C.L.R.—Unsurprisingly—Is Still Right

“[Learie] Constantine’s leg-glance from outside the off-stump to long-leg was a classical stroke. It was not due to his marvelous West Indian eyes and marvelous West Indian wrists. It was due, if you must have it, to his marvelous West Indian brains.” — C.L.R. James

“West Indies are short of brains but have IPL history in their ranks.” ­— Mark Nicholas

In 2016, to be a fan of West Indies cricket, you must be masochistic, nostalgic, or some sickening combination of the two. Between (re)watching YouTube clips of Malcolm Marshall eviscerating off-side stumps and combing through ‘60s-era match reports from Queens’ Park Oval, the cotemporary West Indies supporter is treated to innings defeats, false dawns, and reports of payment disputes. It becomes a depressing rhythm of sorts.

That’s what makes 2016—and today especially—so otherworldly: The West Indies are, beyond all reasonable expectations, making positive headlines. Three major tournaments have begotten three West Indian champions. From the U-19 side to the underappreciated T20 women to the men’s victory hours ago, 2016 is already the most successful West Indian cricketing year in decades—hyperbole be damned.

However, these successes have brought out a strange yet sadly predictable negativity from certain corners of the cricketing world. The U-19’s Maknad has been discussed and dissected in harsher terms than Michael Clarke’s threat to break another human’s bone. The T20 men have been pilloried for having outsized personalities and hitting too many sixes. Even the T20 women have been criticized for their celebrations. The question is, why?

Race is everywhere in sport, no matter how color blind you claim to be. We like to think that sport is a safe sphere untouched by the politics of the world, but this is foolish—the same realities and dynamics that exist beyond the boundary exist within it as well. A colleague at work made an interesting observation recently: In the public sphere, while vehement racists are nearly extinct, subtle racism is still endemic. This is true of both sport writing and commentary. When discussing black athletes, there exists a quasi-coded racialized language. Many have written about this fact. Black athletes, frequently, are typecast as arrogant, brash, and naturally gifted. Words such as “canny” or “intelligent” are infrequently used descriptors when compared to their white counterparts.

Do I think Mark Nicholas and others who have voiced similar ideas are racist? No. But I think they’re being intellectually lazy by falling back on these tropes. I am guilty of this as well. In life and sport, many of us are.

You don’t become as good at cricket as the West Indies are without intelligence. See: the final. After dropping to eleven for three, Marlon Samuels crafted a cagey innings that would have been at home in any Test match. He took calculated risks while relieving the pressure on his beleaguered side, slowly dragging the West Indies within striking distance of England’s total. But the overs were running out. As I watched, I thought that, while Samuels’ effort was valiant, it was too little, too late. I was a fool; it was calculated to set the stage for a stunning checkmate.

As Carlos Brathwaite launched the final of his four sixes into the Eden Gardens stands, I gaped in awe. We all did. Yet, to the West Indies—while thrilling—it was far from a surprise: It was all part of the plan. Cool and calculated.

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A Look Back: Adam Gilchrist 149* in Hobart

Few people would have picked November 21st, 1999 as the moment that would launch the career of one of Australia’s greatest ever cricketers.  The Aussies were in danger on day four during their second innings when attempting to chase Pakistan’s total of 369.  Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting both were out for a duck while Steve Waugh had managed just 28 before being bowled and caught by Saqlain Mushtaq.

The Australians were sitting at 126/5 when Adam Gilchrist in his second ever Test entered as the seventh batsman across from Justin Langer late on the fourth day. Impressive on its own, the pair survived to stumps with Langer 52* and Gilly 45* against a Pakistan bowling quartet featuring Wasim Akram, Shoaib Akhtar, Waqar Younis and Saqlain Mushtaq.

On day five, with a steadiness and determination that defined his career, Gilchrist chipped away at Pakistan’s lead while fending off the fierce bowling attack. Reaching 50*, then 100* as Pakistan’s total came closer into sight.  To cap off one of the greatest centuries and gutsy performances, Gilchrist clipped a boundary to win the match for Australia. Richie Benaud summed the moment up perfectly as the Australian side celebrated on the pitch calling it “one of the finest victories I think I’ve ever seen in Test cricket.”

Take a moment to enjoy Adam Gilchrist’s batting display which sparked an incredible Test career.

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Big Bash League Returns

The fifth installment of the Big Bash League returns this Thursday evening when the Sydney Thunder take on last year’s runner up the Sydney Sixers. What better way to get ready for another exciting BBL season then looking back at the wild ending to last year’s final. Here’s to more fantastic finishes although we will certainly miss Brett Lee and The Chainsaw.

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Fifteen Years of Test Cricket in Bangladesh

 

In history books it is Test match number 1,512, but for cricket-obsessed Bangladesh, it is number one. On November 10th 2000, Bangladesh played their first ever Test match against an India lineup that featured the likes of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid. India did not hold back on the newcomers, cruising to a 9 wicket win that week, but in the years since that day in November 2000 we have seen some exciting and inspiring moments out of the Bangladesh Test side. It’s worth taking a look back at their development and where the future lies for the South Asian country in the game’s most celebrated format.

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A West Indian Reverie

The West Indies failing to completely embarrass themselves in the first session of the Hobart Test has allowed the authors of this publication to dream—however momentarily—of long gone Caribbean glory. Specifically, Curtly Ambrose mowing down Australians as if they were crabgrass.

 

 

He’s no Jomel Warrican, though.

We now resume our regularly scheduled program (Eds. note: A calamitous West Indian collapse.) 

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Proteas Tour of India: Early Days

With much of the country focused on the Springboks and their quest for a third Rugby World Cup title, the Proteas are flying a bit under the radar as they begin their Indian tour with three T20 matches followed by five ODIs and four Tests.  The tour, which has been named the Mahatma Gandhi-Nelson Mandela Series, kicked off with the first T20 match in Dharamsala at the iconic Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium on Friday.
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The Death Knell That Wasn’t: County Cricket’s Temporary Clemency

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Flickr/Paul Henderson

2015 was supposed to be the final year we would witness an unbastardized county cricket campaign. A franchise T20 competition beckoned. The first-class season was to be slashed. County cricket, as those who loved the competition recognized it, was to be put to death.

And yet, despite the grim future these developments heralded—after county cricket’s obituary had been penned—the unbelievable happened: nothing.

The momentum within English cricket to fundamentally alter the county season seemed to have finally reached the point of no return. For years, there have been various instances of both rumored and aborted structural changes, yet—blissfully unaware—the 16 match first-class season has managed to survive scare after scare. This year, however, the County Championship was to finally meet its maker in the form of a limited-over reaper—specifically, an eight-team 20-over competition modeled after the IPL, BBL, and CPL.

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