The countdown will soon be over. The grand stage is set. All the talking is now history. All of the predicting means nothing. Time to get ready. Let the games begin.
England looks invincible. Australia appears formidable. India seems suddenly vulnerable. What about the West Indies? They could challenge. They have the advantage of sneaking up on those more highly touted in true dark horse fashion.
On paper a little unflattering; in reality more than erratic. Looks like a real gamble to risk longshot money. Regional citizens have limited options as to which side to cheer for – other than the home side.
Yes, the game has changed; arguably been revolutionised in the span of a handful of decades. Yes, Test cricket is still king of the hill in terms of prestige, nostalgia, history, legends, and that unique ambience that blends sporting prowess with national fervour and regional pride.
But as technology develops, and cricketing advances (some not so much for the better) have narrowed time and space, as well as attention spans, World Cup Cricket has accelerated its own drawing power, as well as refined interest and that peculiar magnetism that is so much part of the game.
It is an ongoing process that seeks to enhance the once fading allure of the sport in the face of a younger generation committed to the instant gratifications of the shorter formats. Give the people what they want. Let there be something for every type of fan, most of whom are on the run. World Cup Cricket it is, and in the western ‘Mecca of cricket’.
The worshippers will be out in multitudes; most of them electronically attuned, and in tune with every six and strike and slap through the covers. And with more than a few menacing bumpers, mesmerising spinners, and unsung and unknown superstars in the waiting. This is factory-made for an already “underdog” West Indies contingent. It is a contingent that is now starting its slow, laboured ascent to the level of the genuinely feared and the truly illustrious. That can be advantageous.
There are a couple of swashbucklers in the glorious tradition; this is their moment, their proving ground on the big screen of ferocious competition with and against the best. The West Indies is going to have to bring and deliver the best game it is capable of every session, every day, every match. There will be no give, no free plays, no mercy. The team is going to have to develop a killer instinct, that disemboweling of opponents, take no prisoners, mentality. All of them. All the time.
To continue with the war illustration, opponents will make every effort to ensure that the pitch is scorched, that there will be no ease as in retreat. Do or die. Go for broke.
Can the maroon magicians find the right combination and the proven formula, and sparkle at the right time? Amidst the battalions of lumbering, swaggering behemoths, they have to rise to the occasion. A lot of hopes rest with them, many dreams, too. Hope and dreams that refuse to forget or let go of the storied days, still touchable, still visible in the glittering floodlights of the mind’s eye.
There is a great anticipatory hush in Bridgetown, Georgetown, and Kingston. No more sticking inseparably (calls of nature and all) for the ancient, pedestrian rhythms of ball by ball, compliments of the old transistor and radio networks. Gone. There are all those screens and in colour, too: the big ones of television; and the pocketsize ones that fit in the palm of the hand. This is the life.
Greenwich Mean Time means some lost man-hours, some lost productivity, some lost vitality and quality. That does not matter, as long as the men in that denser shade of magenta keep moving along, mowing down, and maximising all the way to the top of the world. They can surprise. Believe.
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