A magnificent day of Test cricket yesterday. 18 wickets fell in Bridgetown, including a spell from Kemar Roach that harkened backed to the West Indian fast bowlers of yester-year. Together with Jason Holder he ripped through the England middle order. Batsmen four through eight scored a grand total of 10 runs. 4-0-4-0-2. It was brilliant to watch. Violent and beautiful bowling. It was some of the best Test cricket I have seen in a very long time.
The West Indies could have forced the follow-on as they were ahead by 225 after England’s first innings. I.e. Make England bat again to see if they can hit the target. If they are bowled out without hitting the target, the match is over, without the West Indies even needing to bat again. It’s kind of an “eff you” thing to do. “Not quite good enough there, friend, how’s about you give it another go?” But teams don’t do it very often these days, which always use to confuse this American. Why not grind the opponent into dust? Kick them when they’re down, ride the momentum which is completely in your favor? And that used to be the case. At least it used to be more common. Especially during the days of the aforementioned West Indian attacks of the 70s and 80s. But now teams are a bit more cautious, and no one wants to bat on a day five pitch having to chase down a tricky 150 runs in fading light.
So now you know.
I still wish Holder had enforced it though.
Another item of note was the crowd. The game was in Barbados, but the fans were strangely silent as Roach ripped through England. That’s because the majority of the fans were Brits on holiday. Sure, a few West Indian fans trickled in as the day went on, but for the most part the crowd was upper middle class English folk on holiday. And this is the case in Sri Lanka, too, and most places with warm climates that England might travel to for cricket during January or February. Which, I don’t know, is fine. I mean, if the England fans weren’t there yesterday, the stadium would be more or less empty. And why is that? Is it simply because it’s a weekday and cricket doesn’t have the same draw in the Caribbean that it used to have? I guess this could be the case, as you see it all over the world. I watch Test matches from the late 90s and early 00s in India on YouTube and the stadiums are packed to the gunwales, but these days there are few fans in the shade and that’s it. That’s cricket’s problem to solve. And the Hundred and the T20 and cheerleaders aren’t going to solve it. It’s about putting the focus back on the the long format. And, well, marketing it better. It’s the most entertaining of all the formats, you just need to sell it a little better.
But was the Oval empty of locals yesterday because they were priced out? Has cricket in the Caribbean become a sport exclusive to rich foreigners? If so, then that’s a real shame. If you take away the local culture that each Test nation brings to the game, then it won’t matter how well you sell it, it will slowly die as it becomes a sterile Subway sandwich of a game. Gone will be the drums and the flags and the Calypso, replaced with pasty drunk stag parties from Cornwall.
Maybe I making too big of a deal with it. This is how the world is now, as the West slowly transforms every locale into its own image in what is more or less post-modern colonialism. But I just watched Jason Holder score a Test match hundred against England at the ground that he grew up in the shade of. If you take away the local Caribbean cricketing culture, you take away, down the road, moments like this, and you end up with fast food cricket played in front of 50 Brits on holiday at an otherwise empty stadium in Dubai.
That’s the real nightmare scenario.