Mike Selvey Writes An Obituary For Caribbean Cricket

Excerpts from Mike Selvey, SportBlog (The Guardian UK)…

Weep For The Ghosts Of Calypsos Past In This Lifeless Forum

Antigua was the very soul of Caribbean cricket, but the crowds have vanished from a sterile new stadium.

I am writing this sitting on a bum-numbing wooden bench 12 rows back in the lower tier of the Double Decker stand at the Antigua Recreation Ground and, if I shut my eyes, I can still sense the spirit of Caribbean cricket that existed here before the International Cricket Council got hold of it, ran it out of town, then sanitised it out of existence.

Of all the cricket grounds around the world at which I have seen international matches none has given me the joy that this place has. In front of me, protruding from the stand so that it almost hovers over the boundary, is the platform on which Chickie Baptiste would stand his giant disco speakers and girls would gyrate along with Labon Benjamin, the clown Gravy, who cavorted in the rafters, defying health and safety, risking life and limb. When Chickie cranked it up and the Double Decker crowd jumped to the rhythm, the whole stand oscillated.

I have a pal who came to watch here and sat in this very seat for all five days of a Test. On the opening morning he knew no one: inside half an hour he had been assimilated into the posse. So each day he arrived to meet the Professor (a professor, oddly enough) and his gang, a case of beer under one arm and a bottle of brandy in his hand. The brandy was gone before play began, they lunched royally on stew from the large pot the Professor brought and they became firm friends.

All the while, despite the distractions, the cricket took centre stage. The noise was an enhancement rather than an intrusion, as was the constant competing percussive brilliance of the Iron band, musicians whose rhythm came from beating metal pipes, or hubcaps, brake drums, door panels…

(big snip)

It has gone now. Rather than plough strong investment into upgrading the ARG sympathetically, to preserve cricket’s integrity here, Chinese money, grabbed eagerly, has produced the new stadium out of town. Of its kind it is a fine facility and a fitting monument to the greatest batsman of the modern era. But what of the other heroes? It has a north end and a south end, as bland as that. Where is the character? Where is the recognition of Antigua’s cricket heritage immortalised in calypso: Richie Richardson (“Who is dat man flashin’ blade in de han’?”), Ambrose (“He mek de batsman shiver when he run up to deliver”) and Andy Roberts? The stands named after Richardson and Roberts still look down on the field set up for net practice.

This still should be their epitaph. Instead Antigua has a white elephant that will see, if it is lucky, one Test match a year and little else. There is talk of enticing baseball teams down from the States. That is the legacy that the World Cup could leave on the island. Baseball. I shut my eyes once more, feel the vibes and want to weep.

… read the entire article at SportBlog (link here)

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7 Comments

Filed under Barbados, Barbados Tourism, Cricket

7 responses to “Mike Selvey Writes An Obituary For Caribbean Cricket

  1. John

    Bajans will usually take a freeness, so if free or cheap tickets sharing then hopefully there will be people at Kensington.

    However, we are a pretty igrunt, (not ignorant), set of people who once we have dissed you, you are history.

    The ICC, LOC and GOB probably forgot what it was to be Bajan and probably never knew that they had been dissed.

    I really hope the crowds go, but I am not holding my breath.

    I suspect that the die is cast,even if the WI by some miracle of fate managed to get into the semi finals.

    Remember the boycot Bajans put on the first test ever between WI and SA at Kensington?

    Nobody could say definitely what would have happened until it did.

    … and it had absolutely nothing to do with apartheid, …. and it wasn’t a one day something neither!!

    We are igrunt like that. It is a part of who we are.

    I think cricket means something different to us than what it has become.

  2. Anonymous

    Yes!
    It was non-selection of Bajans.

  3. Rumplestilskin

    As we have said before, our crossroads have come.

    We left the streetcricket, attended by the neighbourhood children and gents, to play new modern computer games all alone.

    We left the neighbourhood of friends talking and jesting, true community spirit, to be entertained by digitalised signals at home, or to seek companionship outside at sportsbars and gyms away from the neighbourhoods and communities.

    We left the breadvans behind, to purchase our dry goods at a large mart, overpriced, preserved but stale.

    We left a lifestyle of being able to enjoy evenings with our families, to one where we work into the nights, as if we have winter.

    We left our passion for the ‘old’ sports, to compete with computers in ‘hyperspace’.

    We left our lives, our earthy loves, our souls and traded these for new, ‘first-world’ trappings, the ‘best’ of everything, the worst of many.

  4. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Blog Archive » Barbados: Cricket Obiutuary

  5. J. Payne

    I wonder if Kensington will at least promote Barbadian culture by playing Calypso and Soca during the event…. OR if they’re just going to skip that and play Reggae dub and dancehall the whole time…… :-/

  6. John

    Looks like Prof. Beckles has twigged that there is something wrong in WI Cricket. His article in todays Nation speaks clearly to this point. He tries to give reasons but they seem almost naive to me.

    It would have been nice if the powers that be had figured it out before spending as Ralphie in St. Vincent puts it, US$750 million.

    To turn around and then blame the cricketers for not trying is just pathetic.

    All we can hope for is that the various stadia and facilities are put to proper use long term to either earn their keep or encourage future West Indian cricketers to perfect the art form once more.

    If there is only one good thing that emerges from the spending spree it will be that we will be put in a position where we will need to squarely face reality.

    Lets get through April with some dignity and make the best possible out of what has been done in our names.

    We are going to have to do some serious thinking afterwards and we don’t want to start at rock bottom.

  7. John

    … so Bangladesh is about to beat South Africa, the number one team in the world.!!

    Wow!!

    Maybe Cricket is still a game of glorious uncertainties.

    Time will tell!!