For a few hours on Friday, thousands at the R Premadasa Stadium and millions of TV viewers were transported to the golden era of Caribbean cricket when the Calypso charmers filled stadiums from Mumbai to Melbourne.
As they subdued Australia in the World Twenty20 semifinals, Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard provided a glimpse of what the current generation of fans has missed out on.
Under the Clive Lloyd’s captaincy, West Indies of the late 70s and 80s ruled cricket. At its centre was the swagger of Viv Richards, the arrogance of Gordon Greenidge, the solidity of his fellow opener Desmond Haynes and the elegance of ‘Big Cat’ Lloyd himself. Just play and enjoy the game was their motto and none could entertain like them.
They loved to intimidate bowlers, often leaving them feeling helpless, just like what Pat Cummins and his fellow bowlers were reduced to on Friday.
Although the crowd would be overwhelmingly rooting for Sri Lanka on Sunday, they would still love the Caribbean players to be at their entertaining best.
The current lot has taken sixhitting to a different level, 14 of them coming in the semifinal. West Indies showed they are much more than a one-man army — Bravo, Samuels and Pollard joining Gayle to smash the bowling. Most diehard fans would agree that without a strong West Indies there is something missing in cricket. At the height of their prowess, they were to cricket what Brazil are to football.
Richie Richardson, who played in the 1980s and ’90s and saw the team slide from its lofty perch, says: “The way Gayle, Bravo and other batters have played, and the potential Sunil Narine has shown, there are signs of the team developing into a top force.”
Going by their WT20 showing, seeds of revival seem to have been sown.
There seems a bit more quality in this side, although Richardson felt a lot of work needs to be done by the West Indies board. “It's going to be very difficult because, being a small region, finances will always be a problem, but I am hopeful cricket will become strong again.”
As they gear up for the final, the current lot will be heartened by the encouragement from Lloyd, the man behind the rise of West Indies in the late 70s who led West Indies to two World Cup triumphs. “We're very, very proud of what the team is doing. The Caribbean people are very happy. Just go out and win it.”