If Karl Marx’s quotation: “Religion is de Opium of de People,” is considered an axiom, den de same should hold if ah were to say dat: “Cricket is de Opium of de West Indies Nay-shun .” Mek no mistake Cricket is part ah we Psyche, we spirit, especially when de West Indies Cricket Team playing good cricket. Not necessarily winning, but as long as dey batting, bowling and fielding wid good cricketing cents, den win or lose we will be glued to ah radio or TV. Back in de olden days, is like men uses to eat, drink and dream cricket. Because after listening ah game on radio all night, next day we doing ah comprehensive ball-by-ball analysis of de day’s or night’s play. In dem days WI cricket was like de platform foh hell’t conversation.
Ah could remember as far back as 1950, the early days wid de 3W’s: Worrell, Weekes and Walcott, and de “Spin Twins “ Ramadhin and Valentine. We never missed ah ball bowled, although we had no Internet or TV, only radio specially built wid short wave and long wave frequency range, to pick up far-away stations in England, Australia, New Zealand, India or Pakistan. As ah youth ah found it unimaginable when West Indies played in Australia (down under) in 1951 foh de first time, outside dark like pitch and cricket playing. Yes ole man Baptiste and I couldn’t figure out de 12 to 14 hours time difference between de two regions, in our conversation, he would console me when West Indies was getting bowled out: “ Poor West Indies,” he would say, “ outside dark, our Boys not accustomed to play cricket in de dark ah night.” What was remarkable back den was dat people stayed up all night having dey conversation while listening de game as though dey were seeing Live Cricket.
De consensus is dat after de grand 1950 debut in England, it took West Indies ah good 20 years before we peaked, so much so we were nicknamed de ‘All-Conquering team’ in the 1970s, ’80s and a little bit in the ’90s. Dat’s when de world saw de pillar stones of the West Indies Cricket, Sir Gary Sobers, Clive Lloyd, Sir Vivian Richards, Brian Lara to name only ah few great batters. Transistor radios and TV had become popular by den and in Kingstown or even all round SVG, just about everybody had dey ears plugged listening cricket. Stores in town generously place televisions at show windows foh cricket lovers to view games. Tanty Merle was at every game at de same time, psyche-in us up.
During dat colourful 1970-1990 glory days of WI cricket, Test Match attendance was high on every Carry-Beyond Test ground. Test series was like an unwinding of positive energies as we celebrated West Indies test victories. Best of all dey was more conversation and less confrontay-shun all around, in de class-room, at work-places, after church services, even at funerals. People were civil and tolerant towards each other. Elections would come ‘n’ go leaving no venom or hatred. Our hearts were pure and de adrenaline or opium was potent, a simple game of ‘Cricket West Indies’ made us one Carry-Beyond.
Den Wes Indies Cricket went down, occasionally dey was ah few burst of de good ole spirit trying to come back. Attendances fell at matches, but most of all, dey was no more crowds under de galleries watching de game on tv; no more transistor radio, if yuh saw someone wid ears plugged, s/he listening music from Youtube. And worst of all doh ask anyone “what’s de cricket scores” or. “how de match going?” you will get ah an ice frozen response, dey interest in West Indies Cricket was no more. Conversation was gradually becoming confrontation.
On Monday night after West Indies seized ah three nil victory and won de T/20 Series against Australia, an ole buddy, ah Cricketing Conversationist, called at midnight, he was bubbling over like de days when cricket uses to wuk pon him like opium. “Talk to me!” he said, “do yuh think West Indies cricket is back to dem ole days?” Ah brushed him aside and told him not tonight. In closing off he said to me: “ Boy dis performance by West Indies tonight, call foh ah drink, and ah conversation like ole times.”
And wid dat is gone ah gone again.
One Love Bassy
Bassy Alexander is a land surveyor, folklorist and social commentator.