A quest for stardom
University of the West Indies’ vice chancellor Professor Sir Hilary Beckles says the West Indian cricketer of the modern era when faced with the choice of nation over self has claimed his independence through utilising his talents to make the kind of income that enhances his long-term future.
The career educator and prolific writer on Caribbean history and cricket posited this view on Tuesday evening at the Queen’s Park Steel Shed while delivering the tenth in the Barbados Museum & Historical Society’s lecture series under the theme Fire In Babylon: Cricket As Popular Culture.
According to him, “no one should criticise citizens from this region, especially from the working class communities who have found a vehicle out of poverty that is legitimate, legal and above board. Today’s player is not interested in being a hero. He wants to be a star”.
In explaining that statement, he continued: “What that player is really saying is that he has no intention of being a hero who ends up poor and dependent on the Government for a pension or a salary.
“They look back on 50 years of heroes, who have brought us these achievements but when they look, they see poor men who fought like soldiers, but now exist in poverty. They are saying, ‘Hell no’.”
After the riveting delivery of the discourse, Cricket Without A Cause: Fall And Rise Of The Mighty West Indian Test Cricketers – the title of his book which was launched last September – Sir Hilary engaged in a lively exchange with members of the audience during the Question And Answer session that followed.
He touched on a number of the issues surrounding the game in the West Indies including the clamour by some CARICOM governments for reform of the governance structure of Cricket West Indies, the growth and future of Women’s cricket and the relationship between cricket and development of a Caribbean nation.
As he did in the thesis presented in the book, Sir Hilary identified three stages within the 100-year period since 1886 in which West Indies cricket “scaled the peaks of world. Cricket only to subsequently fall into the valley each time”.
By his account, after receiving international Test status in 1927, it took until around 1950 for the West Indies to challenge the mighty Australia for the claim to be unofficial world champions. According to holder of the island’s highest national honour, after a humbling loss to the “Aussies” it took another 15 years to get backto “the mountain top”.
He said it was under the leadership of Sir Garfield Sobers that the title of “champions of the world” was unofficially conferred, having beaten Australia in a series for the first time in 1965. This, Sir Hilary reckoned, was the second rise to the pinnacle and preceded a second plummet for another 15 years or so before the third ascendancy, the most sustained of the three, forged with Clive Lloyd and later Sir Vivian Richards at the helm.