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CONTEMPLATING THE TENDULKAR STAND
A Beginner/Kitchener/Sparrow/Rudder stand at the Brian Lara Cricket Stadium to illustrate the indivisible link between two of the outstanding West Indian cultural formulations of the 20th century, cricket and calypso, is far more relevant and historically meaningful than the contemplated Sachin Tendulkar stand.
The names of those calypsonians are not arbitrarily pulled out of a hat, but are reflective of the historical link those bards and their art form have established with West Indian cricket, and very specifically, their calypsoes illustrate a few of the most compelling events in the rise and fall of West Indies cricket.
I advance the suggestive naming of one of the stands as the Minister of Sport Darryl Smith and the Cabinet (possibly) have, at minimum, contemplated the Tendulkar stand. One argument for honouring India’s and one of the world’s greatest batsmen could be to have the West Indian cricket community advance the globalization in cricket that has been swiftly running through T20 tournaments, and the internationalization of the administration of the game.
Is there a commercial benefit to be had from the West Indies pushing the globalization to a further point? If so, the minister should say how the Government intends to make use of the Tendulkar Stand at the Lara Stadium/Cricket Academy.
That said, allow me to argue for the relevance of the Beginner/Kitchener/Sparrow/Rudder stand to West Indies cricket.
It was Lord Beginner (Egbert Moore) who composed and sang “Cricket Lovely Cricket at Lords where I saw it …” to mark the coming of age of West Indies cricket when we triumphed over the colonial masters at their own game on their home grounds 32 years after we were allowed into an exclusive club occupied by England, Australia and South Africa.
The calypso also indicated through cricket the emergence of West Indian society as a member of the international community of nations. As Beginner relates the story through the personalities of the 3Ws, Goddard, Stollmeyer and “those two little pals of mine, Ramadhin and Valentine”, the two 20-year-old West Indian spinners who unhinged English batsmen with guile and mystery faulting all the technical skill that had been developed in batsmanship for over 100 years, West Indian cricketers showed they had something original and wonderfully attractive to add to the then gathering globalization.
More than incidentally to the relevance of the naming of the stand, Sonny Ramadhin was taken out of complete obscurity a cover drive away from the Lara Stadium.
Beginner’s colleague troubadour in England, Lord Kitchener, was daring and confident enough of himself and his West Indianess to lead a band of West Indians on to the field to celebrate, West Indian style, the historic victory. Here was an entertainer, representative of the West Indian spirit and civilisation, suppressed and maligned by accepted European thought, coming onto hallowed turf, risking jail, to say “we are a people too, no less gifted and cosmic than any other peoples”. Kitchener deserves his place in West Indian cricket lore through the naming of the stand.
At home, the Mighty, Mighty Sparrow took on the war against colonial repression as only he could have, when Australian businessman Kerry Packer sought to liberate the game and bring financial gain to players through a new cricket league which the WI board banned their players from participating in.
“Human rights ent in cricket that is just for politics, I am Stollmeyer cricket czar controlling the Empire, I ent negotiating ah told them, if they get money we can’t control them, ah West Indies cricketer must always be broke it is then he does bowl fast and make pretty stroke … Packer refuse to treat them like wild animal so I ent going to rent them the Oval … and even so they must all get down flat on their knees beg me please let them play for West Indies.” The war of liberation in cricket is not finished; hang Sparrow’s lyrics on the inside of the stand so generations will understand the struggle for the West Indian personhood carried out through calypso and cricket.
David Rudder’s call to “Rally ‘round the West Indies…“in a world that doh need islands no more” and through it his valiant attempt to resurrect cricket from where incompetence and ill-will are threatening to fling this great West Indian tradition into oblivion, has become the national anthem of attempts to revive West Indies cricket.
Often, the rest of the cricketing world uses the phrase “calypso cricket” as a means of demeaning our players, their style of cricket and psychological disposition, which has proven to be the most attractive approach to the game now hungered for in the T20 form.
The citation to the naming of the stand to mark the social, human, and historic link between cricket and calypso must seek to erase that stain on West Indian cricket and civilisation.
As a footnote, there is at present an exhibition at the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, London, on “Black Sound: Black British Music’s Journey of Creative Independence.” The exhibition includes the contribution of the likes of Beginner, Kitchener, Boscoe Holder and other West Indian musicians and artists.
An a priori condition to recognising others from other civilisations is coming to a full appreciation of our own history of achievement.
Nasser Khan’s “History of West Indian Cricket through Calypsoes” is a good read to comprehend the link between calypso and cricket.
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