Oct 03, 2022 Letters
For me, cricket in Guyana always makes me return to CLR James’ masterpiece, “Beyond the boundary”, in which he ruminates on the question, “What do they know of cricket that only cricket knows?” With the CPL Tournament ended, perchance one can share some of his insights, along with his caveat that context is always paramount? Even though the book is autobiographical and so, anchored in events from a century ago, his observations still resonate.
While some purists may sniff that T-20’s showmanship is over-the-top, even back then when Test Cricket was the only format in existence he insisted cricket was “a spectacle”. “Cricket is first and foremost a dramatic spectacle. It belongs with the theatre, ballet, opera and the dance.” And like all those art forms, while they may have originated elsewhere, to take root cricket on and off the field, had to become integrated into the lived experience of the local society. James again, “the cricket field was a stage on which selected individuals played representative roles which were charged with social significance”. James wrote about a neighbour, seen as coarse and crass by his prim and proper spinster aunts, become transformed into a hero as he plays strokes of sublime beauty on the cricket pitch. He uplifts all the spectators who are mostly from his social strata: they see themselves refracted in his performance and offers them hope.
In my village of Uitvlugt, the Community Centre, built in the mid-fifties by Bookers, was a pilgrimage site to which I gravitated every Sunday to view our local sugar workers transformed from plantation drudges into flannel-clad stars as they battled teams from the surrounding villages on the cricket field. Even as a boy, a total klutz in the game, I could apprehend cane-cutter Fogo whipping that ball off his toes as “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”. It was for these sugar estate grounds that Bookers hired the great Clive Walcott as a coach and which produced the flamboyant and unorthodox Rohan Kanhai. James was to describe Kanhai: “In Kanhai’s batting what I have found is a unique pointer of the West Indian quest for identity, for ways of expressing our potential, bursting at every seam.” It was due to James lobbying that Worrell was made Captain of the West Indies cricket team in 1960, breaking the colour barrier and validating merit as the criterion for selection of leaders. Independence for Trinidad and Jamaica in 1962 was an expression of that confidence writ large.
In terms of the flamboyant style of CPL Cricket, this is a continuation of the early subversion of colonial cricket by players like Kanhai, who would deliberately fall on his back to hook a ball for four. Along with other WI players they unhitched cricket from “Englishness” to de-Victorianize the sport that was supposed to usher us natives into “modernity”. The spectacle of the CPL T20 cricket tournament with its carnivalesque crowds and kaleidoscopic uniforms create an indigenous Caribbean identity by using tools that had turned us as colonized subjects into colonized objects. We are playing Caribbean Cricket and the erstwhile masters can now only try to imitate to catch up.
Coming to the seemingly excessive support by the Guyanese public (domestic and foreign) for the Warriors, James had noted that the cricketers’ success ‘atoned for a pervading humiliation, and nourished pride and hope’. He drew a historical parallel between our euphoric feelings on the excellence of our cricketers and the Greeks’ iconization of their athletes: ‘The Greeks believed that an athlete, who had represented his community at a national competition, and won, had thereby conferred a notable distinction on his city. His victory was a testament to the quality of his citizens’. And in like fashion, so was his defeat, hence our national mood of depression following the Warriors elimination from the Tournament.
James also connected cricket to a philosophy of West Indian life inculcated in the schools: “I acquired the discipline for which the only name is Puritan. I never cheated. I never argued with the umpire, I never jeered at a defeated opponent, I never gave a friend a vote or a place which…could be seen as belonging to a stranger.” Would that our politicians have inculcated such values.
Are we all becoming self-righteous or Sanctimonious Gangsters again?
Every day on reading the highlights in our Guyanese media, I become sick of the incessant call to renegotiate the oil contract with Exxon. These cries come from very qualified minds at home and abroad and from some “talking” heads. Again, I am not affiliated with any political party, and I am Afro Guyanese who do not prescribe to the “Putin” doctrine to make changes by brute force.
In contract law, the two most prevailing reasons for contract renegotiation are “Fraud” or “Misrepresentation of facts.” That is a tall ladder for Guyana to climb – Exxon knows that. I read the contract and most Guyanese should be aware, yes, it is not the best (now), but it was the best (then) given we did not spend a (nominal) cent directly to produce a barrel of oil prior to first oil. We are still struggling to pump water to our residents in the interior from 200ft consistently, even in Georgetown. We the people should renegotiate the contract between our Government and us, Vote in 2025 for the best Government.
When an entity engages in a contract it considers its risk and return, some of us are still in a Socialist mindset as to Exxon owing us something other than the contract terms. Name (3) other companies that can drill as deeply, safely as Exxon (20,000+) feet and keep Venezuela at bay. We had our Canadian exploration CGX drilling failures, remember, that is a premium we paid. The concept of renegotiating the contract is a dead one! Wake up folks, we do not have to be Sanctimonious Gangsters again!
How many Guyanese will be happy if your landlord raise the rent because he or she heard you make more money, None! How many Guyanese would agree if the bank heard you make more money now so they will raise your interest rate on your mortgage or auto loan, None! How many Guyanese have bought land only to discover 5 years later its worth more now and the original Seller called to get more money from you 5 years later, none will agree! Contracts have Sanctity.
I applaud the current Government (Vice President) on its Local Content Amendments and to push for more philanthropic investments from Exxon and its Foreign partners. They (Exxon, etc.) have large global budgets (Foundations) for this around the world. It must be a public/private partnership and should not be demands, but a collaborative discussion on what is best for all. It should not be additive to Guyana as oil related expenses. Some examples of the discussions we should be having with our Partners.
The list above is not intended to be comprehensive, just some ideas to stimulate discussion amongst us, having wasted 3 years talking about renegotiating the contract. I am a fervent believer; we can build around the periphery of the existing contract instead of spending the next 20 years talking about how bad the contract was. Let us focus on the future and the needs of our Nation. Was the contract between the Government of Guyana and Exxon Aleatory? Some of the purveyors of bad information are taking us down a black hole, do not get sucked in, move on!
Everton D. Morris
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