True home of cricket in the Caribbean

True home of cricket  in the Caribbean

 As the Indian caravan moves from St Lucia to Barbados, the contrast between the two island nations can’t be any starker when it comes to their cricketing culture. Notwithstanding the several groups of drum-beating, trumpet-blowing and beer-gulping groups of fans strutting around the stadium in Gros Islet, St Lucia can at best be described as a cricketing outpost of the West Indies.

In fact until all-rounder Darren Sammy broke into Windies’ squad in 2004, was there none from St Lucia who had played international cricket. Now, compare this with Barbados, which is the heart of Caribbean cricket. Home to arguably the greatest player of all-time – Sir Garfield Sobers -- to have graced the game, Barbados’ cricketing legacy is awe-inspiring to say the least.

Not many countries in the world can boast of producing so many players of such great calibre. In fact, they can form a team of their own that can easily rival the best in the world. Sobers, the three Ws -- Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell – Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Conrad Hunte, George Challenor, Joel Garner, Wes Hall and Malcolm Marshall, Keith Boyce and Charlie Griffith come to the mind immediately. Barbados has produced more than 40 Test cricketers, the most by any of the Caribbean nations. Not a bad number for a nation with a population of around 300,000!
It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that Barbados is cricket’s most natural habitat. If the game is akin to religion in India, it’s a part of their culture here. You can feel and sense cricket in all hue and colour. Just take a stroll to a beach with a bat and ball in hand and you will have the local people inviting you for a challenge. After a round of play as you prepare to bid adieu, they will tell you “we too support India maan.” 

Sobers obviously is the brightest jewel in Barbados’ cricketing crown. He batted from number one to nine, possessed a bewildering variety of left-arm bowling, fielded with great alacrity and led the side as well. Greenidge and Haynes formed perhaps the most potent opening pair of their time while the furious Marshall induced fear among the best of batsmen. Mired in a class-struggle, cricket was the most potent way of expressing themselves for the blacks and Barbados led the way. It was the elevation of Sobers’ country-mate Worrell as the first black captain of the West Indies that heralded the coming of age of the islanders.

While Guyana, Trinidad and Tobago and Antigua have churned out cricketers of great quality, Barbados had always managed to pull a punch over the rest. They used to be almost unbeatable in the inter-island competitions, but no longer. Much like the state of cricket in the Caribbean, Barbados’ heritage too is in a shambles. They still have players like Ryan Hinds, Sulieman Benn, Dwayne Smith, Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards turning up for the West Indies on and off, but certainly they are not a patch on the cricketers of yesteryear.  
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