A most difficult task
March 31, 2007
When one attempts to change the culture of a people, there are often violent confrontations. History records the Crusades, when the English took Christianity to the Muslims or, as they called them then, the Saracens and the Moors. The campaign was most bloody; thousands died but, to this day, Christianity never actually became a way of life to those people of Asia and parts of Africa.
It was always the same in every part of the world. The Romans waged wars to conquer the world, and although they attained control of the people, they never succeeded in changing the culture of the conquered people.
In more recent history, there have been the clashes between the Jews of Israel and the Muslims of Palestine. This appears to be an ongoing battle, because neither side is prepared to tolerate the other. Political decisions may see what appears to be an accommodation, but the hatred is so deep-seated that at the personal level the dislike is so thick that one can cut it with the proverbial knife.
And so we come to what has happened in the cricketing Caribbean region these past few weeks. We have been playing our cricket as only we could, with abandon. A few decades ago, we were said to be playing calypso cricket. We played flamboyantly regardless of whether we lost or won. And we became recognized for it.
Of course, the culture of the people we played was such that winning meant everything for them, and so we were good boys for playing in a manner that allowed them to win. Eventually, we became as professional as them, but that did not stop us from still playing the cricket we knew—calypso cricket. And our crowds were no different from our cricketers.
They are so different from spectators in any other part of the world. They are full of life; they joke at just about everything, and that is why they so easily find nicknames for their fellows. Given our cultural heritage, our spectators took their culture into the cricket ground; they set up music systems, because our party culture is something that sets any cricket ground alight and makes for enjoyable cricket.
In Antigua, there was Gravy who entertained players and crowd alike with his various imitations and antics. The world saw cricket as they never saw it before. There was none of the staid atmosphere that prevails at Lords, England. And even at Lords, our people who migrated transformed the atmosphere there. They refused to be a part of the convention of silence and perfunctory applause.
Cricket World Cup came to this part of the world with the promise that the people of the region would present cricket as no one ever could. The mascot, Mello, was supposed to depict the spirit of the fun-loving people of the region. But the International Cricket Council began to set down guidelines for the spectators. The council ruled that there should be no musical instrument in the ground; we were not allowed to take with us our rum and our food; and above all, we were to be constrained in how we behave inside the grounds.
The result was that we stayed away, much to the agony of the organizers. We told them in no uncertain terms that, unless we could enjoy cricket as we know it, we would just not show, because what would be presented to us would not be cricket.
We seem to have made our point. The ICC, as if it suddenly awoke to the fact that cricket in this part of the world is so different from anywhere else, has relented and has informed that we could enter the ground with our musical instruments.
Chief Executive Officer of the Local Organising Committee, Karan Singh, has said that the cricket in our corner is more or less a celebration, and our drums and horns and things like that are just par for the course in our case.
With this new dispensation, we could see a bit more people at the games, which are now played to near empty stands.