Saturday, February 24, 2018

View from a chair

I wonder what it would be like to be a plastic seat upstairs the Jeffrey Stollmeyer stand for the NAGICO Super50 series.

For one thing, it would be a boring experience.

I would have the top level all to myself because there just has not been any “work” to do, no bottoms to accommodate. I would just be gathering dust. I would not be alone in this.

All around the Oval, my “brothers” are seeing hard times. There are no feet coming to us, seeking a place to rest and watch the cricket. No children seeking to climb all over me. At least that means I would be getting away from being showered with sweet drink or corn curls when the youngsters spill them. But that also means I’m not getting to hear any ole talk, like about what is going on in the country, because their parents are not here either. There is no picong passing, usually entertaining when Trinis give it, especially if that means the nutsmen like “Nuts Landing” and “Buy From Me Nah” are on patrol. And I can’t hear about the cricket.

Those fellows on the field look as though they in practice, getting ready for a real match, because in a real match, you expect to see enough people you could call a crowd.

It wasn’t so last year when the Caribbean Premier League was in town. That was people every where; lights, cameras and plenty noise and action, in the stands and down on the field, like the night when Red Steel captain Dwayne Bravo collect six, six and four from Vernon Philander from Jamaica Tallawahs in his last over and the game kinda got out of hand from there.

People went home cussing that night. You know how Trinidadians suffer often from amnesia as soon as things don’t go their way. All of a sudden Bravo was the worst thing. But even the nonsense talk was good because me and the brothers felt we were in the game although we were just listening. We were all sorry when the CPL ended, because that kind of action in cricket rare these days.

It makes me sad to see this cricket thing now. Something missing.

Before they retire him to bring a new set of seats up here, Pops used to tell me how when regional cricket playing, it was like a Test match, say when Barbados came down. Take that game in ’73 when the champion Bajans came with Garry Sobers in the side, ageing but still great, playing with people like Gordon Greenidge and Keith Boyce under David Holford the captain. The late Joey Carew was captaining T&T, and he had with him good men like Charlie Davis, Richard Gabriel, Deryck Murray, the late Richard De Souza, Ron Faria, Prince Bartholomew, and the spin triplets, Inshan Ali, also deceased, Imtiaz Ali and Raphick Jumadeen.

No plastic chairs those days. My “elders” were hard as iron. But when people were not sitting on them, they took their pressure in the Concrete Stand, chasing their soreness with some spirits. And they saw a game with serious action.

Jumadeen got six in the first innings, including Sobers lbw for 23 and kept Barbados down to 236. T&T came back with 360, captain Carew getting run out for 84 (could imagine how happy he was about that) and Julien staying 82 not out. Murray also got 59. And even though Peter Lashley got 89 in the second innings, the Bajans only mustered 214. Jumas came back with three wickets, and Bartholomew and Inshan Ali also got three.

Joey’s men needed less than 100 to get for the win, and he did not have to bat again as Davis and De Souza finished the match off, T&T winning by eight wickets.

The Concrete Stand men must have had a ball in that game. It was not too often the Trinis beat the Bajans in those days. But nobody in that stand now. Whatever Barbados and the Leeward Islands doing in this Super50 match, is mainly for the benefit of the scorebook. Some of the cricket reflected the lack of atmosphere.

Watching the Leewards batsmen going back and forth from the pavilion was like watching men go to court, getting sentenced and then going back to jail. The body language was defeatist. It looked like the men were resigned to getting beat again. Once captain Keiran Powell left, it seemed the fight left the side. Maybe that is not fair. Perhaps it was more a lack of self belief that has imprisoned the Leewards players to the point where it is so difficult for them to respond positively to a crisis.

I want to give them the benefit of the doubt, because when the Bajans went to the crease, they had a good go of doing the unexpected and defending their 103.

Kelbert Walters, the seamer who was brought in for this final group match, started the Leewards revival when he bowled Dwayne Smith in the second over. But things really started to get embarrassing for Barbados when the spinners Anthony Martin and Justin Athanaze came on. It was a spinner’s pitch and the Leewards pair gave nothing away. Martin struck some big blows when he got rid of Rashidi Boucher and Jonathan Carter, the century-maker against T&T.

You could tell the Leewards players were up for the job when Hayden Walsh dropped Kraigg Brathwaite. How he put down that catch, he will never be able to explain, it was just so simple. But it was the reaction of the bowler that was instructive. He was livid, arms going everywhere, face not being able to mask his frustration. Even way up in the stands, one could feel the hurt.

Defeat was still going to come. The score was too low and dropping opening batsman Brathwaite who ended unbeaten just could not have been afforded. However, the Leewards still managed to get four more wickets. They had pushed hard but it was just not good enough. No one, however, was interested enough to be at the Oval to at least applaud that effort.

The more one watches the best of West Indies cricket playing in empty places, the more one feels a sense of loss.

There will be much better days at the Oval for crowds at cricket. But not too many.

These are just very different times, and the nature of West Indies cricket—how it is set up and played—resembles less and less the traditions that built it. The new version does not seem set up to last.

But that is just the view from a chair.