Quiet optimism for West Indies cricket
BY any measurement, 2012 has been a good year for West Indies (men's) cricket.
Their triumph in the ICC World Twenty20 tournament in Sri Lanka, beating the hosts in the final, was undoubtedly the crowning moment.
That was the West Indies' first global title since winning the 2004 ICC Champions Trophy, and their greatest triumph since the 1979 ICC Cricket World Cup.
In truth, the regional side showed improvement in all areas after expected defeats — despite stout resistance — against Australia in the Caribbean and England in the cold and damp of spring in that country.
In July and August, the West Indies trounced an admittedly weak New Zealand in all formats.
And after crowning themselves champions of cricket's shortest format, the West Indies toured Bangladesh, winning the two-Test series 2-0, losing the one-day series 2-3, and ending with victory in the lone Twenty20 game.
Those who castigate Mr Darren Sammy and his men for losing to a lesser team in the ODIs should bear in mind that this young Bangladesh side is improving all the time. Indeed, Bangladesh reached the final of the Asia Cup earlier this year — losing by just two runs in the final to Pakistan. This was after beating India and Sri Lanka en route to that final.
At the lower level, younger West Indian cricketers competed well on 'A' teams and at the Under-19 World Cup in Australia.
Off the field too, the West Indies had some level of satisfaction. The intervention of regional political leaders facilitated the resolution of that most unfortunate dispute between the administration and former captain Mr Chris Gayle. Also, with the departure of Mr Dinanath Ramnarine as head of the players' union and of Mr Ernest Hilaire as CEO of the regional governing body, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), temperatures have been significantly lowered.
Huge differences remain, but those of us looking in from the outside sense more of an inclination to reason without rancour.
Hopefully too, the rash of flawed decisions which have forced the WICB to make huge payments to players will now subside.
Now we hear that the WICB has reached an agreement with Barbados-based merchant bank Verus International to fund a franchise-based Twenty20 league in the Caribbean. It's expected to pump new money into West Indies cricket and that's always welcome news. But the devil, they say, is in the details and we wait to hear more.
West Indies cricket watchers and supporters look to 2013 cautiously optimistic that the progress of the last several months will accelerate and gain unstoppable momentum.