Lance Neita | What do they know of cricket?
“From two walking paces, Lindwall glides into the 13 running strides which have set the world a model for rhythmic gathering of momentum, for speed-giving power. Watching him approach the wicket, Sir Pelham Warner was once moved to murmur, ‘Poetry’.”
That magic moment again, when a truly great bowler starts his run-up as described by cricket seer John Arlott writing about one of Australia’s greatest bowlers.
The same goes for Michael Holding’s silent, swift, superb motion as he ran up to the crease. And who can forget the roar of excitement that always followed Wes Hall as he delivered the first ball from the southern end of Sabina Park?
Perhaps the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) has forgotten. Maybe their chairman and members are too young to have enjoyed the Holding ‘whisper’ from the northern end, the whiplash of a Sobers’ square cut, or the solid drive of a Viv Richards carpet shot to the long-off boundary.
They must have forgotten because Jamaica has given itself out LBW as a venue for the hosting of the 2024 International Cricket Council’s (ICC) Men’s 20/20 World Cup.
When I first heard the news I felt the same way I did when Clive Lloyd’s men surrendered the World Cup to India on June 5, 1983, at Lords.
That final was a massive upset and a huge disappointment for the West Indies as we had been overwhelmingly tipped as favourites to win the Cup.
We were the defending champions and had restricted India to just 183 runs. However, India fought back brilliantly, and Kapil Dev’s magnificent catch to dismiss Viv Richards triggered a batting collapse that saw the West Indies bowled out for an unforgivable 140 runs.
Tears flowed like Sweet Afton around the Caribbean. We couldn’t believe what we were hearing on the radio. Flash forward to 2023 and the news that we have been ruled out of the World Cup. As in 1983, we are reeling from the feeling of rejection and loss of something prized.
Put it down to the failure of the Government to make a bid, said the JCA. But when you come to add up the score, this three-card game looks like it has been in the pipeline for sometime now. In recent years we have become accustomed to seeing Jamaica edged out from international cricket save for the occasional courtesy call. And we haven’t hosted any regional cricket since 2019.
This is nothing short of painful to our cricket-loving public.
The nimbleness displayed by the JCA with their hands-off attitude is not too convincing. Their outspoken vice president Donovan Bennett has said that even the CWI directors “did not see a World Cup taking place in the Caribbean without Jamaica’s involvement.”
We concur. Nor did we. The state of play is in turmoil, and Jamaica’s name has been grievously harmed. Sabina Park, once the first stop for a West Indies cricket tour, is rapidly becoming an entertainment centre according to one sage and losing its image as a historic sporting venue.
And where does the Jamaica Tourist Board stand in all this? Tourism stood to gain immensely from the promotion and the visuals and the publicity to be gained from the hosting of a leg of the World Cup.
Come on Tourist Board, make some noise. After all, are we only as good as our beaches, golf courses, rum and coco cola, and all-inclusive bargains?
Cricket matters. In his epic book, Beyond A Boundary, Trinidadian writer C. L. R. James posed the question: What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?
James looked beyond the containment of the boundary line to place cricket at the centre of West Indian cultural practices, reminding that those “who only cricket know” must understand that cricket in the West Indies is not just a game played on a field, but has tremendous social connotations regarding national psyche and national identification.
LOSE A GENERATION
When we lose world-class cricket at Sabina Park we lose a generation of cultural build-up and self-worth that players like George Headley, Frank Worrell, Garfield Sobers, Clive Lloyd, and Viv Richards had left for us as a priceless legacy for enriching our heritage and reinforcing our pride in ourselves.
Cricket matters. We want our cricket back. Not just what we have lost already in terms of play and performance, but also what we have lost in terms of national spirit threatened by this loss of venue.
For those of us born in an earlier generation, Test cricket at Sabina was the Mecca for cricket fans from Negril to Morant Point who poured into ‘Bina’ in the wee hours of the morning of a first day Test match.
There was Lenny, the Sabina Park fixture, the man who entertained during the breaks with his mimicking of Charlie Griffiths’ bowling style and Rohan Kanhai’s famous ‘falling hook shot’, and who would give us a last laugh with his comical sketch of the umpire signalling hilarious not-outs, wides, and clean bowled.
Another fixture was the Jamaica Military Band resplendent in their colourful uniforms performing during the lunch break and never failing to include folk songs like “Gimme back me shilling wid de lion pon it” in their repertoire.
Perhaps it is the present poor and humiliating performance of our cricket teams that has led to this nonchalance, which caused the breakdown in our approach to the bidding.
Cricket remains the game on which Jamaicans and West Indians have continued to place their hopes and aspirations for world leadership at levels which would command respect and recognition for our citizens at home or across the respective diaspora.
We want to see and play cricket in Jamaica at its highest levels as per World Cup.
So come on JCA. “Gimme back me shilling wid the lion pon it” and make Sabina great again.