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Fans in the stands, maan!

The ongoing West Indies-India cricket series may not be watched by millions of television fans, but if you’ve been missing out on the fun, it’s not the cricketers you should be following but the West Indian spectators. Ravi Chaturvedi writes.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2011 11:54 IST
Ravi Chaturvedi

The ongoing West Indies-India cricket series may not be watched by millions of television fans, but if you’ve been missing out on the fun, it’s not the cricketers you should be following but the West Indian spectators. The colour and the sheer sense of gaiety they add to the game is an experience in itself.

Even with the numbers reduced, the crowd is so much involved in the game that the fans unhesitatingly administer advice to players on the field. A fielder who has missed a catch is told: “Couldn’t you catch a cold, maan?”

Spectators in the West Indies are usually clad in gaudy clothes — with many preferring to keep things as minimal as decency can allow. Every Test centre has a spectator who is the cynosure of everyone in the stands. They are in their own way interesting, exciting, enduring and endearing. And it’s not only their fellowmen in the stands whom they regale. The players on the field play spectator to them too.

A regular feature at the Queen’s Park Oval in Trinidad is a character by the name of Blue Food who’s been there for over 30 years. At the fall of every wicket or a boundary. he blows his conch. Recently, a band in multi-coloured attire, Trini Possi, starts blowing their trumpets and banging their drums the moment something happens on the ground. It could be the fall of a wicket, a boundary or even the drinks interval.

But one veteran who can be spotted in West Indian cricket stands is the outstandingly attired Redevers Dundonald Dyal aka King Dyal. This tall, lanky, old but active gentleman is the livewire of the Kensington Oval in Barbados. Living nearby, he cycles every time to the venue wearing a different suit after each interval of the day. He always backs the visiting team, much to the annoyance of the local partisan crowd. He not only travels throughout the Caribbean with the national cricket team but has also been to Lord’s in London as the guest of the visiting West Indies teams.

Of late, a schoolteacher-cum-comedian Mac ‘The King’ Fingall and his band in the stands at Kensington have added colour to Caribbean cricket. His arrival in the stands with his instruments and speakers is greeted with loud cheer. Despite so many new entrants, The King remains the undisputed master of the Kensington Oval.

For a number of years, the crowd at Sabina Park, Kingston, were entertained by Lennie who mimicked the great West Indian players of the past and present. At the fall of a wicket or during intervals, he would enter the ground and entertain people by pretending to be Gary Sobers complete with the great all-rounder’s swaggering walk to the wicket with his shirt collar upturned.

Another character always found on Recreation Ground in Antigua is Labon Kenneth Blackburn Llewellyn Bouchan Benjamin, who was named by his father to remember his ‘colonial masters’. Nicknamed Gravy for his fondness for gravy in his food, he was a car mechanic who spent more than a decade in America, coming back to Antigua to play to the gallery at times dressed as a nurse, sometimes as Santa Claus, at other times as a boxer with giant-sized gloves.

So even at a time when cricket viewership is dismal in the Caribbean, these joyful fans in the stands make the West Indies brand of cricket very special.

Ravi Chaturvedi is a cricket commentator and author of India-West Indies Test Cricket

The views expressed by the author are personal