Fans should focus on cricket and not past bad feelings

Dear Editor,
ALTHOUGH fans were left in awe as Guyana Amazon Warriors (GAW) bowled out their Barbados opponents for 125 inside 17 overs, they continued to talk about the game against Trinidad.

Fans came out on what was a sold-out stadium and had expected a close encounter with Barbados, which has been at the top of the table in points in this year’s CPL. They readied themselves for an exciting encounter, but were disappointed that Barbados performed poorly, losing wickets steadily, and putting up a total that was not very competitive, although it did try to defend itself and started off well, restricting GAW to a relatively low score within the power play, with Guyana losing two early wickets. Instead of focusing on the Barbados match, many continued to talk about the encounter with Trinidad. It turned out to be an easy encounter against Barbados, and as such there was not much to talk about in terms of players’ or team performance. So they went back to the Trinidad match.

Barbados’ score and scoring rate were not great for a 20/20 format. And Guyana’s response was not significantly better. But the GAW would have adjusted the batting, deciding not to take major risks to achieve a low total for victory inside the 20 overs. Guyana had already qualified for the semi-final, and was Number Two in the points table, and therefore no need to take risks, lose a match and earn the wrath of fans. Guyana has not won a championship in ten seasons; it looks to make history next week.

The two sides meet again on Tuesday evening in the semi-finals. Jamaica and St. Lucia meet in the other ‘semi’ on Wednesday. The winners of both semis clash on Friday for the final. The losers of the two semis also meet to decide Number Three and Four status. After the final, West Indies and players of other teams head for Australia for the World Cup that commences a few days after that. Some players of other nations have already left for the trip Down Under.

The Guyana team’s performance last Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday (in the bowling) were spectacular. The reactions to the GAW victories went viral on social media, particularly against Trinidad, with fans loving the effort.

As I travelled on the coast, Guyanese have been marveling at the victory, while ‘Trinis’ are smarting over their humiliating loss. Guyanese kept rubbing it in to the ‘Trinis’. One taxi driver said: “I prefer to lose to Barbados or Jamaica but not to Trinidad. Dem people ah insult abee.” It is reminiscent of Brian Lara’s comment of a defeat West Indies suffered at the hands of a weak Zimbabwe team in a World Cup encounter, when Lara said he didn’t mind losing to an African team, rather than to say a White team (meaning Australia, England, New Zealand). Ethnic or race nationalism even pervades sports or cricket in the Caribbean. (South Africa at the time was also a White team, but it is not known whether Lara would not have seen it as such. What was his feeling losing to say India or Pakistan or Sri Lanka? We don’t know.

But Lara has been employed by an Indian TV station as an IPL cricket analyst, and is not expected to be critical of India as a team.)
The reaction or view of the Guyanese taxi driver aptly describes a feeling of many (certainly not all) Guyanese towards ‘Trinis’. The sentiment is harsh and strong, and also comes with a lot of ignorance of why and how ‘Trinis’ in the past looked down on (most) Guyanese. Those of us who lived or studied or worked in Trinidad know better. As many Guyanese would attest, ‘Trinis’ never looked down on those of us with academic and economic achievements when we visited Trinidad, or studied or worked there. I travelled all over Trinidad and Tobago during my polling activities on both islands, and know virtually every village in Central and South Trinidad. I was never ill-treated. Only once did someone, an “Afro Trini”, in Mayaro tell me to “go back to Guyana and go and cut cane”. That kind of prejudice is not prevalent, as most Guyanese who visit Trinidad would attest. I met countless Guyanese at all kinds of events in Trinidad; from Chatney to weddings, to anniversaries, to Ramayanas, Pujas, Koran Shariefs, hardly any described bitter experience. Yes, ‘Trinis’ expressed sentiments of distrust of Guyanese because of bad encounters of selling fake gold and some criminal activities, but it is not widespread, and that feeling does not apply to professionals. Some ‘Trinis’ also conned Guyanese. So sentiments towards each other go both ways, and, regrettably, are carried over into cricket.

Like everywhere else, Guyanese were treated less than citizens with full rights. Many ‘Trinis’, like citizens in other countries including the US, UK, and Canada did develop and still have a feeling that Guyanese have made life difficult for them, taking away jobs and opportunities when all that enterprising Guyanese did was to avail themselves of golden opportunities. Guyanese migrants outperformed locals or indigents. The feeling of distrust for Guyanese in any society is understandable.

Several were and are involved in all kinds of unsavory activities in Trinidad; they largely tend to behave themselves in the US, Canada, and the UK, where the laws are very strict, and violators are punished for offences. But we must also recognise that almost every Guyanese abroad is hardworking and praised for their work ethics and talent; they are an enterprising people who have done extremely well everywhere they settled overseas.

Guyanese must now move on in their thinking about the defeat of Trinidad, and how they were treated during their visits to the island several decades ago by immigration and custom agents and politicians. Trinidad was not the only country to rough up Guyanese at the airport; it happened everywhere, with treatment worst in Barbados but less so in St. Kitts and St. Lucia. Except for one minor incident in Grenada and two incidents in Trinidad, I was accorded respect on arrival in hundreds of trips to all of the islands, travelling with my Guyanese passport. And I will be heading there again in a few days for a political survey.

I didn’t hear boos when Guyana took on Barbados Sunday night, and didn’t see the frenzied reaction like what happened Saturday night against Trinidad. Was it because Barbados’ PMs (the late Owen Arthur and present Mia Mottley) helped save democracy in 2020? Of course, Sunday night’s score was also not formidable to overtake, and perhaps the reason for reduced jingoism.

A repeat encounter between Guyana and Barbados is on Tuesday night; fans should focus on cricket and not past bad feelings based on ill-treatment in the islands. The feeling in the stadium and around the country in the remaining encounters should be on performance in the game; not immigration or past jealousies.

Yours truly,
Vishnu Bisram

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