Have you ever imagined this setting? You can actually stuff an entire country’s population in a match at Eden Gardens, Kolkatta. To top it all the country has a cricket team. Well, come out of the imagination and you can see the reality. Guernsey is one such country
Their cricketers are the best ambassadors for small country cricket. Watching them from close quarters in WCL 5, I felt that they were the best personifications for the much abused ‘It’s just a sport’. While they give it their all on the field, they are gregarious and fun-loving characters off it
In a match that was affected by rain, all of them volunteered to be the groundsmen for the day. This gesture was not lost on the opposition, Argentina, as they too ventured in getting the match started. It was the second match of Guernsey that I watched. What actually caught the eye and knowing that little more about the team was a little gesture at the break of the innings. All of their players stood up to applause in welcoming Kneller, who turned the match around in the batting powerplay. They stood on to applaud Ferbrache who was instrumental in holding an end as Kneller went bonkers at the end. All the players of the team and the supporting staff had enough sense in standing on and applauding the Argentinian team off the field. This gesture was not lost on the people watching the game
In their next game, they had to endure a heart-breaking loss to Malaysia. Going into the final over, it seemed as if they were the favourites. It was not to be and they lost the game by four runs. Far from giving reasons for their loss, the players took it on the chin and looked forward to improving their skill sets. A couple of players that I spoke to said that it wouldn’t have mattered a lot in the final analysis as they felt that Malaysia would have gone in with a stronger eleven into their final league match, than what they actually did- they rested their best batsman for the match. One of the star performers for the Guernsey team, whom I met in the lift, said ‘It was an enjoyable match, isn’t it? We will have to perform better when we find ourselves in a similar situation the next time around’
The next time, though, came pretty soon. Two games after their match against Malaysia, they faced Cayman Islands in a third-place play-off. The batting didn’t click, but they set up a challenging target. The bowlers and fielders did the job for the first half of the Cayman Islands innings. The catch by Hooper at extra-cover off Gordon was an instant classic. It would have found its way to youtube if it were to be a game between the member countries. When Best and Wright set the ball rolling for a Cayman Islands win with their partnership, the shoulders didn’t wilt. They were trying their best to break the partnership
The momentum swung throughout the slog overs. To spice up the proceedings, there was a threat of rain. Cayman Islands was ahead on D/L tables. The bowlers and the fielders didn’t allow this to deter them and were intent on giving it their all. Under the circumstances, they did the best thing to keep the game in check- take wickets. With the equation down to 19 off 2 overs, Guersey seemed to be the team with the wherewithal to seal the game. Conroy Wright had other plans, though. He unleashed the flattest of sixes in the over and Cayman Islands were left needing 8 runs off the final over. The hot air, a batsman in rampaging form and tired fielders meant that Cayman Islands were in with the better chance. When Wright took a couple off the first ball, the supporters of Guernsey had given up. Fortunately Ferbrache wasn’t amongst the players that gave up. He ran to his right and leapt about three feet at long-off to pull off a stunning catch.
Wright, the batsman, was stunned at the way the catch was pulled off. He thought that he had the match won with that lofted hit. The denouement was to come as Taylor struck a boundary of the very next ball to get the target down to two runs. He threw the kitchen sink at the next ball and fortunately, missed. Hooper, the bowler was not amused as it was a leg cutter that he had bowled. The entire ground, by this moment, was up on its feet. When the yorker found the target, the stumps, the team was ecstatic.
In the middle of their celebrations, they again found a way to cheer the opposition team off the playing field. In the process, they won the hearts of the people. On the eve of the tournament, the manager said that the biggest strength of the team was the way they struck with each other, through thick and thin. They demonstrated that strength amply through the length of the tournament.
Even better, they showed that they learnt from their mistakes. With teams like this, it’s not the aid that matters, but the exposure. Till then Guernsey, keep winning matches and accumulate fans. It won’t be a surprise if their fans outnumber the population in the near future