When the West Indies won the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup at the Eden Gardens on Sunday, team mentor Curtly Ambrose was in the middle of the celebrations on the field. As the cameras zoomed in very close, Ambrose put up three fingers and counted them out with a look of victory and accomplishment.
Those whose world of cricket is limited to the adult male variety of the game are likely to have missed the significance of this gesture. It was an acknowledgement of the T20 World Cup victory of the West Indian women’s team earlier that day on the same field and of the championship win by its Under 19 squad earlier in the year.
I can’t recall any other men’s team acknowledging the performance or even existence of the women’s team at their moment of greatest victory. Subcontinental macho-men have a lot to learn from what Curtley Ambrose did on Sunday.
The differences between the West Indies and the rest doesn’t end there. Though many Indians seem to think of the West Indies as a single country, it is actually is a federation of separate equal sovereign states co-ordinating in a system of some practical equality between themselves. That’s a better model than the United Nations, with their official security councils, and hard-coded imbalance of power in favour of the West.
As the men's team and some members of the women's team danced to together as equal participants in victory, let’s listen to the song that got them going.
As the travelling fans sang along, each was often draped in the flag of her particular nation, and several islands are namechecked in the tune: Trinis from Trindad and Yard Boys from Jamaica, Vincies from St Vincent and the Grenadines, Bajans from Barbados. As the song insisted, they are all champions.
Strikingly, the anthem lists several black champions, not just from the West Indies, but from all over. One part of the song mentions Nelson Mandela from South Africa and Serena Williams from the US. Here is the Windies team singing a “we” kind of song and the examples listed are people from far-away places – foreigners. Could we imagine, in Bharat-Mata-ki-jai land, that the government of India would tolerate such a natural attitude to an imagined collective identity of nationhood?
It reflects a lack of certainty and lack of confidence about the naturalness of the nation. Cricket then provides just another cover to hide the severe lack of naturalness in the state and hopefully also the build some naturalness.
When we assume that real cricket is the male, sighted version of it, we also assume that women’s cricket, older people’s cricket, blind cricket are not. At the heart of this constant reference to the real form is a profound lack of understanding about human abilities and the many forms it can take. Widening the meaning of real cricket sounds like a good way to reduce the hate-production value of the sport.