By Orville Higgins
It was not unexpected, but still really satisfying, that the West Indies managed to lift the ICC T20 World Cup crown. T20 cricket is made for the crop we now have. The game calls for exactly what we are good at: explosive hitting, breathtaking fielding, and steady, if not penetrative, bowling over a short time.
It's not so much a lack of skill, more the inability to execute that skill over long periods consistently, that truly ails us in Test cricket. With Twenty20 cricket, sustained periods of applying the mind to the business at hand is not always required, and therefore we are always going to feel more at home in this short, action-packed version of the game.
Maybe it's a West Indian thing. The Caribbean now produces the world's best from 100 to the quarter-mile, but we can't compete with the world in any distance above 400 metres.
It was interesting, even ironic, that arguably our two best performers, in Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels, had 'served time' away from the game: one for speaking out against a shambolic administration that is yet to come to grips with modern management; and the other for a bizarre ruling that defied logic. These two, who the 'builders' had refused, were, in many ways, our head cornerstone.
Professor Hilary Beckles had told us not so long after his 'Gayle is a don' speech that the young cricketers in the region still idolised the old stars and didn't see contemporary players like Chris Gayle or Marlon Samuels as their role models. (Why he chose those two names is still a mystery.) We have had to take Professor Beckles' word for it, having not heard from the youngsters themselves, but it's tempting to wonder what the same youngsters would be saying now.
NARINE QUITE A FIND
While Chris and Marlon were brilliant, Sunil Narine was also truly sensational. For the first time since Lance Gibbs half a century ago, the West Indies have found a spinner who can stand in any company, anywhere. He took seven wickets in the tournament at a miserly cost of 5.70. His unflustered temperament is ideal for the game, and he may well turn out to be the most important bowling find for the West Indies since Curtly Ambrose in the late 1980s.
Both André Russell and Fidel Edwards were disappointing with the ball, and certainly in Fidel's case, it should now be obvious that we need to look elsewhere for new-ball bowlers.
Captain Darren Sammy has been much maligned, and his place on the team continues to be a talking point. In Test cricket, Sammy's spot on the team is no longer automatic. His performance with the ball in the five-day game this year has been woeful. In the limited-overs version, though, he remains a must-pick.
In this tournament, Sammy's importance has been underrated. Sammy finished with an average of 18 per innings, and was the fifth best in terms of average in the team. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it was better than what Russell, Darren Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Dwayne Smith or Denesh Ramdin could muster, although to be fair, some of those didn't have a lot of opportunities.
With the ball, Sammy took four wickets at 7.71 per over. His economy rate was better than that of Ravi Rampaul, Gayle, Edwards, Samuels and Dwayne Bravo. The truth is that in the limited-overs version, Sammy is more than useful with bat, ball, and in the field, and when one considers what he brings to the team as a leader, his importance cannot be overstated.
Frank Worrell is regarded as our best captain ever, in many quarters, primarily because of his ability to bring together his troops to work together as one cohesive unit. Sammy is no Worrell, but it could be argued that very few West Indies captains in modern times have managed to be so effective at infusing the team with so much West Indianness, and it has been a long while since the West Indies appeared to be playing with this kind of spirit and passion.
Sunday's victory was as much about our cricket abilities in the short game as it is a triumph for Sammy and his beleaguered troops. This may well be the catalyst that drives this changing team to new and distant heights.
KLAS sportscaster Orville Higgins is the 2011 winner of the Hugh Crosskill/Raymond Sharpe Award for Sports Reporting. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.