The wins in the finals of the ICC World T20 Cricket Championships by both the West Indies women’s and men’s teams last Sunday in India was a momentous occasion for all West Indians.
These wins followed on the heels of the win by the West Indies Under-19 boys in the ICC T20 Championships in Bangladesh a few months ago.
From all reports in the mainstream media and on social media, people across the English-speaking Caribbean and even West Indians in the Diaspora were glued to their television sets or computers via Internet watching the finals. And the collective sounds of excitement, joy, exhilaration and relief could be heard across our region when those four sixes by Barbadian Carlos Brathwaite were struck in the last over to bring home the trophy to the West Indies.
It is said that even those who don’t follow cricket or support the West Indies got on board this momentum of pride that spread across the islands.
Sport in today’s world has the potential to be a major influence on the hearts and minds of people. For many spectators, sport provides entertainment; but for many it is also their passion. They take the game seriously. Winning motivates them, and losing certainly demotivates.
German philosopher and economist Karl Marx said religion was the opium of the people. One wonders, in our modern era, if sports is not the new opium of the people.
In India, where this tournament was played, cricket is taken very seriously. Almost 70,000 people where present in the stadium in Kolkata for the final match between England and West Indies. In the semi-finals between India and the West Indies, a capacity crowd of over 30,000 filled the stands in Mumbai.
It was a dismay for many Indians to have been knocked out of the tournament at that stage. The media even sadly reported that a young girl had taken her own life as a result of India’s loss.
In the past, riots have broken out when India lost matches. Such is the passion of sport, like cricket, that drives people across the world.
In addition to the thousands who crammed the stands to watch the match, millions more were tuned in across the globe. Technology has certainly made sports accessible to all people all over. From the small rural villages in distant lands to the high-rise towers in the world’s capitals, sports are now beamed live and direct into the privacy of the home. Sports are a multibillion-dollar industry; and cricket is no exception.
And whereas in the past much of the income came from people buying tickets to watch the game, now the big money is made from broadcast rights and product/service advertising and endorsements.
Corporations with big-name products and services look for icons of sports to spend millions to get endorsement. Sports personalities make “big bucks” through such product endorsement.
Those on top of their game will benefit tremendously, but woe to those who fall from grace. Corporations will as quickly drop those athletes who for one reason or the other are not performing, have run afoul of the rules of the game, or have some personal crisis, or are guilty of behaviour not acceptable by the standards of the general public.
In this billion-dollar industry, sports have made it possible for many athletes to rise from poverty to economic well-being. These success stories are found across the sporting world.
Cricket has certainly provided that avenue over the years for many West Indians. The success stories of the West Indian giants like Barbados National Hero Sir Garfield Sobers who came from a humble background to become a legend in the world of cricket are examples worth emulating by our young aspiring cricketers. They must see beyond their limited resources and instead focus on doing all and sacrificing to make it to the top of their game.
Unfortunately, a lot of focus seems to be on the fame and fortune, and not the hard work necessary to achieve the goal.
The successes of our cricketers must be told. More importantly their narratives must contain the struggles and sacrifices that were necessary to make it to that point in their careers.
For us spectators, sport must be more than just entertainment; it must be part of our process of learning and gaining something of knowledge. For me, West Indian cricket is instructional in so many ways.
Hats off to educational icons like Sir Hilary Beckles who have given much intellectual capital to West Indian cricket.
The West Indies team themselves are an example worth studying. Unlike other teams in the world that represent one country with one nationality, the West Indies team are the coming together of several persons of diverse nationalities and backgrounds, albeit all West Indian; different ethnicities, religious persuasions, economic standings and even different accents.
The fact that such a diverse group of men or women, in the case of the female team, can come together and work together as a team and accomplish such successes is a lesson in itself. We really need to emulate such examples in all other spheres in our region.
The collective joy felt by all West Indians last Sunday is another lesson to take away. Caribbean people of all nationalities –– Jamaican, Trinidadian, Barbadian, Guyanese, Grenadian and so on –– and all backgrounds and races, at home and abroad, were all proud of what was achieved: three important titles in the world of cricket.
And similarly as we feel overjoyed with the successes, so to do we feel sad at their defeats. And unfortunately there have been many of those in the last years of West Indian cricket.
Passion, drive and commitment to winning seemed to be the motivational factors that drove these three West Indian teams to success in this year’s ICC T20 tournament. It is said that battles are won in the mind before they are actually fought on the battlefield. With a motivated and respected leader and a committed team the battle can be fought with very strong possibilities of winning.
As reported in the media, it seems there were several challenges faced by our West Indian team, but their desire to win overcame those challenges –– life lessons for us spectators, and certainly food for thought for the cricket administrators of our region.
Winning and losing are both contagious. Let us chose winning so that attitude can spread across our region and we can regain our dominance of world cricket, and instil in our people that against all odds and challenges we can overcome with patience, determination and pride.
I am reminded of a quote I saw in a Robin Hood movie: “Rise and rise until lambs become lions!”
I congratulate the three West Indian teams: the Under-19 males, the ladies and the men on their successes.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace and secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association.