73/3 – fifth day and Ponting and Clarke are at the crease – Test cricket – anything can happen – probably will – Windies on the rewind—rewindies.
In all the sadness of Indian cricket over the past year, we have neglected the rise of the Windies. In June last year, they fought us right down to the wire. Then when they toured India in the later months, again they were not pushovers. You could feel a sense of pride returning, a sense of history.
And now the mighty Aussies, who swept us aside like a bad memory have their backs to the wall. Hunte and Butcher and Nurse and Haynes and the other straighbatting Windies legends will be happy, for, this team of Sammy’s is beginning to come around. They are playing cricket, not slogging; they are thinking and planning and executing, not always perfectly, but with a measure of discipline and zest.
All the great Windies teams of the past had players who played proper cricket. Worrell himself was a player of style and technique. Sobers, for all his amazing flair, could play every shot in the cricketing textbooks. Lloyd, massive and strong, had a bat which could come down as straight as Gavaskar’s. Richards, when he wished, could tuck his head over his bat and defend with style. And Haynes and Hunte and their ilk played like inspired Englishmen.
And Sammy has a touch of Worrel about him, not near the skill, nor the record, but he is a leader. And his bowling, easy and yet penetrating, was how Worrel liked to bowl. And when Sammy sets his field, and ponders over bowling changes, there is an air of wisdom – not Worrel yet, but on his way.
And he, Sammy, has marshaled a team which threatened to split in many directions; Gayle forces blew strong, but he has guided the ship through the storm, and open seas beckon.
Today is a big, big day for West Indian cricket; if the weather holds, and the team does, too and if the Aussies can be forced onto the back foot, things just might happen.
And the drums will beat again.
Many years ago, in early ’66, my friend Paul and I went to see the Windies players at the Maiden Hotel in Delhi. Somehow, we found our way onto the team bus as it was about to leave for the ground; there we were, suddenly in the midst of immense men – Sobers, Lloyd, Hall, Hunte, Griffith, Gibbs – and we felt absolutely insignificant and yet uplifted.
Yes, it was another time, another team.
But as our hockey team carries tradition around its neck like a noose, so does the Windies cricket team.
My dear friend, Saini, just called up today to say that he had never seen an Indian hockey team play better than ours did to quality for the Olympics. The noose was not only loosened, it was thrown aside with joy.
May the Windies do the same.
What a delight to see a graying and creased legend like Gibbs watching a Test match — the dignity of the man, the sheer elegance – and in his heart of hearts, he must be spinning prayers today to the gods of Windies cricket, to let the weather hold and Sammy and his men perform.
With a little hop and a loop, Gibbs became the highest Test wicket-taker of his era. I am sure his prayers will also spin and turn and be edged to safe hands of Sobers, who was, and is, truly heaven on earth.
Test cricket is alive and thriving and throbbing in the West Indies.