West Indies, the people’s champion

Something very unusual, and heartwarming, happened in the moments following the West Indies winning the World T20 in Colombo. The players celebrated like no one else I have seen but across the world, in countries that played cricket and those that merely followed it, there was an outpouring of joy. It does not happen in sport. Excuses are found, plots are unearthed, there is much loathing on message boards and in chat rooms and anger is not unknown among fans. But with the West Indies there was the kind of joy we see when a much loved relative returns. It seems everyone wanted to sing a song and shake a leg. Even my mother-in-law was beaming!

There must be a reason. There must be many in fact. Every team in our little cricket world is both liked and hated. Often these are mere perceptions but the world is ruled more by perception than reality anyway! And so the Aussies are disliked because they are seen to be cocky and because they sledge, the English because they look down on opponents, Indians because they seem to exercise power so visibly, Pakistan because some of their players seem to straddle the divide between what is acceptable and what isn't. But the West Indies don't seem to present us with a reason to dislike them. I mean, they don't even have fast bowlers who snarl and aim to knock your head off.

It could just be that in recent years they have threatened no one, they haven't conquered, they haven't trodden on emotions. They have largely lost and as I learnt early in my career following India, good natured teams that lose have all the ingredients needed for popularity. The West Indies have no history of ruling others or going to war with them either; indeed, if anything they have emerged out of the darkness of colonisation, they have felt segregation, they have been victims of history.

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