What is Jamaica’s national sport? Many would say cricket. Some football. Others dominoes. But none of these are as fascinating to Jamaicans as ‘bunning’. No matter what the time or place, news that a man ‘a get bun’ will immediately render all other topics irrelevant and produce gales of laughter. For nothing is so amusing to Jamaicans as a man being cheated on by his woman - the central plot of virtually every ‘roots’ play.


When I was a boy my friends and I spent nearly all our spare time discussing sports. Pele was a big favourite, but nothing was as important as West Indies cricket. We were glued to transistor radios during test matches and Garfield Sobers, who time and again single-handedly rescued his side, was to us the greatest man alive.


It did it again. Every time I decide to give up completely on West Indies cricket another thrilling drama drags me back into the camp. In 1999 it was the magnificence of Brian Lara at Sabina Park and Kensington Oval. Last year it was the thrilling one wicket win over Pakistan (though the umpires really gave that match to the Windies). And Saturday it was Ridley Jacob’s last ball heroics at Sabina Park.


They say sport mirrors society. And few events have so sharply reflected Jamaican reality as the Peta-Gaye Dowdie / Merlene Ottey Olympics controversy.

The JAAA management’s immorality, arrogance and incompetence were sadly typical of our authorities. First they broke their own rules and deprived a National Champion of her legal right to represent her country. It was depressing to see an innocent young girl psychologically crushed by her supposed guardians intent on carrying out an obviously predetermined agenda.


Cricket in the West Indies is more than a game. It is the region’s only unifying force, its only common touchstone. And in recent years the question of whether cricket can survive the onslaught of cable television has provided as much drama as the matches themselves. Last year at Sabina Park the very future of the sport seemed to depend on Brian Lara. And had he not been dropped on 44, the West Indies would probably have been comprehensively beaten. Coming after the massacre in South Africa and the 51 all out at Queen’s Park Oval, the entire region may well have given up on the team and the game. Instead Lara went on to make 213 and the Windies won the match and almost the series amidst the fervent support of a grateful region. No wonder the London Times called Lara’s innings “arguably the most important in the history of the game”. It literally saved West Indies cricket.


For those of us who grew up on the game, it is painful to even contemplate the thought. But any honest observer of the West Indies’ abysmal capitulation to New Zealand must ask the question. Is cricket in Jamaica and the West Indies dying?


After the five love in South Africa and the 51 all out, cricket seemed a doomed sport that time had passed by. But the astonishing turn around by Brian Lara and his men has left the game very much still alive and kicking. The WICB however, can not afford to rest on its laurels. West Indies cricket might no longer be on the verge of dying, but it is by no means in good health. Unless we get young people playing the game again, it can not have a good future.


‘Only cricket unites the West Indies. To us it is more than just a game, it is a way of life.

Sir Frank Worrell


My conviction that cricket is the greatest sport ever invented by man or god was severely shaken by the massacre in South Africa. Each pathetic surrender only made it more obvious that cricket was dying both as a game and a West Indian cultural bond. Not even the players seemed to consider what they were doing important. They simply went through the motions like workmen earning an unhappy living.


It is only a game and, in the larger scheme of things, not very important. But mankind needs its diversions. And no other outdoor sport, and few endeavours of any kind, provides such lasting pleasures as cricket. Here the onlooker measures his satisfaction not merely in terms of results, but in the beauty of the spectacle.


British playwright Harold Pinter probably went over the top when he said “Cricket is the greatest thing God ever invented on earth. It’s certainly better than sex, though sex isn’t so bad itself”. But cricket to me has always seemed to present a broader stage for drama, to allow a greater canvas for artistic expression, and to encompass a wider range of emotions and moods than any other outdoor game.