was limited to: “Get bat on ball and run or swing it up the hills!”
After the match, Sammy gave a moving speech that was full of pain and anger. He has been the talisman for the team, leading it to victory on both occasions. And though he isn't a legend like Clive Lloyd, he has the ability to marshall his troops like no other captain in recent history. “This means a lot, not only for us as a team but also for our fans all over the world,” he said. “I started the tournament by saying that we are inspired by our Under 19 boys and, earlier this afternoon, the way our women's team played and won the cup was more motivation for us to complete the treble.”
In 2012, when the West Indies first lifted the trophy, Sammy was an unheralded leader with a bashful smile. This time, however, the smile had faded. He looked exhausted after the win and, in his speech on the ground, castigated the West Indies Cricket Board for its callous behaviour. Later, during the news conference, he said: “In 2012, we believed we could win. Nobody gave us a chance but that was our first taste of glory. This time... disrespect from journalists and comments from our cricket board were all out of order. The only way we could make a statement was by winning the tournament. The hunger stems from what was boiling inside.”
IN HIS COLUMN, commentator Mark Nicholas had said that the West Indies players were “short of brains” and insinuated that they were cricket mercenaries. A day before the final, Sammy retorted: “How could you describe us as people with no brains? We are not objects. Even animals have brains. For me, that comment really set us off.” Nicholas offered apologies after the final.
Samuels was still fuming after the match. He ripped off his shirt, mouthed profanities at a shattered Ben Stokes and started moving towards the England dugout. He was only a few yards away when coach Phil Simmons and a few players dragged him away. A few minutes later, in the news conference, Samuels put up his legs on the table, literally giving the boot to a section of the media largely dominated by English reporters. His diamond solitaires flashing, he waited for eagerly for the questions. “I woke up this morning with one thing on my mind,” he said. “[Former Australian cricketer] Shane Warne has been talking continuously and all I want to say is—this is for Shane Warne. I answer with the bat, not the mic.” He then raised his man of the match trophy. Warne had described Samuels's performance in the semifinal against India as “pretty poor”. Also, they had a physical altercation during the 2012-13 Big Bash League—Warne was fined and suspended for one game; Samuels got away with a warning. And, Samuels's latest shot is bound to keep the battle going. He said: “Maybe it is because my face is real and his is not,” taking a dig at Warne's cosmetic surgery.
Sammy's salvo was against his cricket board. In the presence of International Cricket Council chairman Shashank Manohar, president Zaheer Abbas, CEO David Richardson and WICB president David Cameron, Sammy said Cameron had not called or wished the team luck ahead of the final. Far from being embarrassed, the WICB criticised Sammy for his comments the following day. Clearly, the win had not changed the player-official relationship. The Jamaica Gleaner, in its op-ed, said Cameron had a “seemingly obnoxious and arrogant style of governance”.
In 2013, during the India tour, Sammy and company had revolted over pay cuts and the tour was called off midway. The Board of Control for Cricket in India sued the WICB for $40 million.
Governance is a major problem in the WICB and reports have underlined the need for West Indies cricket to be run independently, rather than by each island's individual board. The WICB, expectedly, ignored the reports.
West Indies cricket is in a good place because of its Twenty20 success. However, it could have been in a much better place had it focused on Test cricket. Said Sammy: “We get a lot of stick wherever we go because of the way we play Test cricket. We are very good in Twenty20 but the fact is we have not been able to play a brand of Test cricket that allows us to win.”
Said women's team captain Stafanie Taylor: “We have to move on from here. We need some infrastructure like in Australia and England. It is my dream to play Test cricket.”