Gary Sobers honoured

VIJAY LOKAPALLY

APRIL 29: Once again the early morning flight robs us of sleep. St. Lucia has an airport too small to handle but then the staff is so courteous that any discomfort is soon forgotten. The check in is smooth and the security check is not a hassle.

A statue of Sir Garfield Sobers at Barbados.-V. V. KRISHNAN

But then the passengers are shaken into action by an announcement asking us to re-check in. The original flight stands cancelled and we now have to seek new boarding cards because we have been put on LIAT, the sister airline of BIWA.

The LIAT flight lands on time and we are off to Barbados, just 30 minutes away. On landing, we spend four hours at the airport because the baggage has been left behind. "How will they host the World Cup here if they can't handle such a small group," moans a fellow journalist.

In the West Indies, most of the flights are of short duration and the people of the Caribbean also travel light and rarely face such problems unless it is cricket time. Team baggage and kit get the preference in such cases and that is one of the reasons we avoid travelling with the team, especially in the West Indies and New Zealand, where again small aircrafts mean waiting for your baggage.

Well, waiting for the baggage becomes a tiring exercise. The LIAT staff is very apologetic and we understand their problems. Only those with connecting flights get their bags. Among those waiting at the airport is Joel Garner but he heads home. The staff assures him of delivery of the baggage at his house.

Passengers check in at St. Lucia Airport. In the West Indies most of the flights are of short duration and the people of the Caribbean islands also travel light.-V. V. KRISHNAN

"You leave if you wish too," we are also told. Soon word comes that the baggage is on the way and we decide to hang on. It takes a while but then it is better to collect the bags. The bags come in on the promised flight and later we learn even the Indian team is no different from us. Some of the players do not get their bags on landing.

B. Vijay Kumar of the Times of India comes to the hotel with just the lap top hanging from his shoulders. His bag stays in St. Lucia but he gets 100 US Dollars as compensation. As he buys a new pair of trousers and shirt, one wonders if it would not be a good idea to get the baggage the next day and earn compensation to swell your wardrobe!

April 30: Gary Sobers is a living legend in Barbados. "He is the only Barbadian of whom it can be truly said that his achievements are the greatest in the history of Test cricket." This, was how Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur described the grand all-rounder.

The Trini Posse stand members enjoy the company of Brian Lara. They presented a gift to Lara, on his birthday.-V. V. KRISHNAN

A life-size statue of Sobers, commissioned by the Government and sculpted by Karl Broodhagen and his son Virgil, welcomes the visitors to Barbados. Situated on the highway, it used to be called the Barbados Roundabout but now is to be known as the Garfield Sobers Roundabout.

The elite of the island is invited to the function which also attracts some former cricketers from all over the Caribbean - Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott, Seymour Nurse, David Holford, Desmond Haynes, Cammie Smith, Robin Bynoe, Charlie Griffith, and of course Brian Lara, who calls Sobers a great motivator. A special invitee is former England captain Ted Dexter. The audience braves rain which lashes the island but mercifully stops for the function to go ahead. It presents a grand sight as fireworks light up the sky and the most popular music group of Barbados entertains the gathering with a song devoted to the exploits of Sobers, the greatest all-rounder in the history of the game.

May 1: We spend our day in Bridgetown. But then nothing is open on May Day. Not even the neighbourhood supermarket. We venture out with hope of catching up something at the city centre. It is deserted.

The traffic is thin and quite a pleasant change. The weather too is kind but the shops greet us with "Sorry, we are closed." The citizens are, however, out to enjoy the holiday. The beaches are crowded; the restaurants have a waiting list.

Even as we ponder, a procession of music and colour marks the occasion. A fleet of light and heavy vehicles carries playcards depicting the culture of the place. Dancing and gaiety enlivens the occasion. The only people on duty are policemen, smiling always, and of course the taxi drivers. Business for them is brisk.

May 2: The first day of the Test at the Kensington Oval becomes a test of endurance for the ground staff. Rain interrupts the play on four occasions and each time they toil to keep things in shape. Rain ultimately has the final say and the covers are back and this time to stay as the umpires call off play.

The Trini Posse stand has a special reason to celebrate the occasion - Brian Lara's birthday. At Port of Spain, the Trini Posse is forced to stop the music following a request from Lara on the final day. The members of the stand take it in the right spirit and at Bridgetown, they bring a present for their favourite cricketer.

A display during the May Day celebrations in Bridgetown.-V. V. KRISHNAN

Lara too is moved by the gesture and walks to the Trini Posse stand to meet his fans, spending time with them as the game remains suspended. Lara clearly enjoys the attention even as my colleague V. V. Krishnan happily clicks away. It is Krishnan's birthday as well too and when pointed out, Lara quickly wishes our man. In the evening, a few cricketers turn up at our flat to celebrate the occasion. It has been a special day for Krishnan, if not for the cricketers as India suffers a batting collapse.

May 3: Even as there is talk of cricket venues in the Caribbean being modernised, it is shocking that the house of Frank Worrell is a monument which stands neglected.

A few years back, Trevor G. Marshall of The Barbados Advocate had pointed out the sorry state of Worrell's house. The sporting public of Barbados was requested to raise funds and repair the house. Nothing happened.

Today, the house presents a sad sight. Broken windows and a shabby overall appearance. He was the first black to captain the West Indies.

Worrell was to the West Indies what Don Bradman was to Australia. Bradman's house is a museum and Worrell's an eyesore. What a pity that the Empire Club is adjacent to the house. Charlie Griffith promises action. "We're doing something," he promises. The Empire Club is expected to raise funds to repair Worrell's house. It would not be a bad idea to convert it into a cricket museum. Barbados, after all, has been the home of the West Indies cricket for a long, long time.

May 4: The Caribbean Beat magazine comes up with a dream West Indian team. It is termed an all-time great team through suggestions from former players, commentators, journalists and cricket fans.

Here is the greatest West Indian team which appeared in the local newspaper. In batting order, the team read Gordon Greenidge, Conrad Hunte/Roy Fredricks, Viv Richards/Everton Weekes, Brian Lara/George Headley, Frank Worrell (Captain), Clive Lloyd (vice-captain), Gary Sobers/Rohan Kanhai, Clyde Walcott (wk), Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Wes Hall/ Andy Roberts, Curtly Ambrose/Lance Gibbs.

The reserves were Desmond Haynes, Jackie Hendriks (wk), Colin Croft, Joel Garner and Courtney Walsh.

Imagine. Walsh in the reserves and no place for Leirie Constantine!

May 5: The old man is angry. The West Indies has won, everyone is celebrating, but he is fuming. "No business for me tomorrow," he says even as he orders his wife to quickly fry a fish for us.

"Your team's no good maan." he goes on. The same must be the feelings of those who spend money on a season ticket. Or those who pay hefty sums to advertise their products on the boards along the boundary. And what of the revenue loss from a day's telecast lost.

As we take leave of the Kensington Oval, the old man has a piece of wisdom for the Indian cricketers. "They no good on bouncy tracks maan. Tell them Test match is played over five days. Four-day match is bad business for us maan."