5th Test West Indies vs England, April 16 – 21, 1994

- Advertisement -

Richie Richardson’s time as Captain of the West Indies was highlighted by his calm temperament under pressure, and the way he got the team playing for each other. During his tenure, Brian Lara emerged as a world-class batsman with an appetite for huge scores.
Following in the footsteps of his mentor, Viv, Richie never wore a helmet, and his trademark maroon broad-rimmed sun hat became his signature.
Richie had earned the respect of players and supporters alike, and King Progress immortalised him in song, ”who is that man, flashing blade in his hand…beating bowlers like they bowling poochan, a living nightmare for the opposition…Richie Rich, Richie Rich, Richie Richardson.” He signed off by beckoning, “… ah want to hear you call he name, Richie Richardson!”
This was at a time when local calypsonians challenged each other to making the best cricket songs. Those songs however had to pass through the master. The litmus test was Chiki and his posse. This time also saw the emergence of Labon Kenneth Blackburn, Leeweltine Buckonon Benjamin, known simply as Gravy. A savvy businessman who cross-dressed and danced to the crowd’s delight and was a favourite for visiting supporters and locals alike. In the process, he was able to sell you anything you wanted; from a mint to crazy glue after all, a man has to earn a living.
That period of crowd entertainers also saw the re-emergence of Mayfield, who built up quite a rivalry with Gravy, supported by fans from their respective stands. Cricket entertainers is a tradition started in the days of the Hesketh Bell Trophy; the Leeward Islands Tournament. The old timers fondly recall Bylae with his “bull bud” and Mankad with a heckling voice scrutinising your technique. “White Meat” Crump (that’s what I heard the elders calling him), delivered his verdict in a clear and distinct Queen’s English manner.
The developments that were undertaken by creative partnerships designed by the Antigua Cricket Association and corporate Antigua a few years before were certainly bearing fruits. The ARG was a much more spectator-friendly venue, whilst still maintaining some of its old charm. A swimming pool was added one year as encouragement for the large numbers of English supporters. Again, that was certainly another first in international cricket, as cricket-hosting in Antigua was moving the goalpost “beyond the boundary.”
Other grounds in the Caribbean, South Africa and Australia have followed suit, and when married with the music scene the ARG created, at that time, Antigua was the cricket entertainment capital of the world.
How else can you describe it, when the India test of 1997 is considered? Imagine the scene…scheduled for five days to start on a Friday. Rain washes out Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Yet, every day, thousands would pack the ARG, mainly the Double Decker, and have a running party; without water breaks, lunch or tea interruptions. Just in case you are wondering, patrons paid to enter.
Food, drinks, music, friends. When cricket started on the fourth day, it was like “cricket interrupts party!”
Even though officially, Lara was named Man of the Match, it was a unanimous decision that the real MVP was Chiki. Adjudicator.
On the field, a dynasty was being dismantled. It slipped through Courtney Browne’s fingers in the final test in Jamaica versus the Australians in 1995. It is harsh on Browne to try to solely blame him, but it is what spectators remember most about that game, which led to the Waugh twins putting on a massive partnership to bat West Indies out of the game.
To be truthful, the cracks were widening.
Having missed the team’s tour of India due to an illness, later described as Acute Fatigue Syndrome, Richie lost his dressing room. Walsh was the captain on tour, but Lara was the man.
I have always considered Lara to be the best “politician” the Caribbean has produced in the last thirty years or so, who knows his way around the methods and means of persuasion.
When Richie returned as captain for the Australians visit to the Caribbean, he was a very insecure man. He went back to open, almost as a sign that he wasn’t sure of his place in the team. He wore a helmet for the first time in his career, which led to speculation about his level of confidence as a batsman. Antiguans picked up in the stump microphones that when Walsh bowled, the fielders encouraged “bowled right C”, as in right captain!
When the Jamaica test was lost, and with it the series, it marked the first time the West Indies had lost a test series since that infamous tour to New Zealand in 1980 – 15 years.
The reaction from the proud people of the Caribbean was swift and sharp. Some years ago, Viv had been shredded for his comments about the West Indies team being a black one, but here was a piercing sword, worse than any whipping our forefathers would have received.
West Indies cricket was at the crossroads when the team left for the tour of England. It was a known fact that we didn’t possess the structure that ensured sustainability, but somehow our administrators expected that natural talent would always win.
Tony Cozier, after having sight of the leaked manager’s (Wes Hall) England tour report, wrote in the Independent, “Fed up with the internal dissension of the 1995 tour of England, Lara squarely blamed the captain, Richie Richardson… Lara told Richardson that most of the other players felt the same way too.”
The report goes on to say that when Richardson responded that he was not prepared to “bow to any egotistical people who have agendas and ambitions,” Lara looked around him to the sound of silence. According to the Hall report, as reported by Cozier, he “jumped up and stormed out of the meeting,” declaring, “I resign!” He later told Hall that “Cricket is ruining my life.”
Lara disappeared for four days, and only the coaxing of the President of the WICB, Peter Short, got him to return to the team.
Richie persevered even while he struggled to rekindle the flair that his batting previously exhibited. When Kenya beat the West Indies at the 1996 World Cup, winning their first ODI in the process, serious gloom appeared. Even though, the West Indies lost to Australia in the semi-finals, the Kenya loss left no room for forgiveness. Richie “gave up the ghost” and retired immediately after.
Fast-forward two years. In a messy transfer of power, Walsh had been replaced by Lara as captain. The relationship between the two had been so hostile that Walsh refused to toss with Lara when Jamaica played Trinidad and Tobago in the regional championship, sending his vice-captain instead.
Lara now led the team on a strike in London on the way to the team’s first full tour of South Africa.
After Lara and his vice-captain, Carl Hooper, were axed in the stand-off, it took the intervention of Nelson Mandela by letter amidst high-powered meetings, and ultimately, the reinstatement of Lara and Hooper to finally see the team board the plane for South Africa.
This was Ridley Jacobs’ maiden tour, at the belated age of thirty-one, and Clarvis Joseph was then vice-president to Pat Rousseau at the time. There was no surprise that the West Indies suffered a whitewash.
One of the first acts of President Rousseau upon taking office was to drop “Control” from the board’s name in 1996, and soon after the secretariat was on its way to Factory Road, St John’s, Antigua.
This was to herald a new commercial mindset of the business of West Indies cricket, and the Board found a perfect ally in the Government of Antigua and Barbuda.
The Australians arrived in the Caribbean for their 1999 tour to meet the West Indies smarting from their embarrassing tour of South Africa. After years of knocking on the door of selection, Antigua’s, Dave “Suppie” Joseph was finally given an opportunity.
A strongly built stroke-maker, brilliant slip-fielder and astute captain, it was generally felt that it was a selection four years too late. He was, surprisingly, asked to bat at number three and scored a half- century on debut in Trinidad. Despite his counter-attacking and fearless batting in the series, he didn’t transfer the starts he got into major scores.
There was general excitement in Antigua for the fourth test, especially as Suppie and Rasburg (Ridley Jacobs) were playing, along with Ambi.
Antiguans remember this game fondly for the way Suppie shielded Lara from McGrath in the first innings. Lara, in the midst of an attacking innings, was getting a proper working over from his old nemesis. Lara escaped to the other end and left Suppie to defend and protect him against McGrath.
This game started on a Saturday and was played over the Easter holidays and was well-attended.
On the Tuesday morning, news broke that a teacher had been found murdered in the yard at the Antigua Girls High School. Then the identity came, it was Alvin “Sparrow” Morris. This couldn’t be true!
Alvin had gone to school sometime over the weekend to prepare work for his students for Tuesday. Apparently, he was attacked, robbed and beaten with a blunt object. He succumbed to his injuries before anyone could assist.
Sparrow was close to Suppie. Sparrow was one of us. We all came up under the hands of Taddy Arrindell, playing for the Combined School.
We just didn’t play; we lived, we laughed, we shared, we dreamt of big things. He was our designated coconut tree climber on beach outings. Because of his diminutive stature, we always looked out for him. We needed not fear, he was as strong as an ox.
He was one of the boys: Winston Benjamin, Kenneth Benjamin, Keither Browne, Jenson Joseph, Dave Joseph, Cleve Joseph, Earl Richards, Kingsley Irish, Henson Martin, Dale Gordon, Freddy Abraham, Deaka Tittle, Massa Phillip, McFoster Phillip, Fridley Jacobs, Steve Welch, Wade Walsh, Earl Waldron
Alvin was one of the standout batsmen at the 1985 and 1986 Northern Telecom Under-19 Tournaments, competing for most runs with Carl Hooper and Delroy Morgan. He was a great reader of spin bowling and a brilliant gully fielder.
Suppie batted the second innings of this test with a heavy heart and in a daze. He stroked three blistering fours as he attempted to hit himself into reality. It didn’t last, he was gone for 17.
Suppie walked off the international cricket stage for the last time; just a few days before, Sparrow was cheated out of life by that umpire called “Crime!”
I wish to use this column to suggest that in memory of Alvin “Sparrow” Morris, the Old Road Primary School be renamed “THE ALVIN MORRIS PRIMARY SCHOOL,” for his contribution to Sports and Education.
Sleep on soldier!

- Advertisement -


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here