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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 1588

Lalin's Column: Caribbean Calypso Cricket Carnival at Ketterama

By Major General (Retired) Lalin Fernando

Lalin_Fernando_4.jpgThe lads from the Caribbean deservedly won the T20 title beating host SL’s favourite team. Even as Gayle promised for his side, SL too had been ready to party.

Yet few if any grudged the Windies their victory, their spontaneous and joyous celebrations and the promise of calypsos and carnivals back home instead of much looked forward to bailas, bajous, papares and midnight revelry on accident prone streets in SL if the result had been reversed.

Contrary to some comments appearing in the SL press by scornful cable network commentators from a neighboring country, SL was a favourite of many from UK to South Africa through Pakistan and Australia. Ironically it was the country of the very commentators that was scuttled after the super eight rounds-deservedly and to the relief and joy of all its neighbours, bar none. They bugged out blaming the weather (10 minutes of warm rain). It satisfied them. The mercurial Windies, lions when winning and lambs when losing however had been on everyone’s betting list.

Two men had defining and unforgettable moments, Marlon Samuels soaring with his 6 sixes and Malinger disintegrating giving 54 runs in 4 overs.

There has to be and there was the luck factor too. Was Samuels LBW to Mathews in the 3rd over like Bravo was definitely not later? If Kulasekera had held on to that catch off Samuels there would not have been that massive shattering of Malinga which was not totally unexpected. It has happened before. When Mahela was dropped by Bravo it was hoped the Windies had dropped the T20 trophy too. But the SL batsmen were on a mass suicide mission that day (national total - 2,600 annually) and nothing could save them. The Windies held their nerve and won, handsomely.

If there were no roars of joy when the match ended as when Gayle got out, there were no scenes of frustration, envy and desperation too. The Windies were SL’s second favourites. They had only dropped from first place when SL started taking part in ICC level cricket. True the Windies did join England and Australia to delay our entry into the ICC and then childishly collaborated with the out flanked really silly Aussies in not playing in SL in the 1996 World Cup.

It was, as Gayle will surely admit, a case of the Windies board finding sponsors for its perennially ebbing finances. They are forgiven as from Leary Constantine (1950s) to Sobers (1990s) they have come over and helped coach us and how. Did not a Trinitian, Kanyairam (?), also play for the Windies pre Second World War? Were not calypsos and Harry Belafonte from as far back as the famous 3 Ws, (Worrel, Weekes and genial giant Walcott), Ramadhin and Valentine and the awesome fast bowling batteries that made many brave men quail, adored in SL? There was Lara’s 300 at Galle too.

It was a festive month. The streets of Colombo and Kandy had joyous thousands from the best countries of the Commonwealth determined to have a ball. The best of world’s women cricketers too with their ‘batters’ were here with their supporters for their championship at the same time.

They were quite at home amongst the friendliest people on earth. They are sure to spread the word. The Tourist Board should give SLC a big cash bonus for attracting many more people for this one event than the Board will ever get for anything it organizes.

Suriyawewa and Pallekelle will now be spoken of in the same breath as Newlands, Lahore, Gabba, Sabina Park et al even if Kettarama is not already.

There were South Africans at the semi finals that had been happily trekking all over SL before as their forefathers had in the Veldt. They had the best Test side.

Their supporters were heard exchanging notes on where, what and why with their first time in SL countrymen. They confided that the Indians had garnered supporters as far as from Coventry (UK)! They winced at the utterly discordant rendering of a national anthem by one Asian side. Their tall, lean, mean fast bowlers Stein and Morkel with classical actions brought back memories of Adcock and Heine in 1961 who even when England with 300 on the board with Hutton, Washbrook, May and Sheppard batting, struggled to cope.

There were the perennials, the seasoned Barmy English and the dour combative Australians who count cousins of many from SL among their tribesmen. There was one Brit who got caught stealing books of tickets using elementary skills. At the finals those visitors who remained after their teams bowed out, were seen rooting for SL, carrying SL flags, wearing SL shirts or with tiny SL flags painted on their cheeks. That infectious affection for SL with all its faults grows with or without every cricketing contest. Even amongst some naughty neighbors.

When Australia, given no chance at the start got into the semi finals, the buzz was about Warner and Watson. They were crowd pullers out of the ordinary. Gayle with extraordinary 7 sixes ended any chance of an upset. SL took serious notice.

SL’s neighbors’ players are apparently still alive back home despite living in a country that goes berserk when they lose. Burning cricketers’ homes is a very popular sport there. They must be ruing copying the completely inappropriate Usain Bolt gesture they made as they posed for their group photo. Visitors are more familiar with other poses. Their trade mark grimacing when they achieve anything, disgusts. It is a revelation in comparison to watch how relaxed and calm Afridi is when he takes a wicket, just like that spinning marvel Ajmal and it has to be said every time of their skipper Dhoni too.

Some neighbors had bought tickets for the finals, expecting to see their side which had scooted after the super eights, play if not win. Some of their females were a sight in skimpy shorts that they would never dare wear back home. Fair enough, they have come a long way. They now wear helmets when on motor cycles and seat belts in their cars too. And no longer do their batsmen play fast bowling from where the leg umpire stands as they did when Fred Truman rattled them (1960) or when Bedi led them off the field in the Windies after a softening up session from the famed Caribbean beamer specialists. Remember?

The Paks, the Windies of the East, having lost some of their most promising and world class players to artful scheming and meant to be obliterating scams engineered by their Eastern neighbor, were there too. They were disappointed not to be in the final reckoning but delirious about the super eight results too! What lovely bevies of astonishingly pretty girls supported them. The Banglas played well. In the next T20 that will be played in their country they will definitely be a force to be reckoned with. The Afghans flattered and lost only by 16 runs after battering the self proclaimed favorites for thunderous sixes and continued to do so in their other matches too, thrilling all. The Irish disappointed but are surely capable of better results even if their best migrate to England like Morgan. They do have some SL coaches to help them.

The Kiwis, as popular as the Windies with SL crowds especially in Kandy from where the best of SL’s rugby players come, had the entertainers like McCullum and Taylor but their reliance on some trusted old stayers, probably denied them a place at the finish.

The Windies deserved to win as much as SL did not deserve to lose. It’s just a game and losing to the Windies brought out the best of SL in defeat. Our players did their best, made no excuses and congratulated the winners warmly. Like their agonized compatriots who watched them lose but yet applauded the winners. It was an unforgettable month of spectacular and enthralling cricket played by the best men, not forgetting the women cricketers of the world too.

SLC was the first Asian country to host a T20 world cup and did it in grand style by taking on the women’s tournament at the same time too. But the ICC made a bit of a mess by hiring the not greatly desired and decidedly quaint ‘cheer leaders’ at shockingly cheap rates. Those unfortunates, dragooned to dress in garish garb they would otherwise not have been seen dead in, made one wonder who was the meanie behind this? The chosen lasses made up for their lack of ‘oomph’ with devilishly gyrations that took the place of any known dance routines. We only hope they were paid well for being cruelly exploited and mocked. There were some problems of ticket sales too. The ICC must answer for that too as they had it under their control. Or did they?

We were worthy finalists for the fourth time. It made one man suggest we were ‘chokers’. So what about the ‘ neighbor’? They lost out on 3 super eights.

There was not a trace of rancour in defeat. Cheeky, uproarious if irreverent SL humor took over in irrepressible high gear and went viral in comic strips, music and satire, sparing none.

The Windies deserved to win as much as SL did not deserve to lose. It was ‘cricket lovely cricket’ all the way. Losing to the Windies brought out the best of SL in the spirit of cricket.

Mahela showed what a courageous and astute leader he was, that the legendary playing skills he was famed for were still very much there and in defeat what a great gentleman he was. Our players had aimed high, made no excuses and congratulated the winners warmly. All SL watched the Windies celebrate in Gangnam style in the middle of the Kettarama grounds as though they owned it (and why not at the time?). If they were rueful they were also not without affection for the world’s most gifted cricketers.

Darren Sammy and all you happy and wonderful West Indians –deservedly well done. Thank you also for providing cricket equipment and hosting 40 orphans from the Wellawatte Children’s home to Grand Stand seats and ice cream at the final- sans publicity.

Mahela and the team; we share your pain knowing you did your best for us all. Better luck next time.

Last but not least well done CEO SLC Air Vice Marshal Ajit Jayasekera (retired) and Events Coordinator Ms Upekha Nel, a mighty atom if ever there was one, for a world class job done by world class standards. Unsung and unrewarded you may be but SL is grateful for your silent, skillful, dedicated and successful management of the first ever ICC men’s and women’s T20 tournament played in SL in 2012 and thankful for the joy it brought to millions the world over, especially the children of SL who saw it live. SL will not forget.

- Asian Tribune -

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