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Cricket triumphs put sport in focus

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The triple victories of the West Indies’ cricket teams at the global level- World Cup trophies at the Under-19, Women and T20 Men- have again raised the profile of cricket, and wider, sport, among Caribbean people. In true Caribbean fashion, there is also the accompanying controversy and public spat between the West Indies players and a popularly-perceived “arrogant” administration, but that has been a long time coming.{{more}}

What we can gather from the whole experience is how much, not just cricket, but sport as a whole, means to Caribbean people, as well as our fluctuating attitudes towards it. It was not too long ago that we, who were hooting so loud a couple Sundays ago, basking in Carlos Brathwaithe’s miraculous four straight sixes, were writing off the same team as “worst Indies”, claiming a lack of interest in the team’s fortunes. By the time that same team had reached the semi-finals, we were all avid supporters.

The same story is repeated otherwise. When Vincy Heat footballers were romping through their World Cup preliminaries, they were the darlings of the sporting public, but when reality catches up with us against stiffer opposition, “steups” is more common than appreciation of difficulty. That’s how we are.

That double-standard attitude towards our athletes and sporting teams is all too typical of us. It underlies our failure at the most basic level to maintain what is the foundation of any sustainable sporting achievement, the club structure. It is worse in some countries, notably ours, than others, but it adds to that level of fickleness among supporters, drifting from one team to the next.

It is one of the many fundamentals that we need to address to get our sporting priorities right if we are to make headway in sport. That is particularly relevant to the Vincentian context, for, putting nostalgia aside, we cannot be happy with where Vincentian sport is at the moment. This is the country which produced the first Caribbean cricketer to play in English county cricket, more than a century ago; which was the first of the “small islands” to produce a Test cricketer in the person of Alfie Roberts. But where are we today?

In football, not only was SVG a dominant force in Windwards football, but at our first opportunity on the wider stage, CFU, we demonstrated that we were right up there with those with far greater populations and resources- second in CFU in 1979 and 1981. We have a global stage today, but neither the level of organisation nor performance to take full advantage of it.

Our third major sport, netball, has also fallen off, in regional terms as well. Here again, SVG was once a regional powerhouse, matching Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, the countries which have made a name on the international stage, stride for stride. What a far cry today! Vincy woman is no longer boss at the regional level, not even at the sub-regional OECS level.

We could go on and on, not to lament but to bring a sense of reality to our people, for us, whether sporting administrators, athletes or fans, to make sober reflection and analysis. To stretch the point, recently, Grenada hosted the CARIFTA Games for Junior athletes at its newly-rebuilt stadium. How must our athletes have felt that atmosphere! Would the long-promised stadium here have made a difference to our performances?

(Continued next week)

Renwick Rose is a community activist and social commentator.

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