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Cricket, unlovely cricket

By Sheila Rampersad

The weather was glorious in spells; so was the West Indies. Monday morning, old timers at the Queen's Park Oval for the first ball at 9 o'clock, people from far far like Moruga driving to town early early, not only because of the distance but because that's just the way they are, merciful sun shining over the field, the stands creating a shadow ring over the boundary, Indian opening batsman Dhawan strolling to take his position in the little shade in front Republic Bank stand, no noise yet from those Trini Posse party people, the Oval still sober, and it seemed, on a day that starts like that, nothing could go wrong.

But much did.

An ordinary game, a lacklustre performance from the home side, a run here, a run there, overs ticking over, about five boundaries and a couple sixes, and the West Indies score inching ahead, all in the Oval knowing full well that India in outstanding form from the ICC World Cup and IPL, knowing that 214 is nowhere close to challenging them, even without Tendulkar, Sehwag, Yuvraj, Dhoni, and Gambhir. Half a side, Oval commentators called the Indians. But even with half a side, 214 nowhere close; we all knew it.

But who to tell and what to do? This, surely, is the definition of despair. With no one listening to the cricket intelligence that grows like grass in the region, take it out on Otis Gibson. It was his misfortune that during lunch, a ball rolled towards the boundary and he followed to retrieve it. The Oval crowd let loose on him in a language so virulent coming from faces so enraged that it equalled their misery.

In their turn, India making runs look easy like Sunday morning, and before you know it, afternoon was upon the Oval, the game dragging towards its inevitable result, humidity rising, everything in the place way too expensive, chairs feeling like concrete under your weight, West Indian bowlers unable to penetrate, and the sigh not heard but seen in faces and shoulders of enduring West Indians, some of whom had come from far far from early early that Monday morning.

Mistakes can be corrected, errors fixed, the team can do better.

Wednesday morning and the sun hiding, uncertain. Not so West Indian supporters. A different team, it seemed, showed up. Runs flowing, India on the back foot, Captain Raina wondering, for sure, if letting us bat first was the right decision. Simmons hitting boundaries, Edwards too, and look, we get a four off a wide. Things good. Simmons redeeming himself, Edwards out but no biggie because we have bat inside. Sarwan tickling a few and smacking some, 20 overs gone and we 96-1. Thirty over gone, Simmons out but we going good at 136-2. Look how Samuels was lazy to run on Monday but today he graceful and elegant, oui! He get stumped, but is okay. When last West Indies had a score like that: 192-3 in 40 overs; in the last 10 we will take it to 260 easy easy.

On a day that starts like this, nothing could go wrong.

But much did.

Four wickets for five runs, and limping now over the 200 mark. Grateful for 240, overcome with the sameness of a batting collapse, shoulders starting to slump but look, people left their homes and raced to the Oval because it seemed, finally, surely, it bound to-must happen today, the team must win this one.

Support for West Indies cricket endures, it seems, beyond the endurance of the players themselves. What is this thing about West Indies cricket that keeps many thousands of us across the English-speaking region still so tied to the team and the game that they now play so ordinarily? Long past the glory days, past individual brilliance, team and region hurtling towards a place dark and unknown, yet the support endures.

We steups. We start the cricketing day saying "But all you know they getting licks again". We imagine the worse, imagining not hard to do given the team's record, till we say "If West Indies play against West Indies they go still lose". We shake heads knowingly, except inside the knowing is the hope we fear to express that this time, this game, this player, this selection will help us turn the corner.

We talk politics, discipline, strategy, Board, coach, heart, money. Yet we carry chow, curry, pelau, beers, rum, double dog, cushions, radio and once in a while, a tonkabean. Husbands and wives on work days, children on school days, neighbour buying a ticket for the broken pardner, meet me in Carib stand, yes we have the food, come quick look the game start, it have no replay here, and we continue this abusive relationship with West Indies cricket, in love with it but in such thorough despair, waiting, waiting for the odd day when they will light our fire, and return us, just once in a while, to the mountaintop.

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