Monday, February 19, 2018

A cricket thing

 The mandatory “winer girls” or dancers at my end of the ground in front of the Jeffrey Stollmeyer stand in the Queen’s Park Oval represented the St Lucia Zouks at the third and final CPL match to be played in Trinidad in this the second coming of the T20 league. On the first day the same threesome had appeared in the colours of the Guyana Amazon Warriors and on the second they were there for the Jamaica Tallawahs. The girls were the same, the routines were unchanged but the crowd, despite having many of the same people including my son Zubin and me, was always different in appearance, number and behaviour.

The first game was at 8 p.m. on a Thursday night and was sold out. The crowd was noisy but not tremendously raucous. 

The Oval is a place, a shrine really, that I have been attending since I was five, taken there by my Uncle Jacket, who worked in the cane fields but who always had time for cricket.  In my time, I have seen many wonders the greatest of which was the left-handed Garry Sobers picking up a ball from Australian leg-spinner and googly bowler, Peter Phillpot, and depositing it on the roof of the same stand in which I was sitting.  

This was 1965. I was an Oval teen. Phillpot, who eventually got eighteen wickets in the series, made his debut in the Australian Test team in Jamaica and was difficult to read. He started off well in Trinidad and then Sobers came in to face him. I was in the grounds almost directly opposite the Stollmeyer stand. I may have seen the ball leave the bat but I definitely did see it land on the top of the stand on the old “galvanize” or zinc roof raising a dirty dust cloud.  

I have seen Rohan Kanhai’s famous hook shot where he jumped and with both feet in the air hit the ball and then fall on his buttocks. I did not know what the shot was, but I saw him hit an inside-out six, banging the scoreboard and scattering the schoolboys who manned it. Clive Lloyd’s fielding and throwing with either hand, Lara falling before what seemed to be an inevitable century against Barbados, Richie Richardson’s debut Test, Dujon’s brilliant century, the return of Tom Graveney who at the age of 41 made a brilliant 118 against the West Indies at the Oval.  

On that first night against the Amazon Warriors, who had beaten the Red Steel team in Guyana in a match made doubly exciting with a super-over by Sunil Narine which yielded not a single run, a six on the last ball by Darren Bravo was a dream come true for those Trinis attending and watching the game.  “Maybe because Kamla give them back the ‘Trinidad and Tobago’ they win,” one of the ecstatic fans said to me.

On the second day, a Saturday, the game started at noon. I could not believe that games starting at twelve in the afternoon, a time more suited to the global television audience than Trinis, would be sold out.  

And so it was written that on the third day, a Sunday game starting at 4 p.m., the crowds would gather and the Oval would be sold out again but, paradoxically for anywhere else in the world but Trinidad, with even more people there. Loaves and fishes were ordinary compared to this miracle. It got so crowded that fans started to encroach on the dancers area in front of the Stollmeyer stand. 

The girls left, fearing less for their lives than their sanity and perhaps feeling crowded out by the fans surrounding them. Immediately members of the crowd jumped up on the platform and started to gyrate, oscillate, cavort and rotate—in other words “wine”.  They did this with such gusto, such flexibility and such panache that several of us commented almost simultaneously, “They wining better than the winer girls!”

Then the police came and stopped the fun and I remembered many years ago when a cop came and stood in front of us in the Carib bleachers blocking our view of the game. The “orange” bombardment was as thorough and ferocious like the drubbing Holland recently inflicted on Spain. One of the people behind me told the policeman dryly, “Boss, we pay to watch Sobers, we ain’t pay to watch you.”