The unnerving ease with which the government recently announced that the once-grand old New Amsterdam Hospital will be torn down should cause sleepless nights for those who have had a life-long affiliation with the Bourda Cricket Ground and have nurtured undying memories of tense test match finishes and absorbing draws there.
Whatever its protestations, preservation of the built, social and cultural heritage of this country is not very high up the list of priorities of this government especially if there are clandestine deals to be struck and money to be made.
This is not to say that time must stand still and the Bourda sward should he petrified and left as an unused monument to memories. It means that the rich history of this marvellous ground should be built upon to provide a template on which new memories could be layered but without blotting out its essence.
This is however what the outlines of a plan floating in government circles will achieve. If it is proceeded with, Bourda, the home of the Georgetown Cricket Club and one of cricket’s most hallowed grounds will be merged with the Georgetown Football Club to great a grand complex but without any room for cricket. Can you believe it?
Following a report in this newspaper about this plan, it has been reported by the executive of the club that the government has committed to submitting a plan which will flesh out in greater detail what is envisaged in the uniting of the neighbouring grounds. There is nothing wrong with an expanded complex for the beautiful game. Indeed, when planning for the 2007 cricket world cup was in its infancy the converse of the current proposal had been mooted for the merging of the two grounds into a cricket facility that would do justice to the World Cup.
That proposal came to naught and the decision was made to build the Providence Stadium which for all of its attributes and draws pales in comparison to the charm and coziness of the Bourda experience in the halcyon days of West Indian cricket. There was a greater intimacy in this compact ground with its hand-changed scoreboard and distinctive stands which in their naming recognized the legends of Test cricket.
We can do no better than echo the views on this matter of former West Indies Test player Basil Butcher who in comments in the July 16th edition of this newspaper made his position resoundingly clear. He said it would be a “sinful act against cricket” if the two grounds were merged and would herald the destruction of Bourda. Said Mr Butcher “I am sure there are other sites for such a facility to be constructed. That ground holds immense value and cricket can do so much for young people especially when they can say that they played at Bourda, which is renowned around the world”. He made the salient point that had Bourda been well tended to by those who have jurisdiction over it the need would not even have arisen for this discussion.
Some might cynically wonder if as in the case of the New Amsterdam Hospital the plan isn’t for the degradation of Bourda to the extent that its full restoration would be impossible and that this would inevitably lead to alternative proposals. Some of its iconic structures have already been torn down. Mr Butcher’s comments also found resonance with the President of the Guyana Cricket Board, Mr Chetram Singh who told this newspaper that Bourda should remain a haven for cricket because of the history it has witnessed.
Like many of its other `deals’, the plan by the government that has been circulating for the merger of the two grounds had had a secret existence until it was reported on recently. Such schemes tend to have great success when they are hidden from the public eye until it is too late to do anything about it. Such schemes also succeed very well when good citizens, particularly those who would be most affected by it, sit back and let others decide for them.
Whatever the plan for the improvement of the two neighbouring grounds, it must proceed in great openness and there must be full participation by the executives and memberships of the club in the final decision, all the while allowing the ordinary citizen some means of input.
If indeed the merger goes ahead there should be one non-negotiable. Cricket belongs to Bourda and Bourda to it. The game must be continued to be played there and the refurbished area much become a launching pad for its re-entry to the hosting of international cricket.