West Indian team still lacking direction

Suresh Raina, India's cricket captain for the limited-overs leg, arrives for a training session at the historic Queen's Park Oval in Port of Spain, Trinidad.-AP

Despite the growing stature of football in Trinidad and Tobago, cricket remains a passion. Indeed, legends have left their immortal footprints at the Queen's Park Oval. Sunil Gavaskar, a member of the television commentary panel here, is among them. He created timeless edifices in an arena steeped in history. That was also the era of the cricketing giants from the Caribbean. Now, things have come a full circle, writes S. Dinakar.

Port of Spain blends itself with captivating hills. The person manning the wheels has to negotiate sharp bends. The ups and the downs reflect a greater truth. Moments fly away carrying with them the myriad hues of life. Sunshine is a sovereign element in these parts. But then, these are times when dark clouds have cast a shadow over West Indies cricket. The side is sliding down the slippery slope. The great conquests of the past are now a fading dream. In keeping with the mood in the cricketing scene here, clouds rule the sky. The threat of rain is imminent.

Meanwhile, the Indian cricket team, without a few major stars, gets down to business at the quaint Queen's Park Oval. There are several familiar smiling faces. Skipper Suresh Raina appears to be relishing the additional responsibility. With several members of the new-look side either anxious to cement their places or making a comeback, the team is not short on motivation.

One catches up with the side's fitness trainer Ramji Srinivasan. He is still savouring India's World Cup triumph. “You know, India is the only top side that did not lose players due to injury during the World Cup? It gives us great satisfaction,” he says.

The team now has a new coach in the taciturn Duncan Fletcher. He is busy knocking balls during the catching drills. His eyes flick around the arena as he sends the players running to hold balls of different trajectories.

The elegant Port of Spain of colonial charm — the city is the capital of Trinidad and Tobago — is not short of people of Indian origin. In fact, the East Indians comprise as much as 40 per cent of the island nation's population. The island nation has also given Indian cricket one of its own sons, Robin Singh. The present West Indies team could do with some of Robin's fight. Trinidad is the commercial arm of the country while Tobago, the smaller island, draws the tourists for its pristine beaches.

Despite the growing stature of football in the country, cricket remains a passion. Indeed, legends have left their immortal footprints at the Queen's Park Oval. Sunil Gavaskar, a member of the television commentary panel here, is among them. He created timeless edifices in an arena steeped in history. That was also the era of the cricketing giants from the Caribbean. Now, things have come a full circle.

Asks one young fan, “Does India not rate the West Indies as a good team at all? Why has it sent a second string team to the Caribbean?” Sachin Tendulkar is hugely popular here. There is considerable disappointment that the maestro will not be seen in action this time around. “I do not think we will see the little master again in the West Indies,” laments cabbie Ronny. The left-handed genius from Trinidad, Brian Lara, is his other hero. “He could do magic, man,” says Ronny. Lara, meanwhile, throws a big bash for both the Indian and the West Indies teams, but his good friend Tendulkar is missing.

Cricket gets underway and a second line Indian team comes up trumps in the one-off Twenty20 match and the first two ODIs. The party never ends at the vibrant ‘Trini' stand, but the West Indies has little to celebrate. Former West Indies captain Carl Hopper, after a 90-minute run in Port of Spain's famous savannah that reveals his fitness at 44, talks about pride or the lack of it. And Chris Gayle, the one man who could have made a difference, and the West Indies Cricket Board are playing hide and seek. It's a sad scenario in this luminous land that once was a dominant force in the cricketing world. We return to life and its great truth.