Over the course of just two weeks in September 2017, the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean were battered by two of the strongest storms to hit the region in living memory, Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The destruction across various islands was widespread, with homes, businesses and vital tourist infrastructure destroyed.
Cricket, a religion in these parts, was not spared the storms’ wrath, with many grounds left badly damaged.
The ICC, recognising the key role sport can play in rebuilding communities’ spirits following a disaster, has arranged a one-off charity T20 international match between an ICC World XI and the West Indies national side to raise funds to help rebuild several of those stadiums in need of significant repair. The match takes place at Lord’s in London on Thursday May 31st.
Funds raised from the match will be directed to five particularly badly affected stadiums in the region:
- Ronald Webster Park in Anguilla,
- Sir Viv Richards Stadium in Antigua,
- Windsor Park Stadium in Dominica,
- A.O. Shirley Recreation Ground in Tortola in the British Virgin Islands; and
- Carib Lumber Ball Park in St Maarten.
Above: Windsor Park in Roseau, Dominica – before and after Hurricane Maria
I admit to playing close attention to this game. I live on an island in the Atlantic hurricane zone and have experienced many strong storms over the years, knowing only too well the destruction and despair they can leave in their wake. Although my home, Bermuda, was spared the worst of the 2017 hurricane season, a lot of my work colleagues and friends in the British Virgin Islands were very badly affected by Irma at the time, and the islands, like so many are still not fully recovered nearly nine months later. So to see the sport rallying around my island cousins is heartwarming, and I hope the occasion is rightly applauded.
Above: Destruction in Road Town, Tortola, BVI after Hurricane Irma
In order to give the match maximum exposure, the ICC has granted it full T20 International status. As another mark of respect, the fact that the match is being held at Lord’s is a real feather in the cap for the organisers, given that the home of cricket has only previously hosted T20Is as part of the World Twenty20 tournament in 2009.
Fittingly, both teams send strong squads to Lord’s. West Indies include Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels as well as big-hitting Evin Lewis, and a returning Andre Russell. For their part, the ICC side is a mix of experience and youth. Captained by England T20 skipper Eoin Morgan on his home county ground, the representative squad includes the two most capped T20 internationals of all time (Pakistani pair Shahid Afridi and Shoaib Malik) as well as Afghanistan’s superstar 19 year-old Rashid Khan and 17-year old Sandeep Lamichhane from Nepal.
Intriguingly, both teams last Twenty20 outings saw series defeats to Pakistan, in Pakistan. An ICC World XI visited Lahore for a three game series last year as part of Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to bring top level cricket back to their home country, losing 2-1 – while the West Indies visited Karachi just last month in a very symbolic tour, which they lost 3-0.
(As an interesting aside, spinner Samuel Badree played in both of those series – for the ICC and West Indies – and is in the squad again here, playing against an ICC side he represented just a few short months ago!)
The West Indies are current World Twenty champions of course, and will be looking to put on a show in a game that will be very keenly watched back in the Caribbean.
Although the focus will rightly be on fun and fundraising, given that it has full status there are a few interesting statistical milestones to keep an eye out for:
Shahid Afridi (ICC World XI / Pakistan)
Above: Shahid “Boom-Boom” Afridi will appear in T20I number 99.
Boom-Boom Afridi is something of a Twenty20 International legend. He is the format’s most capped international player and will make his 99th appearance in a T2oI in this game, two years after last playing for Pakistan.
He also leads the world in T20I wickets with 97, and needs just three to bring up his century.
Shoaib Malik (ICC World XI / Pakistan)
All rounder Shoaib Malik currently has 1875 international runs in the shortest format – which sees him in fifth place all-time. He needs just 15 to overtake Sri Lanka’s Tilakaratne Dilshan and move into fourth in the world.
Eoin Morgan (ICC World XI / England)
Above: ICC and England skipper, Eoin Morgan.
The ICC’s skipper currently has 1678 T20I runs, and sits eleventh in the world run scorers list. Just 13 will see him break into the top ten, dislodging Pakistan’s Umar Akmal
Morgan will also play for his third recognised international team, having previously played for England and Ireland.
Luke Ronchi (ICC World XI / New Zealand)
Morgan’s feat will be matched by keeper Ronchi, also playing for his third international side after keeping for both Australia and New Zealand previously.
Sandeep Lamichhane (ICC World XI / Nepal)
Above: Nepalese wunderkind, Sandeep Lamichhane
At 17 years of age and fresh from a blistering performance in the IPL, leggie Lamichhane will notch up a world first on Thursday – he will become the first player to make his full recognised international debut for a representative side rather than a national side*. Although he has played for Nepal before, this was only in games which did not have official ODI or T20I status granted by the ICC.
He does have experience at Lord’s though, having played for Nepal in their victory over the MCC in 2016.
(* excludes the East Africa side that appeared in the 1975 World Cup, as this was a designated ICC member association at the time)
Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis (West Indies)
Universe Boss Gayle and big-hitting Lewis are two of just seven men to hit more than one T20I century -one more in this game will see them equal New Zealander Colin Munro’s world record of three.