In a world starving badly for live sport, cricket has not had such a golden opportunity for decades to grab international attention as it did last week. It certainly took advantage of the openings presented by the COVID -19 pandemic which has virtually shut down sporting action all over the globe.
First there were the tributes, still pouring in, to the life and accomplishments of the late Sir Everton Weekes, one of the finest batsmen to have ever graced a cricket field. As an avid fan of the game and a devoted lifelong admirer of Sir Everton, I have been following the tributes in the media and he richly deserves them. I feel almost intimidated in adding to the praises.
However, what I admired most is his humility and his achievement of not only rising from a “Park boy” to become one of the titans of the game globally, but in maintaining his humility as well. Sir Everton was renowned for keeping the ball on the ground while batting, rarely seeking the aerial route. Our young batsmen can learn from this and moreover the fact that this humble man kept his feet on the ground all through life, which is not easy for a global superstar.
A second feature of his life which impressed me greatly was his self-taught skill for cricket commentary. It has been a feature of Caribbean cricket that such roles were kept for the more “educated”, the Grammar School/ university/ lawyer types, though many were exposed by their lack of understanding of the game. I have not heard comments from a more knowledgeable person on the state of the game. How much more we have missed in the region if we had given some of our own players, in cricket and other sports, the opportunity to coach and do commentary, as Sir Everton did so skilfully?
A second feature of the last week was another former West Indies great, Michael Holding, opening eyes and minds with his lucid comments on sport and the struggle of black people on the eve of the First Test between West Indies and England. Holding has become somewhat controversial for his comments on cricket over the years, yet few would have anticipated the pre-Test comments.
They came in the context of the global upheaval caused by the racist killing of blacks in the USA and the strong reaction of athletes to it. Even West Indies cricket, not known to be in the forefront of such matters, has consented to their players supporting the black protests and wearing a “Black Lives Matter” slogan on their shirt collars.
But Holding “ratcheted it up” several knots, virtually holding court on a range of matters relevant to the Black struggle. It was a side of “Mikey” that many had not heard before and which would place him socially, and in the minds of many, on an even higher plane. He emphasized the need for education, not just about cricket, but also on social issues and himself offered an education about the accomplishments of great black inventors and the need for black self-pride. Much respect, Mikey!
Dedication and commitment rewarded
The third positive development where cricket is concerned over the past week has been the performance of the West Indies cricket team in the First Test against England. While it is too early to flip head over heels, since there are two more Tests to go, it must have been heartening to Caribbean cricket fans, and to Caribbean people as a whole, to witness the performance which ended in triumph.
The West Indies entered the series ranked No. 8 internationally, with only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe below the team. It is a team, with no recognized “superstar” and two of those with palpable ambitions in that regard, declined to take part in the tour “for personal reasons”. Yet the result demonstrated what can be achieved by dint of team work, commitment, dedication and enlightened leadership.
It is nice to have “superstars”, but even without them great triumphs are possible and “little people” can work miracles by bonding together for a common purpose. What a lesson in the context of the “Black Lives Matter” campaign- Little people, so-called “underdogs”, do matter as well!
Finally, for coach Phil Simmons, discarded under the rule of the overbearing Dave Cameron, it must have given personal satisfaction as well. He roses like the proverbial phoenix, out of the ashes of Cameronism, to be like the biblical “stone that the builder refused”.
A momentous and memorable week indeed!
Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.