Posted by: yachtcrewsing | January 13, 2012

Cricket, Antigua Style

   Everything is more fun in the Caribbean: grocery shopping, taking taxis, hiking with goats and, as I found out yesterday- cricket.

   Cricket is not only an island-wide obsession, it is also the national sport of Antigua. In 2006 an impressive cricket stadium was erected outside of St. Johns for the following year’s World Cup, and after a debacle with unsafe sandy ground it was congenially nicknamed ‘Antigua’s 366th beach.’

   Having never previously experienced the sport in any capacity other than overhearing the gibberish talk of ‘wickets’ and ‘bowlers’ from stuffy old British men, my perception of it was limited to a tea towel my family was gifted when I was a child, bearing the following explanation of the game:

“You have two sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that’s in the side that’s in goes out, and when he’s out he comes in and the next man goes in until he’s out. When they are all out, the side that’s out comes in and the side that’s been in goes out and tries to get those coming in, out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out.
When a man goes out to go in, the men who are out try to get him out, and when he is out he goes in and the next man in goes out and goes in. There are two men called umpires who stay out all the time and they decide when the men who are in are out. When both sides have been in and all the men have been out, and both sides have been out twice after all the men have been in, including those who are not out, that is the end of the game.”

   Needless to say, this hardly laid the foundations for a comprehensive conception of the game. Armed with this limited knowledge I showed up at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium with an eclectic group of cricket-loving nationalities (Antiguans, Australians and British) and a cooler full of drinks and snacks. Game on.

   I quickly learned the quintessential purpose of the sport- chatting and drinking with friends. For most, the actual cricket game just seems to serve merely as a convenient venue and provide a ready-made excuse to escape from a dull conversation. I was explained the rules, watched a total of about ten minutes of the first match of Sussex vs. Jamaica, and generally had a fabulous time. When our friends from other yachts showed up for the Netherlands vs. Barbados game, we decided to go all in and relocate to the ‘Party Stands,’ the official name for the section without seats, behind the cheerleaders and beside the two tented bars. This game proved even more social than the last, having accumulated a group of around 30 yachties to sit in the grass and occasionally cheer with.

   At the end of the game, when in North American sporting events everyone spends half an hour trying to leave the parking lot, the Antiguans set up a massive stage and strike up a raucous party in the space outlying the stadium. Looking backwards from the stage, the backlighting of the stadium showed the silhouettes of hundreds of dancing and grooving figures. We twirled and danced alongside a man inexplicably dressed in a Santa outfit and supporting a massive Barbados flag atop a 15-foot telescopic pole, Dutch revelers adorned in prison-uniform orange and a host of Antiguans wearing general grins of happiness. Unable to refrain from mirroring these expressions, I made the decision that I finally have a favorite sport- Antiguan cricket.


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