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About Trinidadian humour and the legend's abode

The West Indies cricket team may be down and out these days but cricket discussion is never too far away in Trinidad, the first port of call for the Indian team. N Ananthanarayanan writes.

cricket Updated: Jun 09, 2011 02:06 IST
N Ananthanarayanan

The West Indies cricket team may be down and out these days but cricket discussion is never too far away in Trinidad, the first port of call for the Indian team.

A jog around the grassy Queen's Park Savannah in the evening is a nice experience. Almost all of Trinidad's sporting activities appear to be concentrated on this massive, rolling fields.

The Savannah, as it is called, covers over 250 acres and one of the world's longest traffic roundabouts of about 3.5 km goes around it.

While the regular joggers stick to the perimeter, stopping to drink coconut water, the grounds are beehive of activity.

There are any number of groups — men, women, children and the motley group of 'retired' sportsmen — playing the beautiful game. Another vast corner is reserved for rugby training and practice, a coach instructing his young wards to lie on their backs, pick themselves up and run.

However, it takes a while to spot any cricket activity. It is a tennis ball game on a cement strip in the massive park, a six-hitting distance away from the abode of Trinidad's favourite son, Brian Lara. The palatial maroon and white house continues to be a tourist attraction as people drive up the steep incline and back.

The beauty of Caribbean cricket is the spirit with which it is played and followed. The crowd, rum in hand, sings "Praise be to Lara" while offering free advice to the players on the field.

Former West Indies spin great Lance Gibbs acknowledges this; how on a tour to England he had to push his deliveries through to be more effective but was coming unstuck on returning home, until a fan shouted, asking him to flight the deliveries.

The Trotters Club is filled to the brim on Tuesday evening. The sports bar, Lara's favourite hangout, is split in half as Dallas Mavericks pull off a thrilling win over Miami Heats in the fourth match at home to tie the NBA finals 2-2.

Trinidadians love to make fun of everyone, and Gibbs is not spared either. “You couldn't bat, man," says an old friend sharing his table at the Queen's Park Oval bar. Gibbs, 76, retorts: "But Kanhai couldn't bat!" before bursting into laughter.

Former Trinidad and West Indies batsman Charlie Davis is a fund of anecdotes, spending an afternoon sipping his soft drink at the Queen's Park Oval club, a venerable institution that was established in 1891.

With a mischievous smile, and a glint in his eye, he never spares anyone, be it recalling how he once shielded none other than Gary Sobers because there was a patch outside the left-hander's off-stump or stories about his friend, roommate and explosive West Indies opening batsman, the late Roy Fredericks.

Recalling the near-fatal incident on India's 1962 tour when opening batsman Nari Contractor was felled by a Charlie Griffith bouncer in a game against Barbados, he says, "You know after Nari got hit, Tiger (Pataudi) was supposed to go in. He says 'if Nari can't face Griffith, how will I do with one eye?'

Rohan Kanhai, one of the Caribbean batting legends, is next. Hailing from rural Guyana, Kanhai honed his batting skills on uneven clearings in the woods. "Bholalall (Kanhai's middle name) sees the Bourda pitch (Guyana) pitch and goes, 'you play here? Nobody can get out here."