Tony Becca | Well played WI, thank you, madam Minister
The last week or so was wonderful for me, and it should be for all Jamaicans, especially for cricket-loving Jamaicans, and for all West Indians.
The reasons for the feeling of happiness and satisfaction, are the superb performance of the Windies in winning their first Test in England for 17 years and the news that the push for tourism and sport is well under way.
After the pathetic display at Edgbaston in which they were mauled for over 500 runs and then lost 19 wickets in one day, the Windies regrouped, went to Headingley, came out fighting, and covered themselves in glory by winning the second Test match by five wickets with 4.4 overs to spare in an exciting, surprising, and astonishing display.
It was a glorious display, almost matching Australia's rampant victory in 1948 when they scored 404 for three to win the match with Arthur Morris hitting 182 and Don Bradman 173 not out, and England's dazzling display in 1981 when, after following-on, they recovered through Ian Botham's 149 and Bob Willis eight for 43 to win by 18 runs after dismissing Australia for 111 runs.
Going into the last day of the Test match at five without loss and needing 319 runs to win with all 10 wickets in hand on a wearing pitch, and with the odds in favour of England, the Windies reached the challenging and improbable victory target at 322 for five off 91.2 overs.
It was really good to see the Windies playing some good cricket. They did not field well, but except for the last few overs in England's second innings, they bowled beautifully while maintaining good length and line, and they batted brilliantly, always on the hunt for runs, running singles, and pouncing on the deliveries which had boundary marked all over them.
Fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, fast-medium Kemar Roach, and mediumpacer Jason Holder were the pick of the bowlers while Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope were the standout batsmen with innings of 134 and 95 and 147 and 118 not out.
Brathwaite was his usual quiet self, but it was good to see Hope reeling off some exquisite shots and on the whole playing confidently and stylish and finally living up to the promise which many West Indians believed he possessed.
Brathwaite was clinical throughout, but Hope's driving, especially through extra-cover and through midwicket, was simply magnificent.
It was unfortunate that Brathwaite, like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 128 not out and 97 not out, in 2000 who when he fell short by three runs, missed his second century in the match by just five runs, but it was a joy to see Hope batting undefeated for his maiden Test century and his second in the match, thus joining a list of West Indians that include George Headley, Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Lawrence Rowe, Brian Lara, and lest you forget, Kieron Powell.
It's now on to Lord's for the final Test, and the hope is that the Windies will be just as good at Lord's in 2017 as the West Indies were in 1950 when they shocked England, beat them 3-1 after losing the first Test, went on to win their first series in England, and also to announce their arrival to the world.
That, if they can manage it, would be a fitting end to the series.
The second wonderful moment for me was just over a week ago when Minister Olivia Grange entered the discussion on West Indies cricket, made a plea for assistance to women's cricket, announced plans for the Trelawny Multi-purpose stadium, and talked about the business of sport and tourism.
It was at Melbourne at a breakfast hosted by Foska Oats in honour of the Jamaica Tallawahs, and present was the charming Minister of Culture, Gender Affairs, Entertainment, and Sport who went to town as guest speaker and won some rousing handclaps.
First she said that upgrading is taking place at the Trelawny Mulit-purpose stadium as it prepares to be the home of the Cricket Academy, which, when it is up and running, will include overseas participation.
Then she thanked the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) for providing an opportunity for the advancement of a number of young men before making a plug for women's cricket by saying that "I would be very happy, however, to hear that you are moving to implement a women's premier league as well to provide similar opportunities for the advancement of young women".
Minister Grange emphasised her wish when she said that "the world's cricketing ladies must be given their shot at glory".
Next, she aimed at the West Indies in Test cricket.
"I don't know what it does to you, but I get angry and feel embarrassed when I hear people talk about West Indies and minnows in the same breath. Are we now only fit for Tier 2, if it comes?
"Today I make my plea, echoing those who might have gone ahead of me: it is time for all West Indies cricketing interests to come together, it is time to forget egos, to get over ourselves, and to focus on West Indies cricket.
"Listen to me carefully: West Indies cricket is facing a catastrophic situation and requires immediate action to pull it back from the abyss into which it seems destined to fall."
And after saying that she was not blaming anyone, she went on: "What I am here to say is that the solution will require a coming together of all the stakeholders. And therefore, I urge our administrators, players, governments, and others knowledgeable about and interested in West Indies cricket, including journalists, to let us come together in a grand coalition to save West Indies cricket."
The minister's last words on cricket were: "I give my commitment that I am ready to be part of the coming together in search of solutions for West Indies Test cricket. If I have to be the convener, so be it."
And after, Minister Grange said that in a few months, Jamaica will be host to eight American college basketball teams and their entourage in Montego Bay.
In what she hoped will be the continuation in the push for the much-talked-about thrust in sports-tourism, the minister said that that is only the beginning.
"Next year, it will be 16 teams - eight boys and eight girls - in what will be an annual event."
The CPL has been criticised for not playing more Jamaicans on the Jamaica Tallawahs team, and when Mark Neita, president of Melbourne and a director of the Jamaica Cricket Association, mentioned that he was in Florida recently for few games, heard the talk about the proposed move of the Jamaica Tallawahs to Florida, and said that he was very disappointed, Jay Madhu, representing the owners, grabbed the mic, and immediately denied it.
"No, no, not at all. Somebody has misrepresented us," he said, and to a roomful of cheers, he went on, "The Tallawahs are here to stay."