Sun | Sep 25, 2016

Olympic glow on cricket

Published:Thursday | October 11, 2012 | 12:00 AM
West Indies' cricketer Chris Gayle celebrates after their win over Sri Lanka in the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on Sunday. West Indies won by 36 runs. - AP photos
West Indies' cricketer Marlon Samuels poses with his Man of the Match award after his team's win over Sri Lanka in the ICC Twenty20 Cricket World Cup final.

Hubert Lawrence, Gleaner Writer

If you're a Pan-Caribbean sports fan, the last few months have been sweet. The London Olympics brought golden glory for Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, The Bahamas and the Dominican Republic.

Soon after that came Jamaica's first win over CONCACAF kingpins USA in football. Last weekend, cricket fans got their share of the fun, a West Indies win in the T20 World Cup.

There were some scary moments along the way. Rain meant that the regional team emerged from the first round on run rate, and later there was a sound beating by Sri Lanka in the Super Eights.

The region is on a roll. Somehow Usain Bolt and company started something big. A capacity crowd urged the Reggae Boyz on against the Americans in Kingston last month. It was as if the Boyz didn't want to drop the baton received from an Olympic team that won four gold, four silver and four bronze medals in London.

It wasn't a beautiful game, but our team ran tirelessly and got the breaks it deserved. The 2-1 scoreline meant that Jamaica had beaten those northern giants at the senior level for the first time.

Combined, the Olympic brilliance and the USA defeat seem to have flicked a switch in our cricketers. They went to the T20 World Cup as favourites, but had to deliver because there's often many a slip 'twixt cup and lip. In sport, favourites routinely fall.

Rebuilding the right way

Our cricket administrators will probably be patting themselves on the pack. "We're rebuilding the right way," they'll say. There's a lot more to it than that.

The return of Chris Gayle had added explosive power to the batting. From all appearances, he's a friend of the tall man and may have wanted to match Bolt's Olympic exploits.

The cricket team is filled by Jamaicans and men from the twin- island republic. Both countries have just celebrated 50 years of Independence. In London, they performed brilliantly and collected more medals than ever before at the Olympics.

Gayle and Marlon Samuels, who scored a solid 78 in the final, were almost Olympian in stature in Sri Lanka. Samuel Badree, Ravi Rampaul, wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin and Kieron Pollard of Trinidad and Tobago all did very well, as if inspired by London javelin champion Keshorn Walcott.

It wouldn't be the first sporting spillover. In the 1982-1988 period when the West Indies marched to a 27-match undefeated streak, Jamaica prospered in other sports.

In 1983 at the first World Track and Field Championships, Jamaica's Bert Cameron added to his 1982 Commonwealth title by winning the men's 400.

In the same period, Merlene Ottey joined the ranks of the world's best female sprinters and Mike 'The Body Snatcher' McCallum became Jamaica's first boxing world champion.

There were boxing world titles for the late Trevor Berbick and Lloyd Honeyghan in that period too.

I could be off target by a mile, but I don't think so. Success breeds success and winning is a habit. Perhaps it will infect other sports where we are world-class, like netball.

That sport has a World Championships next year and an inspired performance by Jamaica would continue the trend. It's a pity those Championships weren't in November 2012 with spirits still high from the Olympics, football and T20 cricket. Under those circumstances, I'd give the revved-up new-look Sunshine Girls a chance against anyone.

Can the West Indies carry their success over into other forms of cricket? It's too soon to tell, but this team does have the wind under its sails.

In the meantime, someone should probably invest in Bahamian cricket. The Bahamians are so good in track and field that their cricketers, like those in Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, would feed off their golden success in athletics.

That wouldn't hurt because, as we saw in Sri Lanka, an inspired team is a better team.

Hubert Lawrence has covered sport since 1987.