I have a confession.
How do I say this?
Let’s just spit it out.
I tried. I tried to tune in to World Cup Cricket. But each time I browsed through the schedule, saw the times and expected duration of the matches, I wilted and thought of 40 zillion other things I could be doing.
(I can hear the outcry of the Caribbean male population.)
Don’t get me wrong. I love cricket. I’ve watched a few one-day matches and a test series or two during my lifetime. I’ve cheered for the West Indies, marveled at their sportsmanship and cussed them like my fellow islanders.
I remember the Saturdays my father sat frozen for hours in front of our black-and-white television, counting wickets, boundaries, silly mid-offs and eyeballing the umpire.
Who can forget the calypso and soca songs and the days when dutch pots moved straight from stove to oval, so di Sunday rice and peas, baked chicken, fried plantain and gravy didn’t get cold sake a di whole-day matches?
I mean, I love cricket!
But I just don’t love-love cricket–not enough to lose sleep over it.
In Jamaica, it’s not unusual to see our men gathered before TVs at sports bars, hardware stores, banks or supermarkets, with eyes glued to other men chasing down balls, sliding across grass and dashing from wicket to wicket.
At cricket time, our men don’t stray far from their radios, and it’s not odd for a passing stranger to stop and ask you for the latest score.
At cricket time, it doesn’t matter if the budget is being read in parliament, the Queen of England is gracing our shores or di pickney dem nervously writing Common Entrance. Our attention is on cricket.
At cricket time, Mrs. Gloudon has no reservations about interrupting Hotline and ‘Bertis’ Bell has no problem capitalizing on extra time between guest interviews to squeeze in updates while the nation secretly crosses its fingers for the West Indies to pull through–even in the face of a string of losses.
In Jamaica, we’ve been criticizing and analyzing the West Indies team, the cricket board, the captains and anything remotely cricket related for donkey’s years.
We treat them like obstinate patients on death’s bed in UWI Hospital, who are unwilling to swallow their medicine of sharp criticism and unsolicited recommendations. We pen newspaper articles and call into talk-show radio with hurting hearts, eulogizing the former stalwarts and declaring the current crop a lost cause.
Needless to say, for every match, we hunt for frequent updates on runs, wickets and overs and standby to hoot wildly should the patient exhibit signs of life and possible recovery.
I don’t think we cuss the West Indies team because we hate them. We cuss because we love them and can’t get enough cricket drama.
I must confess. I don’t understand the game. I know how to count runs. But that’s as far as it goes. Don’t get fancy or technical with me about ducks, googlies or leg-byes. Your cricket jargon will fall on deaf ears.
However, taking in a one-day at Sabina Park, Kensington or Queen’s Park Oval is still on my wish list, and I believe it should be on everyone’s list too, even if it’s just to satisfy your curiosity about the sport that drives patrons to willingly withstand sun-hot, rain, belly pain and body-come-down.
Cricket is the unifying sport of the Caribbean as far as I’m concerned. It makes us feel like one mass on the glistening Caribbean sea. It highlights our cultural similarities, colourful island vibes, love for dancing, singing and posing for the cameras. We ‘kin teet’ if we win and wipe each others tears if we lose.
Yes, cricket, lovely cricket.
Catch yuh next time.
Peace and love.
A few interesting notes:
1. Dr. Barbara Gloudon is a veteran journalist, broadcaster and playwright and a host of RJR 94FM’s Hotline radio call-in programme.
2. Neville ‘Bertis’ Bell is a veteran broadcaster, sportsman and football coach and a host of TVJ’s morning show, Smile Jamaica.
3. Common Entrance Exams, which were replaced by the Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) in 1999, was a series of mandatory high-school entrance exams sat by 5th and 6th graders.
Image of Cricket Key is courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net
Image of Leather Cricket Ball is courtesy of Simon Howden at FreeDigitalPhotos.Net