The picks of the proceedings
Tony Becca ON THE BOUNDARY
The fourth Caribbean T20 tournament comes to an end today, and hopefully, it will be a climax to remember, to linger for a long, long time.
The question on everyone's lips, however, is this: who will win the coveted title, will it be, defending champions Trinidad and Tobago, or will it be someone else?
My money is on Trinidad and Tobago. Their batting and bowling, even without Ravi Rampaul, and Kevon Cooper, who has gone off to Bangladesh, and fielding are tremendous.
The T20 game is as unpredictable as any sport can be, but Trinidad and Tobago should win. For me, it would take a collapse as devastating as the fall of the mythical Humpy Dumpty to stop them in their tracks.
Next year, the tournament, hopefully, will be even bigger and better. The plan is to make the teams franchises and to call it the Caribbean Premier League. The proposal is to name the teams after Caribbean cities, the teams should number eight and include overseas professionals, and according to reports, the prize money will be enormous and lasting for some 20 years.
The plans are lovely, and hopefully the Caribbean crowds will improve and not just turn up whenever the home team is playing, as has been the case, not one time, not two times, but almost every time.
The hope is that large crowds, consistently large crowds, not for every day but for almost all days, crowds large enough to make the tournament a spectacle and profitable, will turn out for the matches, for each and every one of them, at least for most of them.
West Indian cricket needs it, and the world needs West Indian cricket with its distinct style of play, with its laughter, and with its calypso rhythm, hit or miss, in every stroke, in every acrobatic bit of fielding.
This year, as it were in the previous years, the crowds were disappointing, again except whenever the home teams were playing.
At Queen's Park Oval, it was remarkable whenever the home team was playing. The crowd, men and women, boys and girls, was lovely. It was like carnival time, almost.
For me, however, the general cricket was poor. The batting, particularly, was poor, as disappointingly poor as was the crowd. The people laughed at everything, and there were handclaps for everything, for bad batting and, whenever Trinidad and Tobago were in action, for good batting.
There were, however, four lasting memories in the first week of action, and they were the batting of Jamaica's Chadwick Walton for the CCC against Guyana, the honesty of Darren Sammy of the Windward Islands against the Leeward Islands, the bowling of left-arm orthodox spinner Derone Davis of Trinidad and Tobago playing for the CCC against Barbados, and the batting of Darren Bravo of Trinidad and Tobago against Guyana.
I once saw Walton crack a century before lunch for Lucas against Melbourne in the Senior Cup at Melbourne Oval. I once saw him race to a double century in a Senior Cup match in no time against St Mary, and although I knew he was out of his depth, I hoped that somehow or somewhere he would play one of those innings against Bangladesh in one of the Test matches he played.
He never did.
Against Guyana last week, however, he opened the innings, he batted not out to the end of it, and he hit three lovely sixes, including one off the final delivery, in the last over, to finish on 99.
It was a truly splendid innings, T20 cricket or not.
Sammy was batting against the Leeward Islands, his team was 68 for four, he played a delivery towards mid-wicket, he ran, the wicket was thrown down as he dived in desperation, the umpire signalled for the help of the third umpire, he got up, brushed off his clothes, and walked towards the pavilion.
He might have been taking it a bit too far, but as far as he was concerned, he was out, and his reaction was commendable, the act of a good captain.
When he got to the boundary he stopped, however, waited on the verdict, and returned to continue his innings as the television replay showed him home by a whisker.
That was the behaviour of a West Indies captain.
Bowling in a T20 match is more about bowlers trying to prevent the batsmen from taking step with them than about getting the batsmen out. On Friday, however, after his team was limited to 111 for eight, Davis, opening the bowling for the Combine Campuses and Colleges against Barbados, ripped through the opposition's batting by taking a hat-trick with his first three deliveries, the first three deliveries of the innings, to leave Barbados on zero for three on their way to 99 for eight.
The batsmen he dismissed were Dwayne Smith and Ryan Hinds, caught in the slips, and Shamarh Brooks, leg before wicket.
These were not top-class batsmen, and this was not the first hat-trick of the tournament, or of any tournament.
It was, however, just about the best batsmen on the team, and for the member of the West Indies team to the Youth World Cup last year, to get the number one, the number three, and the number four batsmen without the number two taking guard, and without the batsmen swinging from the hip in a T20 match, is something special, the memory of which should last him a lifetime.
Darren Bravo is a talented batsman, he is the best talent to have come out of the West Indies since Brian Lara, and he played one of the finest innings I have ever seen in a T20 match for Trinidad and Tobago against Guyana last Saturday
With all other batsmen complaining about the two pitches used in the tournament, and being restricted to or dismissed for 110 or 111 consistently, sometimes for less than that, Bravo went to bat, scored 82 not out, never made a false stroke, batted for 51 deliveries, and scored eight fours and four sixes while piloting Trinidad and Tobago to 191 for four, the highest total of the tournament so far.
He never once swung the bat in anger. It was calculated batting from beginning to end, and it oozed confidence throughout.
It was a pleasant innings, an innings filled with perfect timing. It was glorious and beautiful, a wonderful example of classical batting.
Cricket is cricket, and good cricket is indeed, good cricket.
The tournament comes to an end in Beausejour, St Lucia, today, and we do not know who will win it, although I believe I know who deserves to win it.
Regardless of who wins it, however, the Caribbean is hoping, and praying, for a repetition of some of these skills, for more batting like Walton's, more bowling like Davis', more of Sammy's behaviour, more batting like Bravo's, and generally, for more excitement in a finale to remember.