What 'lovely cricket'? Frankly Speaking...
By A. A. Fenty
Stabroek News
April 23, 2004

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Or I could have captioned this piece "It's just not cricket" - an expression the Old English used to express indignation at someone not being "gentlemanly" fair, or in keeping with acceptable rules.

Then again I did do a piece for this column titled "Positively Not Cricket (PNC)" seven years ago during a West Indies/India Test match at Bourda.

I really admire those satirists and journalists who deftly and with levity, relate cricket's (other) lighter side. In truth, my editor has agreed that today is really one of those "time-out" days for me and this column - as you'll soon detect - except that I wish to by-pass all those more serious national "issues" and share with you some random thoughts based on personal opinion and experiences surrounding cricket.

"Cricket, Lovely Cricket" is from that famous Kitchener calypso of the fifties which celebrated the pride of the colonial Caribbean cricketers who finally beat their English (Master/Mother Country/Coloniser) counterparts at the Lords Ground in England. And yes, ignore the attention grabbing deceptive caption at the very top. I do believe that much of the game of cricket, at various levels is indeed "lovely". As well as intriguing, engaging, mentally challenging, physically exciting and most entertaining as outdoor games of collective skill go. But I submit, as in some other countries with other games such as football, basketball or horse-racing, cricket is often made a vehicle for issues and contentions political and racial.

Allow me then, to be different, somewhat cynical and hopefully, constructively provocative today. I start with the Scotia Jubilee Awards for the Top Five Guyanese cricketers "of all time". I'm not a die-hard West Indian fan strangely. For decades now. I do not, however, criticise unduly Brian Lara or Shivnarine Chanderpaul who, like young Sarwan, returns from his hospital bed sometimes, to defend the West Indies honour. The popular vote - those who bothered to actually vote for their local cricketing heroes via a not-so-simple procedure - may actually produce Chanderpaul as a "winner", but was it, is it reasonable to make the "reliable" star one of the top five in local cricket over the years?

I do have a fair idea of his records, achievements and "dependability" with regard to his contributions to Guyana and West Indies Cricket. But I am of the considered opinion that it was premature to vote and have him accepted as one of our greatest in the last seventy-five years. Patriotic to the core am I, but I can't yet accept Chanderpaul as "the greatest Guyanese and West Indian batsman in the last ten (10) years". That's what a Victor Ramphal thinks. What say you?

What unity?

Balderdash! Tommyrot! Poppycock! What unity at cricket? Desmond Hoyte, the last late PNC President loved to remind: "We in this country, have a great proclivity for fooling ourselves".

The ODI on Sunday was thrilling, nail-biting and all that; Chanderpaul earning the adoration of all local fans. But that common appreciation for the West Indies against the English does not mean any real unity amongst those who are willing to perpetuate contention, bitterness and division. Actually, amongst the same thousands are those who can break out, right at the ground, into racially-inherited hostilities at the drop of a …..catch.

What happens is that various groups of fans find reasons to temporarily confront a common sporting opponent and to celebrate achievement on the cricket field. I can accept the view that "cricket brings us together" to salute common heroes - until we return to our villages, ethnic-specific organisations - and party groups".

At the ground, in the stands

Others have described the atmosphere at Bourda on Sunday - electric, tense, entertaining, stress-specific.

I shall always remember the Burnham-like determination to get the flooded ground fit for play between Saturday and Sunday. Helicopter fuel, Super-Soppers, Water Pumps and Guyanese pride and skill. Burnham inspired it first. Bharrat followed suit. The sporting world saw the "Operation Get-Dry" via satellite television. Resourcefulness. Or what?

Becoming more furtive and fearful in my earliest sixties, I was somewhat overwhelmed at the very top of the ram-packed Clive Lloyd Stand! Liquor-filled voices stridently greeted West Indian mini-triumphs. Friendly and not-so-tolerated disagreements spawned emotional, loud-mouthed arguments.

West Indian runs and English wickets were greeted with the loudest music, dance-hall gyrations and deafening roars (women urged me to "enjoy" myself and join in.) I like this "West Indian" atmosphere but now, even manage to feel slightly intimidated by it. Here's hoping our fans behave temperately when victory finally comes the West Indies way.

Positively Not Cricket (PNC)

Just two snippets of what I wrote, seven years ago - and even before:

Why rain always?

The small islander from the Caribbean islet which has produced two Nobel Prize winners has a theory involving the autocracy of the late L. F. S Burnham. The man in the Mirror claims to have learnt that there was a time when Mr. Burnham was angry that one of his decrees was ignored. He sought to punish a large segment of the sports loving nation. So he engaged a powerful Obeah woman - whom he had legalised - to cause rain whenever cricket was scheduled for Bourda.

The woman's supreme power and curse worked for years. She, however, died suddenly. So that even when Mr. Burnham weaved his other "magic" and brought back the eventually-successful super cat captain Clive, every time there was to be a big match here, rainfall was/is guaranteed to interrupt. We are doomed to rain during the Test match therefore. That's the small islander's version, mind you.

Not so Enrico. The scientific ESPN man here is sure that cricket here generates so much heat (or hot air) that this hot air rises into the atmosphere. Presto convection! Evaporation results into the liquid clouds pouring down as rain. The moral of that story (or theory) is that we must all stay cool during the matches. Little argument - little rain! Impossible, you say?

Racial cricket

To be brutally frank, I have to state that race still seeps into the Guyana game, from time to time. Indo-Guyanese feel compelled to support certain individuals or teams because of considerations based on strong spiritual bonds with Mother India or Father Pakistan. At one time those straight-haired Guyanese felt excluded from the body politic in that political power did not reflect their numerical strength. Free and fairer elections changed that in 1992 somewhat. So now that India is here just who will certain folks back? Why?

So since one major reason for Indo-Guyanese supporting India, Pakistan, Burma or Bangladesh is no longer valid, will purely cricket considerations prevail? I trust so. For I can't see Afro-Guyanese supporting an all-black South African team against Guyana! Just as I'm sure that all of us will urge Shivnarine to belt boundaries off Kumble!

How's that?

1. What's that I heard? Naughty England Skipper Mike Vaughn didn't want to start playing at 11:30 last Sunday? He dictated a one o'clock start - with the umpires? Naughty.

2. Men Of Purpose (MOP). Good idea from the same set of faces and minds. Still welcome. Let's discuss the nitty-gritties some time: NGO getting grants, attending conferences, usual necessary sensitising - but going to the Sugar Belt Villages and Ghettoes to find and counsel Lakeram and Lennox too! More later.

3. Heard about Dave Martins explaining to local and foreign folks what Guyanese mean by 'over balance", 'living over de river" and "mis-average"? What do we mean?

4. Who loves it when Customs Officers are on strike, away from the airport?

5. Joining the March today?

`Til next week!