Let’s do that museum at Sabina Park

Saturday, April 01, 2017

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Cricket fans will be celebrating a historic milestone when West Indies host Pakistan at Sabina Park for the first Test of a three-Test Caribbean series, April 21-25.


That Test match will mark the 50th since the very first at the iconic ground back in April 1930. Those with a ken for cricket history will probably recognise that the 1930 Test match between West Indies and England at Sabina Park was the famous ‘timeless’ Test. With April 6 being a rest day, the drawn game lasted from April 3 to April 12.


The last two days were washed out by rain but apparently the weather wasn’t the determining factor in the game being drawn. Reports at the time claimed the match was called off because the ship scheduled to take the England cricketers back across the Atlantic was ready to go. Some claimed the ship, anchored in Kingston Harbour, impatiently honked its horn to alert the cricketers that it was about to leave.


That ‘timeless’ Test marked the coming of age of the legendary Mr George Headley who, at 19 years old, hit a second-innings 223. Mr Headley remained the youngest to score a double century until the Pakistani Mr Javed Miandad did so in 1976.


England had earlier made a gigantic mark. The Englishmen scored a first- innings 849 all out with their opener Mr Andy Sandham hitting 325.


Of all the great achievements at Sabina, perhaps the grandest came in February 1958 when Sir Garfield Sobers, then just 21 years old, smashed a Test match hundred for the very first time and went on to score a world record 365 not out, beating the 364 set by Sir Len Hutton of England.


There have been other memorable moments at Sabina Park — not all of them pleasant. Older Jamaicans will vividly recall one or two riots or near riots after unpopular umpiring decisions, but over the last two decades the most painful memory would have to be January 29, 1998. Back then, a Test match between West Indies and England was abandoned on the first morning because the pitch was deemed dangerous.


Over time Sabina Park — which some suggest dates back in excess of 200 years — has been transformed in terms of infrastructure. The Jamaican Government spent well in excess of US$30 million to substantially rebuild the stadium leading up to the 2007 ICC Cricket World Cup, and in 2014 lights were installed with the help of the Indian Government to facilitate cricket at nights — not least the carnival-like twenty20 Caribbean Premier League.


Sadly, Sabina Park has suffered from the alarming downturn in the popularity of traditional, longer-format cricket. Also, long-standing suggestions to exploit the facility’s rich history through an appropriately laid out museum — using old and new technologies, as well as the development of a business/entertainment zone with restaurants, memorabilia stores, etc — are apparently yet to reach the drawing board.


We are told that the West Indies Cricket Board, Jamaica Cricket Association and Kingston Cricket Club have joined hands to suitably commemorate the 50th anniversary. A poster competition, a ‘roll-call’ of Jamaicans to have played Test cricket at Sabina and perhaps most importantly, elaborate exhibitions outlining the history of cricket at Sabina, are among the activities being planned.


Could all this be a step towards the long-overdue cricket museum at Sabina? This newspaper certainly hopes so.

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