By Neto Baptiste
It was a “black Friday” in February of 2009 when the second Test between West Indies and England was abandoned after just 10 balls because of an unfit outfield at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua.
The West Indies bowlers were struggling to keep their footing on turf covered in sand following recent rain and after talks between the players, umpires and the match referee, day one was called off with England seven without loss.
The incident was a black eye for the country’s somewhat pristine record of hosting international cricket in the past with some referring to the facility as the country’s 366th beach.
In the midst of all the chaos, however, was then chief curator at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG), Keith “Fredo” Frederick whom, along with others, prepared the historic facility in record time, to host what was then the third Test after the series was extended to five matches.
Ironically, Frederick said he was at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground when he received an urgent call.
“While I was there sitting down and watching what was going on, my telephone rang and I got a call from a member of the Antigua cricket association saying that members of the West Indies Cricket Board wanted to meet with me at the ARG as soon as possible. Right away, I headed out and down to the ARG and there were people from the ICC, the WICB, Andy Roberts, and they asked me how long it would take me to get the surface ready. I asked them, when would you like to start? They said not today for sure and not tomorrow but the following day, which gave me one and a-half days,” he said.
Frederick remembered the task as a mammoth one, but found comfort in the fact that he had the assistance and backing a number of influential people.
“Sir Andy, he got the fire truck to come and water the field and, at the same time, we had a roller rolling the outfield, [while] I am sprinkling and rolling a particular cricket pitch they were training on. In the day and a-half we were quite satisfied that the pitch would last the five days and it really did last the five days. At the end of the day, that was one of the most exciting Test matches ever played at the Antigua Recreation Grounds,” he said.
Frederick, who received a national award during last Sunday’s Independence ceremony for his contributions to sports, defined the moment as one of his most rewarding to date.
“The game ended in a draw, but we [West Indies] had 10 overs [to bat] with nine wickets down, and West Indies could not win the match, only England could win; and West Indies ended up drawing the game. At the same time, cruise ships were on island and a lot of the English tourists left from the port and came up to the ARG and almost filled the double-decker stand and that was definitely one of my most memorable moments,” the former national player said.
Following the incident in 2009, then ICC chief executive Haroon Lorgat warned that the venue could lose its Test status.