Cricket in the West Indies
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Cricket is traditionally the main sport in the West Indies (though others sports such as football and basketball have challenged its dominance from around the 1990s onwards). The British West Indies hosted the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
The West Indies cricket team consists of players from the countries and territories of Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Maarten, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago and the United States Virgin Islands.
Cricket is also played in other Caribbean territories such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands who are associate members of the International Cricket Council whilst the Bahamas, the Turks and Caicos Islands, Belize, Suriname and Cuba are affiliate members.
Cricket originally spread to the West Indies via the British military. Military officials established clubs, including St. Annes Garrison Club, and integrated cricket pitches into garrisons in the Caribbean. The first known reference to cricket in the West Indies is believed to be from June 1806, in the Barbados Mercury and Bridgetown Gazzette. Two years later, a cricket match was held between the officers of the Royal West Indies Rangers and the officers of the Third West India Regiment. It is believed that the military was a major influencing force behind the drive to begin playing cricket in the West Indies. Supporting this, there were known to be cricket pitches located in many garrisons all around the Caribbean.
Cricket represented a type of warfare between the West Indies and other nations due to the fact that West Indies players felt they needed to prove themselves as a unified nation. Because cricket was used as an instrument of colonisation, a war to free themselves from colonialism was waged, on the cricket pitch. A desire to shed "happy go lucky players" as well as to assert themselves fuelled the desire to thrive in the English game.
Expansion of cricket
With the continued colonisation of the West Indies by the British Empire came the adoption of many British ideals and activities by many African slaves and their descendants. This adoption was a consequence of constant positive reinforcement from their masters for participating in activities that were familiar such as cricket, and abstaining from those that were perceived as taboo. Eventually, slaves were granted permission to play with military officials, who at one point only played cricket amongst themselves, in restricted roles. Foremost, they were allowed to prepare the wicket before matches, although some were permitted to bowl or retrieve batted balls.
As official cricket clubs began to form, some black players were given the opportunity to play for white-majority clubs. However, many cricket clubs remained exclusively white, forcing black players to establish their own clubs that would only allow other blacks to join. Clubs such as the Barbados Cricket Committee (BCC), which was established in the late nineteenth century, adhered to the policy of an all-white team, while Jamaica's Melbourne Cricket Club was composed of only coloured professionals.
The first inter-island competition took place in 1865 between Demerara and Barbados, at the Garrison Savannah. However, these matches were at first "organized and played almost exclusively by whites." Over time, inter-racial games became more and more common, as black and white teams competed at first in an attempt to prove their dominance over the other territories. Some segregation still occurred, for instance black players were excluded "from clubhouse refreshment breaks during and after the game". Gradually, blacks began to be employed on professional teams, marking the start of the decline of segregation in the sport.
Cricket is traditionally the most popular sport in the West Indies, despite their independence from the United Kingdom. Games between England and West Indies teams during the post-colonization period were fraught with underlying political tension.
The inclusion of black players in the West Indies team marked a moment of democratic integration in society. The talented West Indies players helped to overturn an existing idea of racial supremacy. The societal impact of cricket in the West Indies is an example of the affects and complicated nature of class and race relations on the development of this imperial game, as well as the conflicting use of cricket as both a tool of imperial unity, as well as a medium to assert equality and independence for the West Indian countries. Before slavery was abolished in 1839, cricket was considered a “constructive” past time for blacks. In that same time period, it was also considered a way for the white elite to exhibit their loyalty to the Crown. As explained in Expansion of cricket above, after the abolition of slavery, cricket would slowly be desegregated until it became the sport we know today.
However two individuals worth mentioning are batsman George Headley who became captain of the Jamaican cricket team to play England in 1947-48, and Barbadian, Frank Worrell, who was captain of the West Indies team against Australia in 1960. Worrell’s appointment in particular was seen as a strong example of the developing nationalism and anti-colonialism of the time, as it was directly reflected in sporting culture. The early 1970s to mid-1990s showed a major increase in the dominance of the West Indian cricket team. The general historical consensus is that this is due to an increase in fast bowling, and a strong “us” versus “them” mentality, where “us” was the black masses, and “them” was the privileged, dominant culture.
The short-pitched fast bowling issue clearly had a racial dimension to it, and the West Indian cricket players of that time exerted a notable influence over the development of the game, and the society that loved it. In this way cricket served as a medium for both incorporation and resistance for West Indian society. Cricket created a sense of “national” identity, using quotations because the West Indies is composed of many different nations, while simultaneously challenging the traditional balances of power as long established by the colonial history of the region.
The West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) is the governing body for professional and amateur cricket in the West Indies. It was originally formed in the early 1920s as the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (and is still sometimes referred by that name), but changed its name in 1996. The Board has its headquarters in St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda.
The WICB has been a full member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) since 1926 and is also a member of Americas Cricket Association. It operates the West Indies cricket team and West Indies A cricket team, organising Test tours and one-day internationals with other teams.
The West Indies' major domestic competitions are the Regional Four Day Competition (First-class competition) and the WICB President's Cup (List A one-day competition) and more recently the Caribbean Premier League (domestic Twenty20 competition - replacing the Caribbean T20, which in turn replaced the Stanford 20/20 that had been financed and organized by Sir Allen Stanford).
Other domestic competitions include the TCL Under-19 West Indies Challenge (three-day first class competition), TCL Under-19 West Indies Challenge Limited Overs Series (one-day limited overs competition), CLICO West Indies Under-15 competition and the WIWCF Women's Senior Tournament. One prominent former competition (not originally organized by the WICB) was the Inter-Colonial Tournament.
In the case of the Carib Beer Cup and the WICB Cup (and formerly in the case of the Caribbean Twenty20) the following first-class domestic teams participate:
- Barbados cricket team
- Guyana cricket team
- Jamaica cricket team
- Leeward Islands cricket team
- Trinidad and Tobago cricket team
- Windward Islands cricket team
- Combined Campuses and Colleges cricket team
For the TCL Under-19 West Indies Challenge (both the first class and limited overs competitions) it is the Under-19 squads for these teams which participate, while for the CLICO Under-15 West Indies tournament it is the Under-15 squads for these teams which participate. In the 2004 TCL Under-19 Challenge the Under-19 Bermuda cricket team and an Under-19 combined Americas cricket team also took part.
In the WIWCF Senior Tournament and in the defunct Stanford 20/20 competition the separate components of the Leeward Islands and Windward Islands compete individually. Additionally for the Stanford 20/20 competition teams from outside the West Indies sporting confederation, but within the Caribbean, also compete including the Bahamas, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Cuba (which was barred from competing in 2008 by the U.S. embargo), the Turks and Caicos Islands (both competing in 2008) as well as the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico (announced for the 2009 edition of the Stanford 20/20).
In the Limacol Caribbean Premier League there are franchise teams competing, with each franchise currently representing one of the six traditional cricketing territories in the West Indies:
- Hawksbills - representing Antigua and the rest of the Leeward Islands
- Tridents - representing Barbados
- Amazon Warriors - representing Guyana
- Tallawahs - representing Jamaica
- Zouks - representing St. Lucia and the rest of the Windward Islands
- Red Steel - representing Trinidad and Tobago
The "Windies" is one of the ten elite international teams that play at the Test match cricket-level.
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