Cricket culture clash looms in Caribbean

Sunday Times


TELFORD VICE, Cape Town

CHINUA Achebe should be writing this. Or perhaps Harper Lee. Even George Orwell. It is the story of what happens when things fall apart and mockingbirds are killed, and it starts around 1984.

It is a triptych of cricket cultures – one at rock bottom, another in decline, and still another seemingly bulletproof to such drama. It is a look at West Indies, SA and Australia ahead of their one-day series in the Caribbean that starts this week.

In 1984 no-one would have dared suggest that West Indies would soon be but a pale puce shadow of their maroon greatness. That’s what happens when you assume success will take care of itself.

SA were up to their necks in isolation in 1984 but they are learning that lesson now, in the wake of the retirement of major players, an economy that is squeezing cricket into a dark corner, and a vortex of insistent politics.

Australia, meanwhile, continue to advance fair. They are the World Cup champions, the top-ranked ODI side, and unshakably focused on their next step forward. Who remembers that, in 1984, they won 11 and lost 15 tests and ODIs?   

You would rather be Australia than West Indies, but the latter loom larger than they did before they won the men’s and women’s World T20 in April. That followed their under-19s’ World Cup triumph.

“The West Indies have won three more World Cups than we’ve won and they won them in one year,” Russell Domingo said.

“They probably didn’t have the best T20 World Cup final but they’ve got a guy who can hit four sixes in a row.”

That guy is Carlos Brathwaite, the home side’s most bristling batsman.

AB de Villiers would seem to be SA’s answer to that kind of audacity, but leave room for the return of the prodigal: Wayne Parnell, who bled 85 runs in nine overs and scored a skinny 17 not out in his last ODI – against India during the 2015 World Cup. Parnell has since rebuilt his self-belief at franchise level.

“I’ve always thought Wayne Parnell is a special cricketer with a lot of ability,” Domingo said. “I am so pleased that he has gone into domestic cricket and done exactly what was required.

“He needed to get some game time and play week in, week out get some overs under his belt and get his confidence where it needs to be.”

Which brings us to a Goliath called David, as in Warner; that most Australian of Australians. He is short of neither confidence nor muscle and the Aussies have securely moored their psyche to players like him.

Do not be surprised if Parnell, Brathwaite and Warner dominate this tournament, given the conditions and the culture of one-day cricket.

But only of them can win it. Mickey Spillane should write that story.

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