The T20 Cricket World Cup has raised the adrenalin in the bodies of sports fans in the region, and the names of the selected West Indies players suggested that anything shorter than victory would have been an anticlimax from some of the finest T20 cricketers in the world. So despite their somewhat abysmal bowling display in their first round match against Australia, the story has been turned into one of joy and the prospects of an upward trend for the future.
My delay in commending the performance of the team in Sri Lanka was deliberate, as the Champions league was about to bring possibly another moment of success to T&T, a prophesy based upon the fact that a number of key players from the WI team seemed ready to move toward the winning mode against the clubs that qualified for the finals.
Lo and behold, following the hype generated by the local fans as to what we can expect, the focus was directed firmly upon Denesh Ramdin’s team. The travel agents were busy booking seats for the die-hard supporters, affluent parents and friends of the players ensuring that the team was well supported in South Africa.
The pre-match tournament among three teams, Yorkshire, T&T and Uva Next, appeared to be just a warm-up exercise for the Red Force to get acclimatised, adjust to a six-hour time change, and a long plane ride. Few even thought about these factors before the start of the tournament, maybe not even understanding the approach leading to coming to terms with these issues.
Surely the administrators could have spent some time making a more appropriate tour plan which would have included travelling at least a week earlier, dividing the long plane ride into two parts in order to avoid jet lag, and some discussions with players who have experienced the conditions in South Africa, especially at that time of year.
This hugely-funded national team got the maximum support, especially following monthly stipends well in advance of this particular tournament, and urged on by an enthusiastic media, all of whom targeted victory as the only goal. However, at the first juncture of the initial match, the moments of inexperience showed themselves, firstly, with the decision to bat first after winning the toss without real information regarding the pace and bounce of the wickets and whether their opponents would have been able to deal with the guile of Badree, the speed of Rampaul and the variation which both Cooper and Emrit were able to produce.
Did David Williams whisper to either of Perkins, Barath and Simmons of the value of avoiding high risk strokeplay until they had at least two overs bowled to them. Their dismissals forced out the application of Darren Bravo and skipper Ramdhin who had to spend some time and a few overs to bring some level of recovery from a pathetic display of batting from the top three starters in our national team, two being Test cricketers.
In hindsight, we could mention that another 30 runs on that day would have seen us still in the competition. Months of “preparation,” funds consistently provided, and amazingly superb funding by the government, spelt excellence, not necessarily by winning all matches played, but forcing opponents to extract all of which they were capable to get victory over us.
Sometimes athletes get carried away when placed in a comfort zone and view the importance shown to them with complacency and irrational performances. Four hours of poor cricket and we were ready to return home. It would be nice to hear an analysis of every moment of that trip in order to fill in some reasons for every aspect of their journey.
This should be the case of all sporting teams, if only to learn some valuable lessons from mistakes to improve them in future. Thankfully, the lovers of football, who had to survive a shock attack from the announcement that no funds would have been given to the national senior football team, allegedly because of their failure to be successful in recent times, suddenly received a change-of-heart decision by the powers that be to fund the initial leg of the Digicel Caribbean tournament in St. Kitts.
The result of a month’s preparation, supported by a handful of foreign-based players, brought victory in all three matches against French Guiana, host country St Kitts and Anguilla and a solid place in the next round to be held here in Trinidad in three weeks. It is my sincere hope that there will be some effort to bring formal understanding in the national associations, hopefully supported by an unambiguous constitution. For the football team, the players have opened another door which could lead them towards the Gold Cup in the US next year. They need all the support necessary, financially and administratively.