Colin E. Croft
Being a West Indies sports fan, especially cricket fan, is a difficult, sometimes depressing, sometimes enjoyable,
pastime. Long before I was an international cricketer, I was a fan, listening to cricket in the middle of the night from Australia, on short-wave radios as big as a 19-inch televisions!
Not players, not administrators, excluding broadcasters, sports fans are the best. Being awake late at night and early mornings take its toll, but missing cricket world-wide would be worse. My first listening gig, aged 8, was AUS v WI 1960/1, the series everyone remembers that included the 1st Tied Test.
In primary and high school, we played every game there was – cricket, soccer, hockey, table tennis, athletics, swimming, netball, basketball, volleyball. Thus we became sports fans.
Sports was; mostly still is; about enjoyment. We still managed to complete high school assignments!
When playing cricket back then, I was either Charlie Griffith (Barbados) or Conrad Hunte (Barbados), then WI Test players. For soccer, I was always “The Kaiser” – Franz Beckenbauer (Germany). As especially a young fan, you always tried to imitate your idols!
1965, a poor country boy from the same village, Unity-Lancaster, as present WI cricketer Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose father and uncle were wicket-keepers for our village cricket teams, I could not afford to pay to get into Georgetown Cricket Club/Bourda Cricket Ground, to see my first Test match ever – WI v Australia.
So, I jumped over the fence that separated the Georgetown Football Club and Bourda, as the trees surrounding the cricket ground were already over-full with people!
1970 was my first exposure to World Cup football, when that magnificent Brazil team, including Pele, Rivelino, Jairzinho and Carlos Alberto, beat Italy 4-1 in the final at Azteca Stadium in Mexico, listening to commentary for that game in Spanish. At least I knew when goals were scored!
Best soccer team ever – Brazil 1970!
By 1971, I was playing Under-19 cricket for Guyana, but still had to be at Bourda by 2:00am – you remember those days – to get in to see WI play India. That was not dedication. That was the real cricket fan in me!
1971 too, Joe Frazer beat Muhammad Ali in their first encounter. As a massive Ali fan, I cried!
1975 – WI won the 1st World Cup, beating Australia in final (9:00pm in UK). I was studying navigation and Air Traffic Control in T&T, but all school work was forgotten; all West Indians listening to that too.
1978, while playing for Guyana, having already played for WI, even ‘Man of Series’ 1977 v Pakistan, when, at Queen’s Park Oval, with dirty clothes on at Day 1 – T&T v GUY – “Mikey”, a little man with a massive voice shouted, above 10,000 voices; “Hey Croft, in Trinidad, we does play cricket in white!”
Caribbean fans; everyone has an opinion, everyone is an expert. You simply have to like them. Queens Park Oval was the scariest cricket ground then; 30,000 people total. Do not screw up there!
1978, World Series Cricket, Australian fans extremely noisy and abusive when we wore pink clothes. 40,000 at Sydney Cricket Ground, nearly 100,000 at Melbourne Cricket Ground; most scary too!
1979, I played in World Cup final at Lords; got that last wicket too; as WI defended as champions, beating England. Thousands ran on to the ground. I am not sure how I got to the pavilion. That was the best achievement in my life, rating after becoming a father twice!
1981, the 1st ODI in St. Vincent, everyone in that country were at that game. Crazy stuff, but we managed to win too, after making just 127 in a 50-overs game!
1994 Soccer World Cup, living in USA, ESPN were innovative with coverage, superimposing games in a square cocoon, with continuous soccer on-going, while advertising was shown on edges. Brilliant!
2004, I was on the edge of my seat as WI beat England in Champions Trophy, Kennington Oval in London, courtesy of Courtney Browne and Ian Bradshaw, who brought home Brian Lara’s WI team, after it looked as if we could lose!
2010, for FIFA World Cup South Africa, what I remember most from that tournament were the fabulous, melodious noisy VUVUZEALAS and how much the fans enjoyed themselves there!
2012 – West Indies winning World T-20 in Sri Lanka, beating the home team in the final, with Dwayne Bravo, Chris Gayle and Darren Sammy celebrating massively with ‘Gangnam Style’ dancing!
2014 – I saw every game from FIFA World Cup in Brazil. What a show. Everyone wanted to be there, most in Brazil to enjoy the games for the occasion, not always for winning or losing.
Cricket, not the University of West Indies, not politics, not even carnival, but cricket, is the only aspect of Caribbean life that is totally all-encompassing. It is the only thing that everyone has an opinion on!
Being a WI cricket fan could kill you with stress, so fluctuating are fortunes, but I will forever be a sports fan, with ICC Cricket World Cup coming in 2015 and Olympics Games in Brazil in 2016. More fun. Enjoy!
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