Our new partner, Tropical Sky, is the Caribbean specialist. But it’s not all about perfect beaches, crystal clear water and rum punch. Read on to find out what it is about the West Indies that makes it such a special place for cricket lovers.
For many of us, the Caribbean is much more than romantic islands, blue seas and warm sunshine; it is the home of cricket, West Indies style – the inimitable, swashbuckling style which has characterised their approach to Test matches for the past 50 years. It has produced top-class cricketers with huge talent and personalities to match – men like Gary Sobers and Viv Richards (now deservedly Sir Garfield and Sir Vivian). But these are just two among so many memorable names which have helped to create the reputation enjoyed by ‘the Windies’.
Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to watch Test matches and inter-island matches at Kensington Oval in Barbados and Queens Park Oval in Trinidad. These were experiences never to be forgotten, shared with people like the veteran radio commentator, Tony Cozier in Trinidad and the father of the cricketer, Gordon Greenidge, in Barbados . The atmosphere in these grounds is a combination of excitement, fun and music – but somehow without detracting from the serious business taking place out in the middle. The vast crowd does not sit still and transfixed with occasional applause, like that at Lord’s. But the heaving and constantly moving fans clearly know their cricket and seem never to miss a ball or the chance to show appreciation or despair at a good stroke or a wicket. It was and still is cricket for the people, not for the sponsors or those in the corporate boxes.
Modern Caribbean cricket has its roots in the 1930s and 1940s when the natural talents of George Headley and Learie Constantine first made the more staid and traditional cricket followers of Lord’s and elsewhere sit up and take notice of what was happening across the Atlantic Ocean. These two created the enthusiasm for the game in the islands and on almost every beach and stretch of grass, the young lads of Trinidad and Barbados copied their heroes with their makeshift bats and old tennis balls with upturned buckets for stumps. These were the lads who became the famous three Ws – Weekes, Walcott and Worrell – who began to dominate West Indies and world cricket in the 1960s, challenging the established order of things as they matched and then beat England and Australia. They did it together with the two remarkable spin bowlers, Alfred Valentine and Sonny Ramadihn, who became the stuff of calypsos – “those two little friends of mine, Ramadihn and Valentine”, went the song. The legend of West Indian cricket was born.
These new stars of cricket were joined in 1964 by the 17-years-old Gary Sobers who went on to dominate the game for 18 years as a batsman and bowler and was probably the best all-rounder the game has ever seen. He played in 93 Test matches, scoring over 8,000 runs and taking 235 wickets – and who can forget his record six sixes in an over in Cardiff.
Then there came Clive Lloyd, a towering and match-winning batsman and captain in the 1980’s who continued to build the tradition, only to be overshadowed in 1986 by his successor, Viv Richards, with his merciless aggression and engaging smile. He was joined by the rapier-like batting of Gordon Greenidge (my personal favourite among them all) and there have also been so many others to stir the blood, not least the remarkable Brian Lara who went on to accumulate more runs than any of them between 1996 and 2007.
And what of the bowlers. That famous spin bowling partnership of the 1950’s was replaced by batteries of fast men who tested and often bruised the greatest batsmen around the world – bowlers like Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Wesley Hall and Courtney Walsh, to name but a few.
From the 1970s, a wonderful West Indies team went on to be unbeaten in 15 years of Test cricket, still a unique record. And although Australia, South Africa and now England have taken their turns as ‘top dogs’, each with their own star players, there have been none to quite match the special magic of Caribbean cricket.
It is even more ‘special’ when it is played in Barbados, Trinidad, Antigua or Guyana where the weather, scenery and crowds create an experience found nowhere else. It will be there in March and April 2012 where first Australia and then New Zealand will take on the latest generation of West Indies talent in a series of both Test matches and One Day Internationals – and I for one will be hoping to take that cricketing holiday in the Caribbean once again. According to Joel ‘Big Bird’ Garner “There is absolutely no substitute for the Caribbean experience anywhere else in the world. Anyone having experienced the vibrancy and the fanfare associated with cricket for instance at the historic Kensington Oval soon realises how addictive it is and will just want to keep coming back over and over. Who can blame them?”
Watch a video about Barbados, provided by Travelgurutv.
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