Historical sporting developments in SVG
Vincentians can feel justly proud that we have once more been ushered into the annals of cricketing history in the Caribbean.
One piece of that history is the fact that this small country has, for the first time, hosted three One Day Internationals (ODI) in quick succession at the idyllic Arnos Vale Sports Complex.
Another piece of history is that here in St Vincent and the Grenadines the West Indies cricket team defeated Zimbabwe in three consecutive ODIs to clinch a series victory after the teams came out of Guyana evenly poised at one match each.
There is a third piece of history to the past week. It was the first time in the history of regional cricket that a host nation was able to feature in the international community as a protagonist of Sport and the Environment, one of the flagship programmes in today’s global sports community.
Hosting three ODIs
Since the near-embarrassingly expensive refurbishing of Arnos Vale # 1 between 2005 and 2007, Vincentian sports enthusiasts became very concerned that the facility has not been the attractive sporting venue that we were promised in large part by the Local Organising Committee for the St Vincent leg of the Cricket World Cup 2007 warm up exercises, and to some extent by the current political administration.
We have witnessed the more exciting cricket home series being taken to the larger territories – Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados – as has long since been the norm. Antigua and Barbuda remains a test venue even when it has on two separate occasions proven a colossal embarrassment and shame to the region as a cricketing host.
In the more recent past we have seen the immense energy created by Grenada, seemingly now overtaken by St Lucia and St Kitts and Nevis.
Dominica, the latest of the Caribbean islands to construct a fabulous cricket arena, thanks to the generosity of the Chinese government, has already shown itself ready to challenge the other host countries for international matches.
Of course, the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), much like its international parent body, the International Cricket Council (ICC), is always concerned about revenues generated at the host venues. This has been the primary reason for the test matches often being divided amongst the traditional hosts – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago. The rationale is that these countries have been able to provide large crowds in attendance on each day of competition. In the case of Antigua and Barbuda, easy access by air combined with the country’s thriving tourist industry has facilitated massive cricket fan inflows.
In the case of the ODIs, St Vincent and the Grenadines was once seen as the leader amongst the rest of the region’s cricketing nations in terms of being a regular host venue. Indeed the performance of this country as an ODI host venue grew to such an extent that we were granted two back-to-back matches against England, a country known for its large fan base. Vincentians are likely to remember the occasion for a very long time to come since the night spots in Kingstown were pressed to the hilt to cope with the demands of loyal English cricket fans who refused to sleep. Even at the Arnos Vale cricket ground the various food and beverage stalls all claimed to have reaped a harvest so good was the support from the English visitors.
St Vincent and the Grenadines cricket authorities were the toast of the WICB as the latter grew ever more impressed with the gate receipts. Unfortunately for us it did not take long for the local and West Indies cricketing authorities to ‘kill the goose that laid the golden egg’. Each year we hosted an ODI we raised the cost of the tickets to the point where the once loyal local and sub regional fans said, ‘no more’.
The test match allocated to St Vincent and the Grenadines when Sri Lanka was in the region only added to our embarrassing decline. The authorities must have known that we did not have the population to sustain s five-day international fixture. We also did not have the requisite air access and hotel capacity for the crowds that would satisfy the regional and international authorities. Attendance was poor and the rain added to the debacle.
Suddenly, St Vincent and the Grenadines went into rapid decline as a venue for international cricket.
It is the reason that despite the commitment to spending millions on the refurbishing of Arnos Vale we got some ‘goat cook’ warm up matches.
It is the reason we were given another test match, but against the low-ranked Bangladesh, who upset all expectations to win the series in the region.
It is the reason that in the year of the Caribbean playing host to the prestigious and dynamically exciting ICC T/20 World Cup, we have once more been overlooked.
It is the reason that in the year when the powerful South Africans are on schedule for a series in the Caribbean we are once more neglected.
It is the reason therefore why we got the opportunity to host three ODIs as the West Indies hosted Zimbabwe, a team that is on a mission to reclaim membership amongst the ICC’s test playing nations.
Nonetheless, our hosting of the three ODIs in rapid-fire succession has enshrined us in the annals of regional cricket and local sport.
Defeating Zimbabwe in SVG
The ODIs in St Vincent were played on 10, 12 and 14 March 2010. As the teams arrived at the ET Joshua Airport tension was high.
Zimbabwe had won the lone T/20 match in the series played in Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday 1 March. By the host country’s sporting standards there was no one in attendance. 5,000 people in an arena capable of holding in excess of 20,000 were counted as nothing. If the attendance was embarrassing the display by the West Indies team on the field of play was nothing short of putrid. Zimbabwe was at one time three wickets without a run on the board, then 11 runs for four wickets. The team somehow miraculously reached 105. The West Indies team in response could only muster 79 runs in their allotted 20 overs.
The two teams began the ODI series in Guyana where attendance is always high regardless of the competition. The Zimbabwe series was no exception. In the first match the West Indies managed, as is so often the case, to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, leaving the visitors smiling from ear to ear, fancying their chances of even greater success. The emotional high of the Zimbabweans received a severe jolt when the West Indies took the second ODI in Guyana to draw level in the five match series.
But the West Indies’ victory in Guyana was not convincing to the region’s cricketing buffs. The critics felt that the regional team had to struggle far too much to defeat a team that has no international standing.
St Vincent and the Grenadines therefore, host to the final three matches in the home series, was destined to be the scene of history on the field of play. The stage was set against the backdrop of the beautiful Grenadines at the splendidly prepared Arnos Vale Sports Complex.
The weeks of meticulous attention to the minutest details in the preparation of the playing arena by Operations Manager, Lauren Baptiste, in the midst of one of this country’s most devastating and debilitating dry season, paid handsome dividends. The cricket arena was a picture deserving of only the very highest commendation. It was an arena befitting even greater encounters than the one for which it was prepared, two lowly ranked cricket teams, West Indies and Zimbabwe.
As if rising to the occasion the West Indies cricket team defeated Zimbabwe one match after another ruing the hapless visitors. It was a most fitting climax to a series, which, while scoffed at in some circles certainly did much to enhance the sporting reputation of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
Sport and the Environment
Sport and the Environment has taken centre stage at the Arnos Vale Sports Complex just as has been the case at the Beijing Olympics and the myriad of international sporting events taking placing around the globe.
The St Vincent and the Grenadines National Olympic Committee, some years ago, became the first in the English-speaking Caribbean to establish a Sport and the Environment Commission in keeping with international trends and the emphasis of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The Arnos Vale Sports Complex, the nation’s premier sporting arena, has been targeted from the very beginning, for special attention by the Commission. Palm trees were planted inside Arnos Vale # 1 in 2008. One year later a variety of hardy trees were planted around Arnos Vale # 2. Earlier this year, 2010, the Sport and Environment Commission mounted two impressive billboards depicting the NOC’s commitment to the environment around sporting venues in the State, one at each of the two major cricketing venues at Arnos Vale. This targeted the country’s hosting of the three ODIs in March.
The Commission also provided the ‘Neem’ tree that now serves as a roundabout in the Complex as well as the row of plants intended to serve as a border at the lower end of Arnos Vale # 2.
Leaders of the Sport and the Environment Commission were also able to work with the NOC Legacy as well as the Culture and Education Commissions of the NOC’s educational arm, the National Olympic Academy. They collaborated to have brochures on Sport and the Environment prepared and delivered to the international media here for the cricket in a Press Kit. These were also delivered to participating teams and one copy each was autographed by the players and management of the two teams.
The commentators also highlighted the work of the Commissions during the matches.