Cape Town - West Indies cricketers of the new millennium were born into a cricketing dynasty.
But the responsibility of maintaining the royal legacy of the 1970’s and 80s proved to be too heavy a burden. All they ever heard about was how great Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Clive Lloyd, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Jeff Dujon were.
It took an entire new format of the game to be unearthed for the next group of superstars from the Caribbean to break free of those shackles and form their own identity. And what an impact they’ve had over the last 15 years.
Dwayne Bravo is the world’s premier wicket-taker in T20 franchise cricket history. Chris Gayle, of course, leads the run-scorers list, but just two places down in third place is Mumbai Indians legend Kieron Pollard. And when it comes to the most sixes struck, Gayle is once again top of the table followed by Pollard and Andre Russell.
Daren Sammy is also the only international captain to lift the ICC T20 World Cup crown on two occasions.
But like with the previous golden generation, the shadows are lengthening on their playing careers, if not already eclipsed, and the baton needs to be passed on smoothly in order for history to not repeat itself.
One of the men tasked to maintain the Caribbean’s proud T20 legacy is all-action all-rounder Odean Smith.
The 26-year-old possesses all the attributes. He sends down thunderbolts in excess of 140km/h and rifles sixes to the distances of 100m into the stands.
With exhilarating skills like these, it was a no brainer why MI Cape Town went for broke at the inaugural Betway SA auction to ensure he packed his bags for Newlands.
Coach Simon Katich had already been exposed to Smith’s powers in the Indian Premier League, and also in the Caribbean Premier League where he once struck Migael Pretorius for five successive sixes.
The Jamaican certainly is the full package, and has all the potential to keep the fires burning.
“I look up to all the (West Indian) guys, because they’ve done a lot for West Indies cricket,” Smith told IOL Sport in an exclusive interview at the MI Cape Town team hotel this week.
“Andre Russel is one of those guys because he’s from my hometown Jamaica, so I think he’s one of those guys that I really look up to, and try to model my game around.”
Smith’s immediate task, however, is to try and power MI Cape Town into the Betway SA20 semi-finals when the tournament resumes next week after the international break.
It has been an indifferent maiden season thus far for the star-studded Newlands-based team. They are currently three points off the playoff positions, but have played a match less than the Sunrisers Eastern Cape (2nd) and Paarl Royals (3rd).
“The fans at Newlands have been amazing. They have come out and supported us and made a lot of noise. We are disappointed that we haven’t really given them all the wins they deserve. Hopefully, we have three games left, and we can make them proud,” Smith said.
It has certainly not been due to a lack of effort on Smith’s part. Since being drafted into the starting XI after missing the first couple of matches, Smith has fast developed into a cult hero at Newlands for his terrific bowling spells.
He already has seven wickets in just five matches, and impressed with how quickly he’s adapted to the different surfaces at the various venues.
Smith’s physical presence does not resemble the hulking sizes of Pollard and Russell. Instead, his power is compressed into a compact package that seems like it could explode at any given time.
It has yet to be unleashed at the Betway SA20 besides a small glimpse when he clubbed an undefeated 25 off just 13 balls against the Sunrisers Eastern Cape at Newlands.
Smith knows that he is yet to even open the tank and with the second half of the tournament heading up to the Highveld where the ball travels a lot higher and further, he’s promised “a few big ones” for the MI Cape Town faithful.
“It sounds exciting, it's a challenge I am up for, it is something I am looking forward to (playing on the Highveld),” Smith said.
“I haven’t been holding back. I’ve been trying my best for this team. I came here to win. It has been taking some time to come off. Hopefully I can get a few training sessions in to see what’s gone wrong, and for the next few games you guys can probably see some big ones.”
MI Cape Town resume their Betway SA20 campaign when they travel to Kingsmead to face Durban’s Super Giants on February 2 before moving up country for matches against Pretoria Capitals (February 4, Centurion) and Joburg Super Kings (February 6, Wanderers).