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T&T setting an example for the region
Trinidad and Tobago, long considered number four of the top four territories in the West Indies despite boasting - once upon a time a fast bowler the quality of Learie Constantine, a spin wizard like Sonny Ramadhin and a batting genius like Brian Lara - are flexing their muscles and shouting, for all to hear from the mountain top.
Contesting the Champions League in India with the rich, highly-touted IPL teams along with the big boys from England, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago were considered no more than rank outsiders.
No one gave them a chance. In fact, even though it was cricket and its unpredictability, although it was a Twenty20 tournament in which any number can play the odds, based on the reputation of some of the contenders, were so stacked against the team that probably not even former Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board president and chief executive officer Alloy Lequay or current president Deryck Murray, gave their team even a semblance of a chance.
At the end of it all, however, after defeating Somerset, Deccan Chargers, New South Wales, Diamond Eagles and Cape Cobras, after winning all its matches; after young Adrian Barath and Darren Bravo had impressed with their delicate stroke play and Kieron Powell had thrilled the gatherings with his awesome power; after the gifted left-arm wrist spinner Dave Mohammed had mesmerised the opposing batsmen; after the team, under captain Daren Ganga, had played like a well-oiled machine, Trinidad and Tobago dashed to the final, and probably, but for a daredevil innings by fast bowler Brett Lee, may well have won the title and the 2.5 million US dollars.
In settling for the US$1.3 million second prize, however, a real booty in West Indies cricket, Trinidad and Tobago not only made the people of Trinidad and Tobago proud: like Cinderella - as the team that crashed the party as the West Indies team that did so - they also made the people of the West Indies proud.
played with a smile
According to Ian Chappell, the renowned former Australia captain, "they played with a smile on their faces and with fun in their hearts".
I have long admired what has been happening in Trinidad and Tobago's cricket, and based, not only on the number of youngsters coming through but also on the discipline and the commitment of the players, the coaches, and the administrators - which may be why the youngsters are coming through, West Indies cricket can learn from what has been happening over the past few years in Trinidad and Tobago's cricket.
"We were not happy with a lot of Trinidad and Tobago players who were also in the West Indies team," said Daren Ganga a few days ago. "They came back and took things for granted. They never placed the amount of value they should have placed on playing for their country.
"The culture needed to change and it had to happen with the executive, with the selectors and with others who made important decisions. It was important that every one approached cricket the same way when it came to zero tolerance in discipline, respect for people and for the game being the most important.
"Sacrifices must be made towards improving the quality of cricket," continued Ganga, and it appears that sacrifices have been made.
What has been happening in Trinidad and Tobago's cricket is what is happening in Jamaica's cricket. It is happening all over the West Indies, it is happening in West Indies cricket and although, in terms of results in regional cricket, Trinidad and Tobago have been no more successful than Jamaica have been recently, West Indies cricket will never return to its former glory until those in West Indies cricket - the players, all of them, the coaches and the selectors, all of them, and the administrators, at the club level and above - pledge themselves to improving their skills in the service of West Indies cricket and making sacrifices for West Indies cricket.
It is all around the West Indies and it is all around the world that the West Indies Board and the players association, plus the players, have buried the hatchet, that but for two disagreements which will be going before arbitration, they have put aside their differences and that from now on it will be hand in hand as they walk along each other side by side in the interest of West Indies cricket.
Hopefully, out of whatever is happening, out of whatever what is supposed to be happening, and regardless of who ends up in charge of West Indies cricket, be it WIPA or the board, or probably even a council somewhere above the board, there will be strict guidelines dealing with important things like sponsorship fees for players, fees for players' images, salaries and financial support for the Board's affiliates, for the Board's competitions, for other areas of development, and also, equally and importantly so, for the clubs around the region.
Hopefully, the hatchet, like what has happened so many times in the past, is not being buried or is being said to be buried because of the involvement and influence of politicians, hopefully it is not being buried or is being said to be buried because of the pending tour to Australia, and hopefully the greed and the mistrust on one side, the arrogance on one side and the incompetence on the other which have plagued West Indies cricket in recent times will not be back with us in another few months.
A few days ago Chris Gayle, the captain of the last full-strength West Indies team to take the field, and the man who, based on the praises being showered on him by a number of the players, seems likely to be recalled as the captain to Australia, was quoted as saying that "I'm happy agreements have been reached but at the same time, hopefully things will be better for our infrastructure so that we can work as one unit and leave the controversy behind, put it to one side and go out and enjoy the game."
I am also "hoping" that things will be better, that the Board and the players "can work as one unit", that the players "can leave the controversy behind" for the Board and WIPA to deal with, and that the players will now be able to "go out and enjoy the game".
As players, coaches, selectors and administrators, Trinidad and Tobago may not be, at least not yet, the best in the region. Together, however, they seem to be putting out their best effort, they seem to be enjoying it and most importantly, they appear to be getting the best from their players.