by Renwick Rose
GLOWING TRIBUTES are flowing from all over the world to the great West Indies spin bowler of the epic era of the 1950s, Sonny Ramadin of Trinidad and Tobago who passed away over the weekend.
He was literally the last of the figurative Caribbean cricket “Mohicans”. All of the other members of the West Indies’ historic series win over England, in England in 1950 are already deceased.
That win, the West Indies’ first ever on English soil paved the way for the rise to the top for Caribbean cricket and it took doubtful umpiring decisions on two tours of Australia (1951/52 and 1960/61) and what became known as a “padathon” by two English batsmen in 1957 to delay the inevitable triumph of Caribbean cricket on a global stage.
Sonny Ramadin was an integral part of both the triumph and the rise to glory. A raw 20-year-old with only two first-class matches to his credit, he and fellow spinner, Alfred Valentine of Jamaica, a left-arm spinner to complement Ramadin’s right arm ‘mystery spin’, turning both ways, he joined his equally inexperienced spinning destroyer to engineer the complete humiliation of England, in its own backyard and give the West Indies a 3-1 series victory.
Most satisfying of all was the unforgettable defeat of the team of the colonial power at the acclaimed “headquarters of cricket”, the Lord’s cricket ground, in the second test, June 1950. It used to be said that England preferred to lose a battleship than a Test match at Lord’s, but no preference could be exercised in 1950, England capitulated by 326 runs, and lost the two successive Tests at that. The deadly combination of the “spin twins”, fondly called ‘Ram’ and ‘Val’, was key both to the Lord’s win as well as the series triumph.
Between them they had snared 15 scalps in a losing effort in the first Test.
However, when the sides met again two weeks later, Ramadin, the first cricketer of Indian descent to play for the West Indies, bamboozled the Englishmen with a match haul of 11 wickets, backed by Valentine’s seven scalps.
The victory was celebrated in song, in calypso to be exact with Lord Kitchener, one of the finest exponents of the art, and Lord Beginner composing the legendary, “those two little friends of mine, Ramadin and Valentine’, a song which has become immortal.
The victory at Lord’s and in the series had much more than cricketing significance. Migration from the Caribbean to England was being encouraged by the colonial power, stripped of manpower by the Second World War. However this did not erase racism, a logical extension of slavery and colonialism. But Caribbean people in England now had at least the sporting whip, proving that we were in no way inferior. Ram. Val and the legendary 3Ws (Worrell, Weekes and Walcott) were the bedrock of the Caribbean rise. It took a controversial interpretation of cricket laws by two English batters, Peter May and Colin Cowdrey, seven years later, using pad before bat in a marathon partnership of 411 to break Ramadin after he had run through England’s first innings in the first Test (7 for 49). He bowled a record 558 balls in that innings and was never the same afterwards.
Sonny Ramadin is undoubtedly among the pantheon of Caribbean cricket heroes. We must let our young ones know about that, as well as his role in ushering in the invaluable presence of people of Indian descent in the Caribbean’s rise to fame. Rohan Kanhai, Alvin Kallicharran and Shivnarine Chanderpaul were to follow