The West Indies Twenty20 squad on Sunday defied all odds by beating England by four wickets in a nail-biting finish in the International Cricket Council’s (ICC) grand finale in Kolkata, India.
Sunday’s amazing victory brought much joy and pride to all Caribbean people, as the women’s team earlier on the same day mesmerized three-time champions Australia to triumph in their maiden Twenty20 finale. Just a few months ago, the West Indies Under 19 men’s team clinched the 50-over title from India for the first time.
With their back heavily against the wall in the penultimate over — needing 19 runs in the last over — all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite, in his first World Cup finale, blasted four consecutive sixes, in the first four balls, to restore the Caribbean’s pride and silence critics within and without the region.
Brathwaite had only scored a mere aggregate of 25 runs in four prior Twenty20 internationals over 4 ½ years, with a paltry top score of 13.
His destruction of England’s seamer Ben Stokes, renowned for his death-over bowling, expectedly triggered pandemonium among West Indian fans the world over and ignited a party atmosphere on and off the field among the West Indies contingent, led by skipper Darren Sammy.
After restricting England for 155-9 in 20 overs, the West Indies found themselves in dire straits on 5-2, with Chris Gayle and Johnson Charles back in the dug-out.
But Marlon Samuels, voted Man-of-the Match, like he did in the grand finale in 2012, hit an unbeaten 85, and Brathwaite was undefeated on 34, to bring back the Windies from the precipice.
“I want to thank the almighty, because without him nothing is possible,” said an emotional Sammy in the post-match interview. “We have a pastor in ‘the team in Andre Fletcher, he keeps on praying. We are a praying team. I’m really happy for this win, and it’s something we are going to cherish for a long time.”
“I’ve said we have 15 match-winners,” Sammy added. “Nobody gave us a chance, but every game somebody stepped up and took responsibility. To see Carlos [Brathwaite] play like that in his debut World Cup, it’s just tremendous. It shows the depth we have in the Caribbean in T20 cricket and, hopefully, with the right structure and development our cricket will continue to improve in one-day and Test cricket.”
Sammy said the World Cup began with lots of issues: “We felt disrespected by our board, Mark Nicholas described our team as a team with no brains. All these things before the tournament just brought this team together.
“I really want to thank these 15 men, the ability to just put all those adversities aside and to come out and play this type of cricket in front of such passionate fans; it’s just tremendous,” he said, thanking head coach Phillip Simmons and new manager Rawl Lewis, both former West Indies cricketers.
“Lastly, I really want to thank the heads of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), throughout this tournament,” Sammy added. “They have been supporting the team; we’ve got emails; we’ve got phone calls. Prime Minister [Keith] Mitchell [from Grenada], he sent a very inspiring email for the team this morning, and I’m yet to hear from our own cricket board. That is very disappointing.
“For today, I’m going to celebrate with these 15 men and coaching staff,” he continued. “I don’t know when I’m going to be playing with these guys again, because we don’t get selected for one-day cricket. We don’t know when we’re going to be playing T20. So this win, I want to thank you my team, I want to thank you coaching staff, everybody knows West Indies are champion!”
But stating disappointment with Sammy’s “inappropriate” comments, West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) President Dave Cameron offered what has been described as his most conciliatory message to the players for some time.
“Coming up in May this year, the board will host its annual review (retreat) with the players, West Indies Players Association (WIPA), selectors and the technical team to review player, management and technical plans,” he said in statement. “We want to see how we can find common ground in ensuring that the best players in the region are available for selection for West Indies teams.
“The president would like to however apologize for what could be deemed inappropriate, comments made by the West Indies’ male captain, Darren Sammy in a post-match interview and would like to apologize on behalf of the WICB, to the millions of fans who witnessed,” the statement said. “The president has pledged to enquire the reason, and will have the matter addressed.”
In an earlier statement, the WICB praised the three teams — men, women and Under-19 — for being champions this year.
“The men, women and Under-19 teams within the last three months have made the West Indies a region worthy of tremendous attention by being the best at the international level in World Cricket,” the statement said. “We are indeed a proud set of people today, and we want to thank all of you for your tremendous support.”