"South America on $320" story # 7

Port of Spain, Trinidad & Tobago           May 19, 2002

On Saturday, the 20th of April, international cricket had come to Trinidad. The hometown West Indies were taking on India.
     I grew to like cricket while in Australia. To sum it up, it's a boring, boring sport. It's played on a relaxing, grassy round field. One team's defense dots the field, surrounding two wicket posts. A bowler at one wicket throws quickly a hard ball which bounces once before reaching the opposing team's batsman. Batsmen try to bat the ball away from the defense, then run between the wickets, scoring runs. But, the bowlers have the task of scoring wickets, or "outs," which can happen - among other, more baseball-like ways - when a bowled ball strikes the wicket behind the batsman.
     There are plenty more rules that make the game indecipherable to outsiders and lead to newspaper articles reading, "Habib Tashikiwan was ducked out on a left-seamer slipper-in-the-gully short-of-a-length elbow hanger that would've been bunt-blocked for four if not for crafty Merlowe Elwidge, playing left-side hunchback henchman funny hat positioned at rear admiral, who himself was goosed out on a hamstring before wicket, and his slap-hand to the team's giant grass-hopper, who stomped Tashikiwan."
     Streets surrounding Port of Spain's "The Oval" sporting complex were bustling, apparently to see the giant chirping insects. I paid $30 (US$5) and entered into the seat-less common grounds.
     When the day's play began, the cricket "test match" (encompassing five days of slow competition) resumed with India's Sachin Tendulkar - one of the world's best batsmen - batting. He'd already batted 113 runs without getting out, which was a high number that didn't bode well for the West Indies. Cameron Cuffy bowled to Tendulkar.
     "Cuff him, Cuffy!" I yelled support for my team. My loud American accent loomed awkwardly among the subdued, Caribbean crowd.
     "I'll take some cream with my Cuffy!" I continued. This caught on a bit and got people around me yelling for "Cream in de Cuffy!"
     I was encouraged to go on. I yelled a new one, "I'd like some cream, some sugar, and a WICKET with my Coffee!"
     Ooh. I'd choked. By mis-pronouncing the bowler's name, my heckle lost all validity. The crowd found this about as funny as my landlady finds it when I don't wash my hands after going to the bathroom.
     After much time, the West Indies bowled Tendulkar out for 117 runs. The West Indies celebrated by tossing the ball straight up in the air, and the crowd danced and waved their hands to soca music on the loud-speakers. One Trinidadian muslim - fully clothed in white on this scorching day - took advantage of the hype to hold up the sign he'd made, reading, "Israel: Get Out of Palestine Or Else ..." He was determined the whole day with that sign.
     Afterwards, I wanted to yell, "India: Get Out of Port of Spain Or Else ..." but I lacked support from the docile fans to continue heckling.
     The game went on. And on. The West Indies bowled out the Indian batsmen four hours into the day. And on. The West Indies began batting, aiming to try and match the high 300-plus run total India had amassed.
     Since any cricket player on any cricket team dresses equally - in loose white pants and a white long-sleeved shirt - the only way to tell the home was now batting was because the stadium's music session heated up.
     Not to take anything away from the boring cricket, but the music was the highlight. The twelve-member band featured several "steel pans." The steel pan was born in Trinidad and is a thick, circular slab of metal that makes tropical sounds when beat similar to how a conch shell half-filled with water would sound if struck. Six steel pans contrasted with low-pitched African drums and a hollow ridged girder that a smiling Trini raked a brush up and down. The continuous rhythm created got the crowd swaying and shaking.
     Meanwhile, the game went on. Brian Lara, the squat-stanced best batsman for the West Indies, batted for 52 runs in front of his Trinidadian homeland.
     The game went on, in all, for eight hours. And this was only one day of five for the test match! Seven and a half of those hours, the sun reached Trinidad hot enough to melt a potato.
     India would win the match after three more days. Could you imagine the poor local who sat through all forty hours - all blistered and burnt; bored enough perhaps to consider Trinidadian talk-radio worthwhile entertainment - only to see his team lose? I could've learned some new heckles from that guy.
     "What da' muhda-a*s ya doin', Cuffy!? You muhda-'s couldn't knuckle-bowl a muhda-slipper in de gully if yuh'z wuz bowlin' to my grand-muhda! And why is this game called "cricket," anyway? It makes no sense ... Youshtupido'suh-im? Cream in de Cuffy! Yu muhda-'s!"

To be continued. Modern Oddyseus.

go to the previous story                                                                              go to the next story

J. Breen's modern-o.com