“Its beginnings in semi-organized form to its unfolding into a contemporary internationalised structure, W.I cricket has both marked and been marked by a tight affiliation with complex social processing in the islands and states which makes up the West Indies.” In this writer’s belief, the above quote perfectly sums up the journey of West Indies cricket from strictly leisure to professionalism and the bums met through the journey. It is often said, that the history of Caribbean cricket is the history of the Caribbean. The development of club cricket shows not only organization but the marginalization that not only blacks suffer but working class whites. In addition, the composition of the West Indies Cricket Team demonstrates how unity, contributed to the continued the powers structure in the West Indies. Britain’s influence in the game cannot be doubted, as she tried earnestly to keep up her grip on her colonies, whilst giving mix signals on blacks on the West Indies team. Therefore, this writer posits the view that the development of the West Indies Cricket Team by the 20th century, showed the supremacy of the plantocracy who pledged their allegiance to Britain; however blacks fought for their presence on the side. Due to this tug of war, issues of race, class, power and security, manifested.
Club cricket in the West Indies was one of the stepping-stones use to formulate the regional cricket side in the late 19th century. According to Christopher Nicole “club cricket is the backbone of all cricket, and this is perhaps more true in the West Indies.” The major sugar-producing colonies in the British West Indies, dominated in club cricket because they had a larger stable white population, warranting the garrison – the soldiers at the garrison played friendly matches with the planters. The islands were known as the Big Four – British Guiana, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados and Jamaica. Club cricket in the Big Four signalled the continued attempt of the whites to marginalize the blacks and keep up their supposedly cement grip on society. Eliminating blacks in the genesis of the club cricket from participating in club competition clearly, shows the whites’ social prejudice. Therefore, the blacks developed their own clubs such as, Spartan and Carrington Cricket Club in Barbados and Lucas in Jamaica. Furthermore, it is important to note, the denial of not only black membership but also working class whites. Cricket was known as a gentleman’s game and a gentleman supervised workers, he did not work. For this reason they averted their working class brothers from the same cricket class as themselves. The game could not stop blacks from playing cricket but they could be deterred from sharing the same cricket field and pavilion of the whites. As Hilary Beckles subtly puts it, the blacks and whites “watched each other but kept their distance.” The black man worked on the cane fields of the whites but this was the closest social or economic relationship that they share. Without a doubt one can firmly posit the view that in the genesis of the game in the West Indies, cricket became tainted with dots of race hatred and conflict. Furthermore, Beckles explain that blacks attracted little help, in the early days of the game. It is an affront to the blacks because at that time cricket was firmly rooted as leisure of the plantation society. In addition, schools for whites’ children such as Harrison College in Barbados, placed cricket as a mandatory part of the curriculum, yet little or no help went to include blacks in establishing the game.
Furthermore, the West Indies cricket team was a symbol of the slowly disintegrating racial and social prejudice to working class people in the British Caribbean. Picking players the regional teams, portrayed a belief that there was a move towards an integrated West Indies. According to Hilary Beckles, an organized game bringing together West Indians is a strategic historical fact because it meant that people came together to harness resources for the support of a regional tour. Furthermore, by the end of the 19th century cricket moved from being solely the leisure of the elitist whites, to a regional game which transformed into art because it expressed a popular culture of the masses. By then both the blacks, elitist whites and working class whites played cricket at a club level. Since cricket became part of the culture, there was a collaboration to form a West Indies team to represent the colonies both within and outside of the region. Before creating the first ‘West Indies Team’, the general consensus was that cricket should stirr up outside of the Big Four, where cricket was less popular. The idea was for regional teams to play each other, where knowledge of the players would be accumulated and to test the economy and culture of the colonies for the game of cricket played on a regional level. At that period cricket players paid for their training, gears and travelling arrangements. For this reason, the rich and famous dominated cricket.
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