During July I watched my first live T20 (20/20) cricket games. The first eight games of the WI T20 Competition were played at the Kensington Oval here in Barbados and since they were day/night games with two games each night I decided to go. (Actually, I had nothing better to do after work.) I also wanted to see if Marlon Samuels was back. I knew that he was back on the Jamaican team, but what about his form, was it back? What about his poise and timing?
I watched six of the eight games played over the four nights and surprisingly the Bajans turned out in their thousands. This was a far cry from the mere hundreds who turned up for the final Test against South Africa in June. From this one could postulate that Test cricket is dying in the Caribbean (and elsewhere for that matter) while T20 is very much alive.
Jamaica played two games in Barbados and won both quite convincingly. In the first they beat The Leeward Islands by nine wickets and in the second they got the better of lowly Canada, also by nine wickets. In the other group, Barbados and Guyana won both their games. When the competition switched to Trinidad, the Jamaican team inexplicably found the going rather rough and to everyone’s surprise lost three games in a row. In the game to decide the group winners they lost to Trinidad and in the semifinals they lost to Barbados. Trinidad, the preseason favourites with Jamaica, lost in their semis to Guyana.
Against Trinidad in the 3rd place playoff the Jamaican team played pathetically and lost badly and in the finals Guyana, captained by Sarwan, restricted Barbados to 134 and squeezed home by one wicket with one ball to spare. This was due mainly to some big hitting by nineteen years old Jonathan Foo (the find of the tournament) who made 42 runs from 17 balls when all had seemed lost for Guyana. The Guyanese will now represent the region in the second playing of the lucrative 2010 Champions League (CLT20) to be held in South Africa from September 10-26, where two groups of five teams each will compete for the chance to win a whopping $2.5 million (Whopping by cricket standards of course).
Cricket fans will remember that Trinidad were the runners-up in the competition last year. With these relatively vast sums of money in 20/20, it is no wonder that a few cricketers the world over are opting to play only 20/20. After all, if you are a bowler in 20/20 you only bowl four overs and if you are a number six or seven batsman, five overs is the most that you will be asked to bat in most games and then all you have to do is swing the bat; and pray. I understand that for 2011 the cumulative salaries per team in the IPL will be approximately $7 million! And that’s not Eastern Caribbean or Jamaican dollars. Earlier this year six West Indian players were selected to play in the IPL and it is said that some of them are already millionaires. Imran Khan, who played professional cricket for Pakistan for 21 years, recently said that in one season of the IPL some cricketers have made more money than he made in his entire career.
Now to answer my initial question about the return of Marlon Samuels; to me he seemed a bit rusty and found it difficult to get the ball off the square. So, apparently, he is not back, yet! There are many here in Barbados who are saying that he should not be considered for the WI team in the future. As far as I am concerned, if he performs by making a ton of runs for Jamaica he should be considered for the WI team, it’s as simple as that. In the meanwhile, in Trinidad in particular, there is a big ground swell among cricket fans that their own Daren Ganga should replace Chris Gayle as WI captain. My contention is that based on his batting Ganga cannot make the team and that in the current WI team there is no place for a captain who can neither bat nor bowl. His test average after 48 test matches is a meager 25.71. If we are looking for a captain for the future, Ganga is not the candidate. Even Dwayne Bravo would be a better choice for captain if Gayle goes.
I hope that I am not the only one who reads this newsletter and watched some of the 2010 Tour de France --Actually, I watch all sports, except lacrosse, curling and bowling! Anyway, in the just concluded Tour de France, Alberto Cantador from Spain successfully defended the title he won in 2009. This is proving to be a hot year for Spain as their sportsmen also won the Football World Cup, the French Open, Wimbledon and were runners-up in the European Under-19 Football Championship. Those of us who follow cycling will know that Cantador also won the Tour in 2007 and is now acclaimed by many to be the rightful heir to seven times Tour winner Lance Armstrong. What’s Cantador’s nickname? In case you missed it, he is called Alberto ‘El Pistolero’ Cantador! And why on earth would he be called that? Even if you did not do Spanish in school you know what ‘El Pistolero’ means in English. Or you can guess. As one sports writer wrote, “When Contador finished the 19th and last important stage, he was visibly moved, realizing he wouldn't be relinquishing the yellow jersey he'd claimed earlier in a rugged, exhausting week. He began to cry, and his hands were shaking as he saluted the crowd with his signature index-finger pistol gesture”. After winning a leg of the race he has also been known to use a water pistol to drench journalists, much to their amusement. Now, who would want to take that away from Senor Cantador?