Easter Weekend Cricket

It is not often that a Trinbagonian gets the chance to attend a relevant cricket match. Success and Trinidad and Tobago cricket are hardly synonymous, but when they come together, as has been recent trend, it is quite magical. The passion of a West Indies cricket fan can work miracles. Perhaps it has not miraculously resurrected West Indies cricket as yet (keeping in the Easter spirit), but baby steps are the call.

On this particular morning the heat and humidity allow comfortably for severe dehydration and profuse sweating, and still it is a lovely day for cricket. At the very least it means that the players will have to put in a big effort to be successful in such oppressive conditions. Once the effort is there, there is no fault.

The rivalry between Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados is one of the classics of sport and a collection of outspoken cricket fans observing a final between the countries is exceptionally epic. As a collection of visiting Bajans walk past the stand in which I sit, they are received with a warm round of applause by the home support. Tongue firmly in cheek, they are welcomed to Trinidad. You would expect nothing less from this packed crowd. Near standing room only at Guaracara Park.

The morning session is the time to warm up. Locate your seating area, get comfortable and establish territory. If you fancy a drink, keep your money at hand to cater for the constant presence of mobile beer vendors.

It is key that you do not introduce yourself to those around you, but rather establish your presence by abruptly entering the various ongoing conversations. Choose your moment, and whatever the aspect of cricket being analyzed by this collection of seated coaches, it is only necessary that input is somewhat sensible. Once the foundation is set, lean back and enjoy the game.

Lunch time now and activity stirs in the stands once more. The hunt for food is on, but the lack of sobriety involved defines the word “afterthought”. Young children take the time to participate in their spirited miniature battles on the field. Balls and bats of all shapes and sizes, where it is pleasantly evident that the sport is far from dead in the minds of West Indian youth. The vigor with which they essay each stroke and delivery speaks of such optimism that I can not help but smile. If only the senior players had this kind of passion – my mind wanders again.

Dwayne Bravo has passion. The young allrounder stands on the field taking throw-downs from some anonymous teammate. It hardly takes anything divine to expect that he would be the man, if any, showing such commitment. “Lunch time, man. You not hungry Dwayne?” the crowd teases in comment on his work ethic. There is no time for trivial things such as food. Not when West Indies cricket needs a saviour.

Waiting for a photograph with the great man. What a guy! And he’s autographed my cap. Legend! The future of West Indies cricket and a reason to smile. Now back to grind. The battle is intense on the field, but the interest is far greater in the stands.

Perhaps the runs are not flowing to my liking but at least the environment is pleasant enough to sustain enjoyment. Nothing beats the drunken chatter of a West Indian crowd – a proverb of my invention. May it live on for ages to come.

Opinionated, knowledgeable and completely lacking inhibition. These are the men (and women) who make the sport watchable. “They need Dave (Mohammed) in the team,” rings into one ear, “Ganga should captain dem (i.e. the West Indies team).” Valid points, no doubt, but it is the delivery that truly sells it. Not quite shouting, but forceful enough to command the status of gospel.

“Tino! Tino!” There is Tino Best. Formerly a livewire fast bowler for the West Indies senior team and now reduced to the water boy in the most important game of the season. No matter. He is still a hero among these men. Rarely has a twelfth man been able to engage a crowd so readily as Tino Best. And he has not even uttered a word. Such is the man, myth and legend.

The players on the field get no respite either. Bradshaw wanders to boundary and is assaulted by a flurry of compliments. “Bradshaw, thanks for your services to West Indies cricket,” the man in the second row states so eloquently. Surely this appreciation is not simple the product of a hot day and a cold beer (or ten). I expect we have now lost count of the alcohol references in this tale. It serves a keen realism.

And out! Bravo goes. Such a shame. What a star! No matter though, because here comes Brian. “The new batsman is B C Lara,” the announcement booms over the public address system. This crowd hardly needs any such prompting though. This is the man we came to see and hence a standing ovation. Raucous applause and a variety of horns and conch shells. This is sport at its finest. This is cricket.

“He better score some runs after all of that,” exclaims the nuts man. “Doh worry man. Brian go lash dem,” a voice concurs.

“Howzat?!” – Lara struck on the pad second ball. Not out. “They cah give him out so early, man,” said as expert analysis. Ball on pad again and up goes the finger. Lara is not sure about it, but he has to go. Big wicket for the Bajans and Lara out for 2, but a standing ovation nonetheless. Such is the love for Brian Lara.

So I get comfortable once more and cast a glance toward the scoreboard. Surely this is as good as the sport gets. Surrounded by brilliant characters and an atmosphere unmatched by any sober setting. There they go at Best again. “Tino! Tino! What you think of the ladies here today?” As he laughs it off the hard-hitting questions continue, “Tino, where’s Fidel (Edwards)?” We all know the answer, but the fun is in the interrogation.

Cricket, lovely cricket. Lara did not hit any big runs on this day, and the run rate did not leave many in awe, but West Indies cricket is still alive. It lives in the collective heart of West Indians around the region.

Whether these people are are united to see Lara “lash dem”, or just to have a laugh with and at Tino Best, at least there is unity. At a time when it is so easy to question the worth of the game in the hands of the present generation, all it takes is a day at the cricket to ease the mind once more.

“We will rise again” – the promise of this passion.

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