Unlike some of the towering West Indian cricketers of his age, Rohan Kanhai was in a different mould. In a heartfelt tribute to him, noted cricket writer the late Ranjan Bala, recounted that “he had a feline grace about him, rather like a leopard stalking its prey”.

Kanhai, now 80, had all the shots in the book and then some more. But there was one particular shot he played that could excite even the staid observers – the falling sweep. Again, Bala’s words beautifully capture the essence of Kanhai's strokeplay:

After hitting the ball, he would fall to the earth as it flew out of the ground. ‘I suppose I played it to waken myself,’ he remarked with a chuckle. ‘There was no risk at all but I had to do something different.'   


The cricket that the men from the Caribbean used to play in their heydays in the 1970s had an endearing, relentless optimism that could warm the coldest of hearts. The words “swagger”, “calypso”, “joie-de-vivre” were often used to epitomise their brand of cricket. Hard and demanding, yes, but always entertaining. Powerful but dashing. Flamboyant and never unexciting. During various spells of drudgery in that period, the men from the Caribbean were often the sole beacons of effervescence in the cricket world.

From glory to dust

But as times changed, so did the labels associated with the West Indian cricket team. From cricketing greatness, they stumbled to even below the status of also-rans. There was a glimmer of hope when they won the 2012 World Twenty20, only to be extinguished when they failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy last year. In March 2015, the incoming chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Colin Graves, patronisingly called them a “mediocre” squad, ahead of a Test series with England.

For a proud cricketing region, it was an insult. Drawing the series 1-1 against a strong England team roused them. But it was yet again a flash in the pan as they journeyed to Australian shores and came back with their tails well and truly between their legs, beaten 2-0.

In the Test format, the West Indies have been worse than mediocre. Shambolic, abject, uninspiring and unimpressive best describes in their performances in the same format in which their predecessors changed the game. For much of the recent past, the headlines around West Indies cricket revolved more about the off-field issues rather than their exploits on it.

And yet, despite all that negativity, the West Indies will lay claim to two titles on Sunday. Darren Sammy’s troupe of dancing magicians will aim to put it over England in Kolkata. At the same venue, a few hours before that match, the West Indies women’s team, led by their star batter Stafanie Taylor, will attempt to win a first World Twenty20 title against Australia. Taylor has been in this position before – at the last Women’s World Cup in 2013, West Indies reached the finals where they went down to the same opposition.

A common inspiration is the West Indies junior team, which won the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh earlier this year, defeating three Asian teams on the trot in conditions where they were supposed to struggle on.

The West Indian way

After Andre Russell hit a towering six off Virat Kohli in Mumbai on Thursday and took his team to the final, the West Indies celebrated as only they can. They ran onto the field and unleashed some of their signature dance moves. On reaching their hotel, they put on an impromptu jig, delighting onlookers.


The outpouring of misery after an Indian defeat in a cricket match, especially coming in the semi-finals of a major tournament, is a well-documented affair. Yet this time, the grief was remarkably subdued. Cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle remarked on it in a post on Facebook, when he asked whether the reason for that was because the West Indian team enjoyed popular admiration.

Bhogle hit the nail on the head. A popular tweet doing the rounds commented on how good it felt to see a West Indies team make it to a tournament final again. Veteran cricket watchers in India fondly remember the days of West Indian domination. A younger generation also remembers the 1990's and 2000’s when Australia won everything possible.

But if cricket fans had their way, there would very little debate about which era they would want to relive. The West Indies are universally loved. When they do well, people delight in their joyous revelry and the spontaneity of their celebrations. It is a trait inherited from their predecessors. The Australian decline was celebrated but the West Indian fall was mourned. Whenever the West Indies appear to be doing well, hope arises again that they will reach the top once again and play the game in that cheerful, flamboyant abandon which the kings from the land of the Calypso have come to hallmark.

Darren Sammy’s men may have dumped the hosts out of the tournament, but come Sunday, when they play the final against England in Kolkata, it would not be too difficult to guess who the Eden Gardens faithful will root for. Rally Round The West Indies, y’all, for when the West Indies are happy, cricket is a beautiful place.