An achievement for the ages

An achievement for the ages

Monday, July 13, 2020

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Britain was among the winners when World War Two — easily among the worst man-made catastrophes in all history — ended in 1945.

Despite military victory, that country, like the rest of Europe, was in a mess. The death toll from the war was horrendous, economy devastated, and infrastructure in shambles.

The need to rebuild was beyond urgent.

That's when Britain turned to “people of colour” from the Caribbean (the so-called Windrush generation), as well as Africa and Asia, in order to rebuild.

Between 1948 and the early 1970s, hundreds of thousands of Caribbean people, subjects of the British Crown, were accepted to that country on the rebuilding mission.

By 1950, thousands of Caribbean people had arrived in war-ravaged Britain. Most found employment but life was hard, racism cruel and rampant, accommodation poor and overcrowded, and, for many, morale was low.

Which is where sport, and in particular cricket, came in.

When the West Indies cricket team started their tour of England in the spring of 1950, Caribbean people at home and in Britain were hoping and praying for a “lift” against the colonial masters.

Heads dropped when England easily won the first Test.

But then came one of cricket's great turnarounds.

West Indies — led by the batting of the Three Ws (Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Frank Worrell, and Sir Clyde Walcott), supported by openers Messrs Allan Rae and Jeffrey Stollmeyer, and spurred by two young, unheralded spin bowlers Messrs Alf Valentine and Sonny Ramadhin, immortalised as “those two little pals of mine” — won the next three Tests, to take the four-Test series 3-1.

The celebration of that landmark triumph of a predominantly black cricket team over England on English soil has echoed down the decades, retained to this day in song and poetry.

For close to half a century after that — until the long, depressing slide of West Indies cricket begun in the 1990s — Caribbean people used the success of their regional team as means to boost morale. But for the last 20-odd years people in this region have found very little to celebrate in Test cricket — the most respected form of the game. World titles for the West Indies in T20 cricket have brought joy, but there has always been something missing.

Hence, for Caribbean cricket, yesterday's victory over fourth-ranked England by visiting, eighth-ranked West Indies in the first Test of a three-Test series, at the demoralising height of COVID-19 in a 'spectatorless', bio-secure environment, is an achievement for the ages.

The job has only begun. There are two more Tests to play, and the West Indies, holders of the prestigious Wisden Trophy, after shocking heavily favoured England in the Caribbean last year, will know their hosts are hurting badly and will be hitting back hard, determined and strong.

But for Caribbean people — virtually lost in uncertainty as a direct result of COVID-19, the most deadly pandemic to strike mankind in a century — yesterday's triumph has lifted spirits immeasurably.

To captain, Mr Jason Holder, and his men; to the coach, Mr Phil Simmons, and his entire staff; to team sponsors, Sandals, and other partners, who have kept faith with the regional team despite the naysayers, we say thanks. We wish the West Indies well in the battles ahead.

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