by Brian Davis
Cricket West Indies (CWI) has now reduced cricket in the Caribbean to fete-match status (called ‘Currie goat games’ in Jamaica). This has to do with the input of foreigners into the cricket administration of the region. These gentlemen, with the best intentions, do not understand or appreciate the history, geography or culture of our ‘islands in the sun.’ And the West Indian people who manage, co-ordinate, develop and otherwise organise the sport of cricket in these Caribbean islands, did not think it wise to educate these newcomers on our customs; or they themselves do not know what it really means to be a product of these beautiful yet disparate islands, in order to impress upon these temporary administrators, how genuine and sincere West Indians view their heritage.
Stuck in my imagination and fixed in my motivation were the words of my father to all his friends and cronies hanging around our yard while he was bowling underarm to me: “one day this boy will play for Trinidad and the West Indies”. I was no more than five or six and as the years unfolded I sensed my Dad’s pride and love for his native land. My mother was no different and the Davis family grew up with passion and fierce loyalty for Trinidad and Tobago!
I bring this point to emphasise the fact that throughout the British West Indies, as it was then known, subjects to the British crown as we were, there was deep love for our island. Thus in later years to celebrate so wildly, happily and with deep satisfaction our independence was only natural. We cherished it much as a child would cherish its coming of age.
Two things are important here and that is the game of cricket was imposed on us by our colonisers and it followed that you would want to beat your teachers at the game they taught you. Secondly, being separate islands (although Guyana is an enormous area of 83,000 square miles for the sake of comfortable prose I include it in the identity), divided by vast stretches of water we became quite competitive and insular in our outlook with one another!
In 1865 the first inter-colonial game was played between Barbados and British Guiana (BG) in Barbados on February 15–16 with a return engagement in BG September 11–12. The next two games were played in 1869 between Trinidad and BG both at the Savannah in Port of Spain on January 14–15 then on 21–22. This was the start of inter-colonial cricket.
It took many years for the colonies to unite as one unit to be competitive enough to be accepted for Test cricket. The aggressive ambition and competition among the colonies knew no bounds shaping the West Indian cricket nation for what eventually became a fighting force in the world of cricket.
All cricketers who have represented the West Indies (WI) and those who have played for their separate islands look upon themselves as West Indians. We all feel as though we belong to one nation even though politically our federation as a political entity did not last.
To achieve the status as a Test cricketer for WI one had to come through with flying colours for one’s colonial team much as it is today for one’s territory. While the Windward Islands and the Leewards comprise several islands, mostly independent, they play as separate units. Jamaica, Barbados, Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago are independent sovereign nations but large enough to play separately. These territories possess much pride, ambition and loyalty; yet although battling each other tooth and nail to prove superiority, individuals never lose sight of the ambition to represent WI.
This background which shaped our forefathers fashioned us into the cricketers, fans, journalists and lovers of the sport we turned out to be.
When Englishmen, hired by our administrators, come out to the West Indies and stop us from playing for our territories, the proud islands to which we belong, moreover want us to represent Scorpions instead of Jamaica, Jaguars instead of Guyana, Pride instead of Barbados, Red Force instead of Trinidad and Tobago, Volcanoes instead of Windwards and Hurricanes instead of Leewards, it’s tough to accept! That’s ok for the fete match t20 leagues around the world but not for sovereign nations playing first-class cricket. We are different!
Then the unkindest cut of all; our one pride and joy of representing WI in Tests is reduced to Windies; a name of no geographical position or significance, representing nothing. We have now become cricketers without a country.
Windies— just another fete match name!!
A Holy and Happy Christmas to everyone!