Of cricketing glory and Mark Golding's high noon


Of cricketing glory and Mark Golding's high noon


Sunday, November 15, 2020

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In the dark, depressing days after the People's National Party's disastrous loss on September 3, Comrades who for too long had strayed from God sought answers and ameliorating solace in the many tabernacles dotting our land. But far below the ethereal realm there were explanations and experiences here on Earth.

For certain, our party has known times like this before, but to a new generation of Comrades who knew not or endured the pain of struggle, the demoralising defeat prematurely signalled that we had reached our journey's end.

To cement and better appreciate the lessons of this time, we must go back to parallels in the social setting of our past, long before Mark Golding's ascension brought some light to the fragility and uncertainty caused by our loss.

To better make the point, we go to the game of cricket which brought hope, though fleeting, in harsh decades of subservience and disrespect before our heroes graced the stage.

In the bleak, early years of West Indian cricket, we suffered many humiliating defeats at the hands of our colonial masters. Without the heroic efforts of one man, the double immortal, George Alphanso Headley, called Atlas for his burden-bearing exploits, our national psyche would be irreparably shattered. It is important to note that the Comrades at the forefront of the national movement were all standout sportsmen: Ken Hill, OT Fairclough, Norman Manley, and Noel Nethersole, who captained Jamaica's cricket team. Invariably, they would have drawn ennobling inspiration from the triumphs of the Jamaican Headley, in overcoming lengthening odds to form the PNP in 1938.

With Headley's decline in the post-war years (1945-50), another spark of genius was needed to lift weary, despondent souls, particularly Comrades who had lost the first election of 1944, after leading the fight for adult suffrage and nationhood. But even as they contemplated on the ungrateful curve of destiny, a just God would provide that spark which lit the way towards redeeming hope and renewal.

It came once more through the magical palliative of cricket, with the mesmerising guile of the spin-bowling masters, Ramadhin and Valentine, but moreso on a platform of brilliance set by the simultaneous arrival of three of the greatest batsmen the game has known. In a tremendous juxtaposition of cricketing history, all three were Barbadians, whose surnames started with the letter 'W': Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes and Clyde Walcott, thereafter known as The Three Ws.

The annals of cricketing lore are emblazoned with the many instances of their glory, for which the British monarchy honoured each with its Knighthood on behalf of the grateful British people. Starting with his exciting 141 in the fifth Test of the 1948 home series against England, Everton DeCourcey Weekes called The Tiger, followed up with four-consecutive centuries against India, becoming double immortal in the process. After a career which offered a springtime of electrifying performances, he gave a virtuoso performance in his farewell innings of 90 at Lord's in 1957. Facing the fiery pace of Fred Truman and the deadly swing of Brian Statham, he summoned all his powers to produce unbelievable shots to every corner of the ground, which prompted John Arlott, the great English commentator to exclaim: “Open the gates and let the schoolchildren come in, we will never see batting like this again.”

Then there was the other double immortal, Clyde Leopold Walcott who, at the zenith of his powers, scored 827 runs at the monumental average of 121.8 against the rampaging Australians of 1954-55, featuring an attack including Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Richie Benaud. In this he soothed wounds from the PNP's fallout with “The Four Hs” in 1951 and gave a morale-boosting fillip to the long-suffering leaders, which led to the party's victory in 1955. It was a triumphant exhibition of batting, which led Michael Manley to recreate its magnificence in his magnum opus, the History of West Indian Cricket, likening his Herculean feat to that of Horatio, the legendary warrior who saved Rome and his people: “Over and over he stood like some Horatio at the bridge, his bat alone between West Indian shame and Australian onslaught.”

But nowhere was the art of batsmanship expressed more finitely than through the classic elegance of Frank Mortimer Maglinne Worrell, who was not only appointed to the Senate but also captained Jamaica and led Boy's Town Senior Cup team located in Mark Golding's constituency.

It was the elevated mastery of his craft displayed in his epic 261 at Trent Bridge in 1951 that moved Sir Neville Cardus, the doyen of England's finest writers to record: “An innings by Worrell knows no dawn. It begins at high noon.”

And so we come to another place, in another time that has again found the PNP at a low ebb. Far beyond the boundaries of cricket, where boyhood heroes found greatness out of despair, where the PNP drew courage to continue the journey, the mission remains amidst lessons to be learnt.

On the wet afternoon of November 7, 2020, with heavy showers beating down on the PNP's leadership selection ritual, anxious delegates not only worried at what they had wrought but the spark needed from the winning candidate to better restart and build again. So when the announcement came that Mark Golding prevailed, as if by divine intervention, the pounding showers grew still.

Then in the intervening calm, a little sunlight peeped through and Mark began to speak. History will recall the seminal moment, as his acceptance speech offered a virtual handbook of enlightened leadership, a case study of humility and amazing grace which rose above the bitterness, disunity and denigration of the recent past. It was a generational cry, rather, a call to engender empathy and comradeship throughout the body politic.

His genuine entreaty was not only graciously revealed in offering an apology for the absence of his opponent but in the intrinsic civility and inclusiveness of his tone:

“I wish Comrade Hanna was here... if she were here, I would have asked her to come forward and join me... I am willing to sit down with you... and share our vision for the party. I am ready to hear your vision, so that we will unite and work together as a party, to rebuild and refocus our efforts to build a stronger PNP. Our members are longing for us to bridge the gaps of discord. The foundation of our unity will be respect and love.”

There is nothing more to be said. With Mark's tour de force, the PNP's redemption has begun. From the bleak, forgettable night of September 3, 2020, Mark Golding, in just a short while, has allowed our broken party to dream anew, to maintain our mission and continue the journey.

Indeed, like Frank Worrell in another time, his tenure begins at high noon.

Paul Buchanan is a member of the People's National Party and former Member of Parliament for St Andrew West Rural.

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