|When Rudyard Kipling, the author of classics Kim and The Jungle Book (both set in India), wrote about East and West not meeting, he definitely did not foresee the coming encounters between the West Indies and India in Lauderhill. Of course in those days, it was not cricket to have twenty-twenty vision. What he did predict was the clash of the Titans. As he said, there is neither East nor West, border, breed or birth when two strong men stand face to face regardless of which end of the earth they come from.
Lauderhill is the battleground for the coming together face-to-face of two cricketing giants. Mahendra Singh Dhoni is reputedly the best Captain in the world and the most successful Indian captain of all time. His astute leadership and his famous “Helicopter” shot, quick hands and agile brain, computing all the odds, angles and options, places him in the history books even though he is still on the playing field. He is the finisher par excellence. Carlos Brathwaite, the newly appointed West Indies T20 Captain, is younger and still a bits and pieces player, but with the capacity to change a game completely, taking it away from the opposition with bat, ball or his fielding. He is a towering presence, 6’4” tall, but has a batting average of 19.66 and a bowling average of 42.4 which must improve. The question is would he be able to lift his game and his team at the same time? In his favor, Carlos has with and behind him a team comprising players who won the T20 World Cup twice. Dhoni has at his command a formidable pool of talent that has taken India to the top of the test rankings and is hungry for more worlds and teams to conquer. Waiting in the wings to take the mantle of leadership in T20 as he has done in the other forms of the game is Virat Kholi a cricket genius who at 27 has the incredibly high average of 58.6 in T20 internationals.
It is an event that is ready-made for high drama and great feats. It is very much like the classic Western movie, High Noon, where Gary Cooper as the Sheriff faces off with his enemy Frank Kane (Ian McDonald) and his supporters including Lee Van Cleef. It is an epic contest worth the waiting, full of tension, excitement, suspense and uncertainty as all previous India versus West Indies T20s have been. To continue the Western theme, when the 3.10 to Yuma reaches the station, only then will we find out which team will be left standing at the Station and which will be left behind in Boot Hill.
The history of the clashes between these two cricketing giants who emerged out of the Colonial era as masters of the game capable of teaching the English who invented the sport a thing or two, is one that started off in favour of the West Indies but with the balance swinging increasingly towards India. According to Wikipedia, “In 1948, West Indies toured newly independent India for the first time for a five Test tour. The tour was preceded by a non-Test tour of Pakistan and followed by a similar short tour of Ceylon. After three high-scoring draws against the Indians, the West Indians wrapped up the fourth by an innings before a thrilling fifth Test, which left the Indians six runs away from victory with two wickets in hand as time ran out, so that the West Indies thus won the rubber 1–0. Carrying on from his hundred in the series against England, Everton Weekes set a record of scoring hundreds in five successive Test innings.”
The Indians toured at the beginning of 1953. In Trinidad and Guyana their arrival was like a homecoming and Carnival, very much like the behavior of Caribbean people when the West Indies arrived in England and eventually dominated. Wikipedia states, “The Windies won the second of the five Tests that were played, with the others all being draws. The highlight of these games was Frank Worrell‘s 237 in the fifth Test, where all the three Ws (Walcott and Weekes were the other two) scored hundreds, as the West Indies scored a 1–0 series victory.”
Later on there was Sunil Gavaskar (celebrated in Calypso as a “wall”) and the whole dynasty of spinners, led initially by Subhash Gupte, still considered the best leg-spinner of all time. Until recently, the West Indies were second only to their own country, India, in the affections of the cricket-loving Indian fans. Even now, cricketers like Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Andre Russell, key players in the Indian Premier League (IPL) are favourites in India. When they go on the streets in Bangalore or Kolkotta, they are mobbed by fans. Dwayne Bravo’s song “Champion” became a hit in India, West Indies and everywhere cricket is played.
The two T20 matches in Lauderhill at one of the best cricketing stadiums in the world are something to savour. India, dominant in Tests, and the West Indies back to their staple cricketing diet of T20. Dhoni and his sidekick Kholi, and the recently appointed Coach, the wily leg-spinner Anil Kumble, are all anxious to build on the platform of success started by Dhoni and to create a new dynasty that will last far into the future. Youngsters like Jasprit Bumrah and Lokesh Rahul are poised to take their place in the vanguard. Brathwaite, anxious to justify his selection as the West Indies Captain, and a group of players who have already proven their worth as professional T20 players who ply their trade globally, are their opponents and, one hopes, their biggest stumbling blocks.
There are no draws in T20. If you’re a player or a team, you either win or lose. But if, like us, you are spectators, you have the best of all worlds. Enjoy the cricket. You are part of history.