This week’s edition of In Search of West Indies Cricket is presented in the form of a play. Roger Seymour looks at a cricket match from the 1980s. The cricket data and references are factual, and the banter is the writer’s imagination. Today is 36 years and a day since this match was played.
Windward Islands, Caribbean
St Vincent and the Grenadines, a necklace chain of 32 islands and cays, part of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea, where pirates, privateers and buccaneers of yore laid in wait. Legend has it that Captain William Kidd favoured Friendship Bay, others opted for Admiralty Bay on the other side of the Grenadine Island of Bequia – ancient Arawak word meaning “clouds in the sky.”
In 1895, an English amateur side led by Robert Slade Lucas visited the English colonies of the Caribee for a series of cricket matches, initiating a trend that continues today. On February 25, 1895, the Slade-Lucas XI played a one day game versus St Vincent, each side was composed of 12 players.
Wednesday, February 4, 1981
It is the most important day on the island of St Vincent since Independence Day, October 27, 1979, when it became the last Windward Island to gain independence, and a national holiday has been declared. The current visiting English cricket team will challenge their hosts, the West Indies in only the fourth One Day International (ODI) to be played in the Caribbean, the second in the Windward Islands. The ODI is a relatively new format to the international game, and the home team boasts an impressive 24-9 win-loss record.
Act One: Scene One
Sunset Shores Hotel, Villa Beach, Kingstown
The English team is boarding the bus for the five-minute drive to the ground, in the background, there is music emitting from the speakers: “I don’t like cricket, I love it so…”
Coach driver: Good morning, morning gentlemen, welcome aboard. Grab a seat anywhere, the entire island is waiting for you, gentlemen.
Ian Botham, English Captain (leads the way): Morning Sir. Fancy that fellas, he’s got 10CC on cassette to greet us, now we are really at home. Anyone remember this song?
Mike Gatting: Of course, that’s “Dreadlock Holiday,” it hit number one in ’78, it’s from their ‘Bloody Tourists’ album.
Alan Smith, England Manager (boards last and sits in the shotgun seat across from the driver):
Morning Sir, we are ready when you are driver. What’s your name, Sir?
Driver: Morning Mr Smith, my name is Joseph Chatoyer Chateau Balanna, but everyone calls me Chatoyer [Sha-to-yay]
Smith: Chatoyer? Isn’t he a national hero here?
Chatoyer: Yes Sir. You see I’m a Garifuna, a descendant of the Black Caribs, a product of the slaves from West and Central Africa, the Arawaks and the Caribs. My last name Balanna means the sea in Garifuna. We called here Hairouna, we gave the English a hard time from the 1770s to the 1790s. Joseph Chatoyer was the leader in those battles, but he was captured and executed on the 14th March 1796. We surrendered after his demise, the last Windward Island to be subjugated. Then they exported over 5,000 of us to Baliceaux, a barren island off of Bequia. Later, decimated by an unknown illness they exiled the rest of us to Roatan Island, off the coast of Honduras. My family had escaped to Canouan, one of the Grenadine Islands, further south. My great grandmother name me when I born, she always said that I will be the Garifuna to see the righting of Chatoyer’s death… (The local griot sketches the history of Hairouna, as he prefers to call the island, throughout the trip, which despite the presence of police outriders, is restricted to a crawl due to the enormous crowd on hand.)
Act One: Scene Two
The coach arrives at the Arnos Vale Ground, fondly referred to as the Playing Field, the most picturesque cricket ground in this part of the world. The former sugar cane plantation is situated on the southern tip of the island, nestled between the E T Joshua Airport and the Caribbean Sea. The ground is bursting at the seams, 10,000 people are in attendance, they are everywhere, perched in trees, on rooftops; every vantage point is taken.
Act One: Scene Three
The Playing Field
Brilliant sunshine. A light breeze drifts across the pitch from the south east, off Bequia, nine miles away which can be seen from the southern end. The two captains stroll out to the pitch for the coin toss. Clive Lloyd, home captain, flips an old English half-crown high into the air.
Lloyd: Its heads, good call. What are you doing?
Botham: We’ll bowl first. That’s my talisman, my uncle Harry says it always displays ole Queen Victoria’s face from Tuesday to Friday, in the first two weeks of the month. (He places the coin in his pocket) The first round on you, if we get you guys out for under 200?
Lloyd (laughing): It’s on. You think you can dismiss us in fifty overs on this wicket? You kidding, Beefy!
Act Two: Scene One
The umpires, David Archer, a Barbadian and Sadique Mohammed, a Trinidadian, both making their international debut, take their places on the field.
Botham leads England onto the field: Geoffrey Boycott, Graham Gooch, Peter Willey, David Gower, Roland Butcher, Mike Gatting, David Bairstow, John Emburey, Graham Stevenson, and Chris Old.
The West Indies opening pair of Desmond Haynes and Faoud Bacchus descend the pavilion steps. Chris Old prepares to deliver the first ball of the match.
Umpire Archer: Scorers, wet your pencils!
Act Two: Scene Two
After an hour’s play, the West Indies are 51 for 3, as Lloyd joins the Jamaican Everton Mattis who is making his first appearance at the international level.
Lloyd: How are you doing? Settling in fine?
Mattis: So far, not bad. Some deliveries are keeping low, but the pitch is basically true and not that quick.
Lloyd: We have lots of overs to go, just continue to play your game.
Act Two: Scene Three
Mustique is a private island in the Grenadines archipelago, 15 miles south of St Vincent. It is owned by Colin Tennant, ‘the King’, who bought it against his father’s advice in 1958 for £45,000. Of Scottish descent, the aristocrat had dreams of a cotton plantation. Today, he is the founder of up-market tourism for the Caribbean.
It’s 11.37 am. Time, of course, is totally irrelevant in the King’s world; he slips out of the hammock tied between two mahogany posts of the sprawling veranda which faces the sea. He is clad as usual in white Indian cotton kurta pajamas. His red silk Indian mojari sandals are nowhere to be found. He reaches for the Panama straw hat balancing amidst the chaos of empty flutes and goblets, a selection of open bottles of wine, stuffed ashtrays and bowls of nuts on the nearby wicker table whose top is weaved in the shape of Mustique.
The King: Afternoon Basil. What day is it?
Basil, from Mayreau Island in the Grenadines, is officially the bartender, but he has many roles including that of Sancho Panza, drinking buddy, driver, valet, or whatever is required, depending on the King’s state of mind.
Basil: Morning Sir. It’s Wednesday, Sir. Jump up tonight, Sir. The chicken for the barbecue and the jerk came early this morning. I ordered more rum from the distillery on ‘Vincy’. Hope you remembered that you invited those English cricketers to tonight’s party?
The King: Thanks for the reminder, Basil. We should have invited those bloody bastards for high tea too, they have probably lost the match by now. Any idea what’s the score?
Basil fiddles with the dial on the old Regency TR-1 transistor radio. A minute later, a few crackles, and a jingle is playing at the end of a commercial, and a distinct Vincentian accent is heard on the air: This is Radio St Vincent and the Grenadines, broadcasting on 705 AM from Richmond Hill, and we take you back to our commentary team of Henry Bloefeld, Tony Cozier, Reds Perreira and our very own Dr Kenneth John, at the Playing Field for the One Day International between England and the West Indies.
Cozier: And he has bowled him! Another wicket is down. Bowled neck and crop, clean bowled. He played right over it! Might have been the slower one. My, oh, my are the West Indies in trouble, 89 for 5, Larry Gomes, the lefthander from Trinidad, bowled by Peter Willey for 1. This is turning out to be quite a disaster here at Arnos Vale.
The King: Have the MCC [Marylebone Cricket Club] batted yet, Basil? Sounds like a jolly good show is in progress. You think you can get Mustique Airways to send that Cessna we booked to bring the blokes over later, to pick us up? I don’t think we have won a match in these parts since Slade-Lucas was here in the last century.
Ten minutes later, the old radio has lost the signal and Basil returns from the living room.
Basil: I am sorry sir, Mustique Airways says all the pilots are at the game. They will call if anyone shows up at the hanger.
The King (laughing his head off): Just my luck! Once in a lifetime chance to witness an MCC victory and I’m stuck in paradise! (He contemplates the ullages of the wine bottles, and selects a ’68 vintage Banyuls.)
Basil: Sir, those wines are flat, let me get you another Bordeaux.
The King: How many times do I have to tell you Basil, I left open them so they can breathe, breathe, wine has to breathe. We have got the best air in the world right here. Close your eyes! Inhale! Ahhhhhhh! Heaven is right here. Remind me when I call that rascal, Monsieur Jules Fortescue, the negociant over in Martinique to replenish our stock, to arrange for your sommelier classes. There is more to life than rum, Basil. (There is a twinkle in his eyes) Speaking of which, what time is sunset arranged for?
(The King tilts the flute and tastes the wine): Brilliant! Ohhh what length! Can you coax some life into that old bastard from the ’50’s, Basil?
Of course, Basil is a West Indies supporter. He delicately caresses the dial whilst offering a silent prayer for rain. There is a crackle and then:
Reds Perreira: And the ball is fielded by Boycott at midwicket. The West Indies are listing at 110 for 7. Mattis is still hanging on with 49, Garner has 4… (The signal dies again.)
The King: Basil, did he just say Boycott? No, it can’t be Geoffrey Boycott. I remember seeing him play against the Australians in ’64 at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, I think. Took two days to make 13 runs. Basil, he must be older than me. It must be his son. Oh gosh, Basil. Call our friend on Palm Island that American bloke with the seaplane. Call the bloody tower at ET, ask them to tell him that I am out of champagne or whatever the hell he imbibes. Just tell him to get here bloody quick!
The West Indies succumb for 127 in 47.2 overs. Mattis is the last wicket to fall, run out for 62, with four 4s, in 143 minutes. Haynes, 34, with eight 4s, is the only other batsman to hit a boundary. Lloyd and Extras, 8 each, are the other main contributors. The six English bowlers share eight wickets.
Act Three: Scene One
The Playing Field, Visitors’ Dressing Room, lunch time
Manager Smith: Well done chaps. Just remember this is the West Indies you are playing. You saw them last summer, they aren’t going to roll over and quit.
Boycott: You are absolutely right, Alan. In all my years of playing against these blokes, it’s very rare to have an opportunity like this one.
Gower: How far back are we talking about Sir? I know it’s before I was born. World War two?
(The entire English team is cracking up. Gower has started the needling. Boycott, of course, is not amused.)
Boycott: Watch your lip, goldilocks! You were probably in diapers when I faced [Australian] Graham McKenzie !
Botham: I thought it was Lindwall and Miller [Australian fast bowlers, 1946/1956], you played against.
Boycott: They retired as soon as I arrived, didn’t want to skew their averages.
(The mood is upbeat and the verbal parrying continues.)
Act Three: Scene Two
West Indies Dressing Room, lunch time
In spite of the dire straits the team finds itself in, the usual upbeat air of confidence exuded by the two-time defending World Cup champions permeates the room.
Haynes: I wonder who did the catering for lunch, everything was great.
Garner: It’s some Vincy lady on the western side of the island, she has been the caterer for decades they say. There’s no one who can make breadfruit chips like her.
Gomes: Is there some cocktail party tonight at the Governor-General’s place?
Lloyd: That was last night Larry. You can thank your fellow Trinis at Bee Wee for missing your connection out of Barbados.
(Andy Roberts and Colin Croft are deeply engrossed in a game of chess. Michael Holding is a silent observer.)
There is a knock on the door, and a dressing-room attendant whispers: There is a young lady outside asking for Mr …
Act Three: Scene Three
The English team’s coach is parked against the airport fence.
Chatoyer is sitting in the coach in a state of utter depression. Every time he turns on the radio a wicket falls, and he feels personally responsible for the present state of affairs. He admires the label of the sealed bottle of the famous local rum in his bag, and wisely avoids the temptation. He abandons the coach in search of his favourite food vendor, Aunt Evelyn from the Grenadine Island of Petit St Vincent. Roasted breadfruit and fried Jack fish can resolve any problem. (Continued next week)