Adapted from Sporting Barbados Magazine - http://www.sportingbarbados.com/
There was a time when cricket was invincible and throughout the world the great players were household names. They were legends everywhere and everyone knew about Sir Garfield Sobers, the 3Ws- Weekes, Worrell and Walcott, all knighted, Sir Conrad Hunte, Sir Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes.
But the brilliance faded with the memories and the Nineties proved badly short-changed after such an era of outstanding greatness. Sadly, the burden of expectation saw a huge disappointment. We expected another era of Test supremacy, but the game was indoctrinated by limited overs and inevitably, 20-overs cricket. Perhaps the irony is that West Indian cricket is now best-suited to playing shorter matches and this new style of the game!
Times have changed. 20 years is a lifetime in cricket.
Test cricket has suffered painfully with only the Barmy Army travelling to our shores to support their team in any great numbers, but Twenty20 and ODI cricket once again bring hope and is full of promise to bring back the enthusiasm for this magnificent game. Of course, we need the best performers to participate as they draw the crowd but for whatever reason the hierarchy doesn’t seem to get it. Test cricket may not be as popular but it has a place. It’s the gourmet version of the game. Both codes can work together if teams are picked according to their strengths. Several multi-millionaire players perform well and operate on this shorter diet, but surely West Indies cricket selectors can swallow their pride and get on with the business of selecting the best players at the highest level?
Last year showed what is needed there was a time when cricket was invincible and throughout the world the great players were household names. They were legends everywhere and everyone knew about Sir Garfield Sobers, the 3Ws- Weekes, Worrell and Walcott, all knighted, Sir Conrad Hunte, Sir Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith, Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall, Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes when the Twenty20 World Cup took place at Eden Gardens, Kolkata, in India. It was an amazing performance and Barbadian Carlos Brathwaite was in the limelight. His never-say-die onslaught batting struck four sixes against Ben Stokes, England, with only two balls to finish. The celebrations were unbelievable, and let’s not forget the ladies West Indies team who were also at the forefront. They came onto the field in celebratory mood with their colleagues having successfully beaten Australia in the preceding game with Barbadians Hayley Matthews and Deandra Dottin playing pivotal roles. There were seven Barbadian players at the championship.
These gutsy West Indian Ladies had never won before 2016, although the men’s team under Darren Sammy won the 2012 trophy against Sri Lanka.
This euphoria proved the interest is in shorter cricket. In contrast to empty stands at the Test Cricket, games like the CPL (Caribbean Premier League) and ODI international matches have strong support and pull the crowds. As a tourist destination, this is what we need. ODI cricket and World Cups have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity and the Government and BCA (Barbados Cricket Association) have played important roles on the island.
The Kensington Oval was restructured and modernised to stage the ODI World Cup Final in 2007 and the Women’s World Cup Twenty20 in 2010 when Australia beat New Zealand in a 3-runs thriller. The Kensington Oval ranks as one of the best in the Caribbean and worldwide . Redoing the Mecca was an important milestone in Barbados’ cricket history with the establishment of a cricket ground now worthy of international status. The venue has excellent facilities and the stand titles recalling the days of exceptional performances have been retained as well as an impressive Media Centre. Not be outdone the redevelopment of the 3Ws Oval at the University of the West Indies is also an excellent asset and many touring teams use this facility. West Indies Test cricket may not reach the former glory of yesteryear, but the modern shorter codes are working towards a resurgence in popularity from days of old! Barbados is certainly the place to come for you to enjoy cricket!
Interview with Hendy Wallace
Hendy Wallace, ex cricketer and Chairman of the Selectors for Barbados shares some of his memories over the past 20 years…
1 Where were you in 1997?
In 1997 I was playing my 14th and unbeknownst to me, my final season with Eglinton in Northern Ireland. Work permit regulations were about to change for which I would no longer be eligible. The next 7 seasons I played in Dublin which provided me with a much needed new challenge to my career."
2 You must have experienced a major cultural change from sunny Barbados to move to a cold and wet climate. What were your first thoughts in the early Eighties?
After I convinced myself that the scouts I had been in touch with for the previous 6 months were actually serious about playing cricket in Northern Ireland, there was a level of excitement. I was totally ignorant to the cricketing culture in Northern Ireland and although I suspected the weather would have been different, I certainly was not expecting what I eventually experienced. From a cricketing perspective I realized that the standard of cricket was much higher than I anticipated.
3 At the time Northern Ireland suffered horrendous sectarianism labelled the ‘Troubles.’ How where you accepted in this community?
I was well accepted and benefited from the fact that my club Eglinton was mixed so religion was not too much of a focal point. That coupled with the fact that I coached at both Protestant and Catholic schools in the village, helped me to adapt thus enabling me to have a sense of how both sides felt about the 'Troubles'.
4 You made a major contribution to cricket everywhere. What are the most memorable achievements?
I am not sure there was any one achievement that stands out but hitting seven sixes in an over in Northern Ireland was unique. Then returning to Barbados that year and playing for my club Pickwick in a spell of 7 wickets for no runs in picking up 9 wickets in the innings would have been special as well. I was on the losing end in the first instance but we won the encounter in Barbados.
5 Any regrets?
I have no regrets in life but I would say I was disappointed when I was not selected for the West Indies under 19s to tour England in 1982 after being voted an MVP of the regional tournament that was used to pick the side. Players such as Courtney Walsh, Roger Harper and Phil Simmons were in that team and went on to play at Senior Level so who knows what I may have achieved.
6 After 20 years you must have been reflecting on an end to your sporting travels. When and why did you make this decision?
My stint in Northern Ireland came to an end due to the change in work permit regulations after 14 years with Eglinton. Then one day whilst at work at The Sandpiper, I got a call from Leinster in Dublin inviting me to play for them since the regulations were different in the Republic of Ireland and the journey continued. After a very successful first season winning 2 trophies with Leinster, I picked an injury in the second year that required surgery and I didn't get the impression the club was very supportive during that time. So I decided not to return and the three years following, I spent with Phoenix and again won a couple of trophies before returning to Leinster for 2 more years in a coaching capacity only. When it got to the stage that I wished it was raining or snowing whenever I opened the curtains, told me I was ready to call time on this aspect of my career.
7 Where you always connected through the years with Pickwick Cricket Club?
Yes from the time I left school I was associated with Pickwick Club until present.
8 Was this a huge disappointment to see the end of the club as Kensington Oval?
It most certainly was as I believe it was a privilege to call such a historic international venue, home. For a club side to play cricket week in week out at such a venue with what at the time were much better facilities than any other local club, made Pickwick Club quite an illustrious club.
9 Was the rebirth at the Oval viewed as a great stadium and a big boost for Barbados cricket?
What did it mean to local cricket? It was seen as a boost in terms of setting the standards for the region and I would say that was achieved. However, I believe local cricket suffered because suddenly it C R I C K E T 7 1 / S P O R T I N G B A R B A D O S 2 0 1 6 / 2 0 Y E A R S became out of bounds for club cricket but thankfully that trend has now been addressed somewhat.
10 After playing cricket you started making a career in broadcasting and became an impressive radio and television commentator. Where the opportunities limited in cricket and where you disappointed not to get as involved?
I retired from playing cricket in 2004 and I actually started commentating in 2002. I got into commentating by a mere fluke at a club game when I was asked to share my thoughts on local radio on the state of the match. The local radio station then invited me to try out at a regional game and the rest is history. I was very fortunate to be involved at that time in commentary because this was when a regional commentary team was formed and I was selected to be part of it.
11 You were also a highly-respected administrator and eventually took over the reins as Chairman of Selectors. Was this something you aspired to?
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would ever be a selector for Barbados because there was a perception that this was a role was reserved for former West Indies players. None of the current panel has played for the West Indies but I doubt you would find 3 more passionate persons.
12 Have you other cricket ambitions in the future?
I would like to continue serving Barbados and West Indies cricket in any capacity which my skills will allow until I no longer have the desire. Cricket has been instrumental in so many positive aspects of my development that my desire is always to give back to the sport that has been kind to me.
13 You have had a very colorful life and boundless personality. The book must be a story to write so is the life of Hendy Wallace being planned?
It is most certainly being penned as we speak and I am really driven to complete it as I believe there is a story to be told. It is a journey that helped me to develop and become the person I am today and I am certain it is a path that others can follow.