Book: WI in Test Matches…Facts and Feats 1928-2013
Author: Ramnarine Sambhudat (Shako)
Review: Dr Glenville Ashby
WI in Test Matches: Facts and Feats 1928-2013 is an exhaustive study of a game that has revolutionised the region on multiple levels. This work is biblical in scope and depth. Ramnarine Sambhudat has produced a tome that will occupy a revered place in the archives of cricket enthusiasts.
Admittedly, there are some editorial hiccups that nag the discerning reader. But all is forgiven, given but the captivating spirit of this work. Despite its overriding use of tables and statistics there is driving narrative that trumpets the raw talent, élan, and cultural synergy that has defined a region for over a century.
Cricket is more than a sport. It is palpably existential. It builds bridges, promotes regional camaraderie and homogeneity. The cricketer has succeeded where politicians and so called religious leaders have stumbled. The region’s nostalgia for the glory days of WI cricket cannot go away that easily. And between every line of this seminal study is the haunting question: What went wrong?
In many ways, though, Sambhudat’s undertaking is hopeful. It rekindles the embers of change.
The writer’s passion for the sport is reflected in his simple but significant words, “Cricket to us is like a religion. It was like going to church every Sunday. We played the game as a pastime, the same way the Americans played baseball,” but is quick to mention the implications of his research, “…whether you are a known or unknown writer, an amateur or professional, what matters at the end of the day is, as long as you have your facts and figures correct, that is what matters.” He cements his argument, “cricket, as we know is a game of facts and figures and every player is judged by his records.”
For sure, Sambhudat is a Caribbean man – a proud one at that – but he wears his Guyanese nationality on his sleeves – an unmistakable badge of honour. It’s a dual role that he plays with the fluidity of an island batsman.
That he devotes a chapter to Guyana’s outstanding cricketers is only fitting. His words ring true, “Spectacular and solid batting performances – super and devastating bowling and magnificent fielding and world class leadership are just some of the hallmarks of Guyanese contribution to world cricket and West Indian cricket.”
His list of players is impressive, comprehensive: Rohan Kanhai, Lance Gibbs, Basil Butcher, Joe Solomon, Clive Lloyd, Steve Camacho, Roy Fredericks, Alvin Kallicharran, Colin Croft, Roger Harper, Carl Hooper, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan.
But of the less familiar, Cyril Browne and Maurice Fernandes, he writes, “They were the first two Guyanese to represent the WI in its first ever Test match. MP Fernandes captained the WI in only his second Test at Bourda in 1929/30 and WI won that Test – thus WI first ever Test win was under a Guyanese captain.”
And in featuring these obscure feats, Sambhudat has proven his salt as an authentic researcher.
We all know the accomplishments of Brian Lara, Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Garfield Sobers, the three Ws, and the 1980s fearsome pace attack. But how familiar are we with those that are less heralded but equally meaningful?
For example: Who is the youngest player to take five wickets in an innings? (P. 168). Who holds the records for the worst bowling average? (P.165). Name the two bowlers of rival sides taking ten wickets in the same test? (P.164). Who has the highest partnership by runs? (P.215). Who holds the ignominious record of the most runs conceded in an innings by a bowler in the WI? (P.210). Who has the best bowling average in the WI? (P.210). Who has taken a wicket with the first ball in a career? (P. 164). Who has scored a half century batting at number 11? (P.130).
This is but a tip in a giant iceberg. The records, the feats are meticulously categorized and detailed.
Truly, this is a stupendous, staggering display of indebtedness to the game of cricket.
Not surprisingly, bowling legend Lance Gibbs applauds Sambhudat’s Herculean undertaking. Charged with the responsibility of writing the preface, the lanky off spinner is more than up to the task. His words and sentiments echo.
“This reference book is compiled by a talented but unknown writer…who has great knowledge of the game which he followed and played from a little boy growing up in Berbice, Guyana….All important records in WI cricket from all departments of the game are covered…and a host of other topics I am sure you will find to be very interesting. Mr Sambhudat knows his cricket. The man seems to have a library in his head. The most important factor is that this book has all up to date information…”
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WI in Test Matches: Facts and Feats 1928-2013 by Ramnarine Sambhudat (Shako), 2014
Rating: Highly recommended
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