The Art and Spirit of the Game

THE JOY of watching babies and little children is that they find everything so new, so interesting. The world for them is an inexhaustible delight of endless novelty.

At times, you feel almost envious and think of Wordsworth's words: 'Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, But to be young was very heaven!'

Of course, at other moments Thomas Gray comes to mind

Yet ah! why should they know their fate?

Back from the dead, again!

ALL SPORTS serve up the occasional storybook surprise. But watching the West Indies is becoming a surreal experience. Regularly plumbing the gloomiest depths and then abruptly soaring to ecstatic highs, Windies cricket increasingly resembles a weird theatre of the absurd. They say losing hurts worse than wining feels good. Yet the agony of constant defeat seems to make our rare triumphant moments even more exhilarating. A pitch black canvas punctuated by brilliant bursts of colour - such is the current picture of Caribbean cricket.


Why, I wondered to a friend last week, do some people place such importance on sports? Isn’t it ridiculous for grown ups to waste so much time and energy worrying about essentially childish pastimes over which they have no control? But he disagreed. Sports, he said, provide emotional training. Thrilling to victories and agonizing over defeats is an excellent preparation for the inevitable ups and downs of life.


DESPITE THEIR pathetic record, the West Indies have created some unforgettable memories over the past five years. In 1999 there was Brian Lara's 'resurrection' 213 at Sabina, and his 'one wicket win' 153 at Kensington. Antigua in 2003 saw the fourth innings winning record 418 for seven.


May 12, 2007 – Greenfield Park, Jamaica. “The West Indies posted a record 400 and then dismissed India for 199 to win the 2007 Cricket World Cup by 201 runs. Chris Gayle and Devon Smith set the tone with a century opening partnership in 15 overs, with Gayle making 88 off 60 balls and Smith 89 off 62. Ram Sarwan made a run ball 70, Dwayne Smith blasted 74 off 48 balls, while Captain Brian Lara’s contributed a comparatively snail-like 56 off 60 balls in his West Indian swansong.


I’ve never liked the Olympic motto. For man’s glory is his mind, not his body. We will never run faster than cheetahs, jump higher than kangaroos, or lift heavier weights than elephants. Which is why the athletes who impress me are not those who dominate by sheer physical superiority but those who triumph through mental strength.


NO SPORT matters more to a people than cricket does to West Indians. It is to us not so much a game as part of our heritage. But these are painful days for the faithful. So far have the once mighty Windies fallen that Brian Lara is seeing our latest innings defeats as positives because, "At least we are fighting hard and reaching the final day now."


“Does life get any better than this?” Australian fan at Queen’s Park Oval 2003.

“The fans love West Indies cricket. They love the West Indies way of life. They see on television how West Indians enjoy themselves and they will be coming to be part of it.” Chris Dehring, CEO Cricket World Cup 2007


“The greatest spectators in the world” JAAA president Pat Anderson called the crowd at last week’s World Junior Athletics Championships. And who could disagree? It was not only the unmatched passion with which the Jamaicans fans roared on their compatriots that made them so special, but also the wonderful generosity of spirit with which they cheered every performer of excellence regardless of nationality. Competitors described the crowd as “awesome” and some foreign victors carried the black, green and gold as well as their native flags on their laps of honour. All of which proved once again that whatever our faults, at our best there are no more vibrantly delightful people than Jamaicans. As Sam Johnson might have put it, not only entertaining in ourselves but the cause of entertainment in others.


IT was ridiculous. For a month the world was obsessed with groups of uneducated young men kicking around an air-filled bladder. Some 40 million are estimated to have watched part of the spectacle, which amounts to over 60 billion manhours wasted. Spent productively, this would have added more than US$100 billion to the world economy. How many millions of starving children could have been fed!