Rising like a phoenix!

“It’s been 13 years, but even today, I clearly remember each and every moment. It was not just a victory for us, it was also our way of weaving new dreams, all over again,” says the left-handed opening batsman and right-arm medium-pace bowler for West Indies in that memorable tournament. 

Wavell Hinds successfully appeals for an LBW decision against Moin Khan in the second semifinal of the ICC Champions Trophy on September 22, 2004.   -  V. V. Krishnan

Those were not the best of times for West Indies cricket. We had hit the rock bottom in Tests, and crowd support was going downhill. There was trouble brewing up here and there, and as cricketers, we didn’t know how to turn the tide.

Those cricket crazy nations, which worshipped us as heroes, were slowly moving away from the stands and the youngsters too needed a morale booster. That’s when the Champions Trophy happened in England — in the summer of 2004.

Under the leadership of Brian Lara, when we travelled to England for the tournament, little did we realise that we would return home with the crown. 

It’s true that we were doing quite decently in the one-dayers, but then, for a team, an International Cricket Council (ICC) event remains the litmus test. So, to prove that we were still that good, it was necessary to make it big in the Champions Trophy.

Well, we could prove ourselves in the end, thanks to a brilliant partnership by two of my team-mates in the final — Ian Bradshaw and Courtney Browne. That evening in London was perhaps one of the most memorable ones in my career. With England almost crushing us to defeat, it was Bradshaw and Browne who stitched together a 71-run partnership for the ninth wicket to realise our dreams. Even after so many years, I feel super happy and thrilled to have been a part of that team.

Before the tournament started, we travelled to Bermuda for a camp. It was a team-building exercise, which ultimately helped the players reunite. We all knew that this was the tournament where we had to do well to bring the supporters back to the stands. And with all the players doing their parts right, it was a happy ending.

Not just in the final, Bradshaw was a consistent performer with the ball throughout the tournament. Ramnaresh Sarwan too chipped in with some solid knocks in the middle-order. And overall, it was skipper Lara who ensured that we remained a happy unit. I think we only got better as the tournament progressed.

While we rose like a phoenix in the final, the quarterfinal game against South Africa was no less dramatic. What looked like a cliff-hanger, suddenly turned our way. Of course, the credit should go to Lara, Sarwan and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. Even after losing me and Chris Gayle in quick succession, they built steady partnerships to keep the momentum going. Once we won against South Africa, the confidence grew and we knew that we could make it big this time around.

It’s been 13 years since, but even today, I clearly remember each and every moment. It was not just a victory for us, it was also our way of weaving new dreams, all over again.

But as I walk down memory lane, there is something that hurts. While all other teams are gearing up for intense competition, it is saddening to see West Indies missing out on the action in this edition of the Champions Trophy. It quite disappointing. But with a young side around, we can only hope to rebuild the team and come back stronger!

(As told to Shayan Acharya)

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