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Has ‘Alfie’ Roberts been truly forgotten?

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Editor: The year 2016 will mark the 60th anniversary of the first appearance of a player from the Windward Islands in the cricketing Test arena. It was on March 9, 1956 that an 18-year-old Vincentian batsman by the name of Alphonso ‘Alfie’ Roberts, strolled on to the cricket field at Eden Park, Auckland in New Zealand to make his Test debut for the West Indies in the fourth and final Test of their four-test series against New Zealand.{{more}}

The West Indies, though without some of their leading stars, Worrell and Weekes among them, had still managed victory in the first three Tests. Disappointment was to come their way, and in the way of young Roberts too, for New Zealand hit back to twice rout the West Indies to win by 90 runs in a low-scoring contest. ‘Alfie’ was second top scorer in the West Indies first innings of 145, with 28, but failed to score in his second knock. Incidentally, in that paltry second innings of 77, Gary Sobers made one and the late ‘Collie’ Smith, like ‘Alfie’, failed to score.

Curiously, ‘Alfie’ was never given another chance for the West Indies again, small islanders being consistently ignored, and though he went on to hit the then highest score in Windwards’ cricket, soon packed up and migrated to Canada.

There he made a name for himself, for his country and region, and for black people generally, becoming an intellectual titan, an outstanding Pan Africanist and socialist and a tireless advocate for an end to colonial rule in the Caribbean. He was in the forefront of the struggle for independence for the small island states of the Caribbean.

Sadly, ‘Alfie’ passed away before reaching his 60th birthday. In fact, the same 2016, will mark another milestone in his personal history, for July 24 next year will be the 20th anniversary of his passing.

In a country where our historical legacy is not well known, it is vital that the accomplishments of our outstanding sons and daughters are recognized and celebrated. Thus, calls have been made for some recognition of ‘Alfie’ Roberts, who paved the way for the entry of Mike Findlay, his fellow Vincentian, and Dominican pacer Grayson Shillingford into the top echelons of West Indies cricket.

Through that crack in the door entered the legendary Andy Roberts and Viv Richards, followed by several others, right down to St Lucian Darren Sammy, who was honoured with the West Indies captaincy. It was ‘Alfie’ who first prised the gates open, striking a blow against the discrimination directed at cricketers from the small islands.

Both the Government of St Vincent and the Grenadines and the SVG Cricket Association have been written to by private citizens, urging the naming, even of a scoreboard at our premier cricket venue at Arnos Vale, in memory of ‘Alfie’.

Is that too big an honour to be bestowed? Must he be forgotten like this?

Renwick Rose

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