Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Will the West Indies fans turn up? - leeroycal

One of the most starkly apparent things about the last time West Indies were on these shores, apart from Robert Key's beergut, was that the crowds were so predominantly white. Even at the Oval, traditionally home to scenes of West Indian fans' bluster and noise had only a mere smattering of old timers, staring blankly into their rum as their beloved team crumpled to a comprehensive 10 wicket defeat and an unthinkable 4-0 series loss.

Why is this the case? Is it simply that the team keeps losing, or is it something deeper? Have the West Indians in the UK fallen out of love with cricket?

The answer lies within the personnel of local and county cricket, and the number and type of ethnic minority players that are coming through the academy system. There are very few Afro-Caribbean players in county and league squads and it does not take a detailed and painstaking analysis to realise that the bright young things in English cricket are either white or Asian. Whilst struggling to remember an Afro-Caribbean prospect of any note since Alex Tudor, a list of young Asians leaps off the tongue far more easily: Solanki, Habib, Rashid, Bopara, Kabir Ali, Panesar, Mahmood; all evidence points to a large swathe of the West Indian population not engaging in the game as they once did.

Juxtapose this against the number of players of West Indian extraction breaking into professional football clubs up and down the country and you begin to see the logic of the argument, hence the crowds are not at test matches; the exception being the older generation, who still see cricket as the rallying point for the great archipelago from which they once came; the youngsters are all watching Arsenal.

The reasons are both cultural and practical. Culturally, the West Indians differ from the Asian population in that they do not originally come from a one-sport monoculture. Unlike the other test playing nations, India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka make very little impact on world sport other than in cricket; and so when they came to the UK with their own unshakeable culture, a devotion to cricket remained an equally steadfast part of it. West Indian kids on the other hand have perhaps become more anglicised, and certainly more americanised. Football and basketball slowly became king; notably games that can be played anywhere. The West Indian population in England is generally located in the inner cities, areas that cricket has always struggled to reach with its lack of pitches, lack of coaches and lack of funding. These areas do not, however, suffer from a lack of basketball hoops or five-a-side football courts.

So in answer to the title of this piece, no, I do not expect there to be large West Indian crowds in this test series. But I certainly hope that initiatives such as Chance To Shine can go some way to reverse the sad trend of the last 15 years.

17 comments:

Ebren said...

I don't remember the beer gut - I do remember the double ton at Lords, the Red Stripe on sale in the bars, and Piers Morgan two rows in front of me.

Freddie had a perfect Fred innings - dot, six, out.

Genius.

As to the Windies fans, i don't remember one.

Margin was stewarding in the Oval for a Windies series, so he might have more sober memories...

Zeph said...

It's not only in the UK, Lee - I'm sure you heard commentators during the World Cup lamenting the fact that young people in the West Indies aren't into cricket, either. It certainly seems as if most West Indians under, say, 35 are looking to the US for their sense of culture and identity.

Anyone out there who can give us the inside view on this?

DoctorShoot said...

perhaps cricket needs a new image maker to attract cool dudes.
the salient point is the economic / cultural placement of west indian communities in the UK, allied to sport promotion and access to facilities. (a basketball hoop is cheaper to provide than nets, and maybe shaq is cooler than michael vaughan?)
lets get ian bell into a dyed (pink?)goatee and some rap style pretty cheer squads going...or maybe cricket just isn't sexist enough for the coca cola generation...

ericverschoor said...

I can only post an opinion related to the desertion to football.

Jamaica and T+T made it to the Football World cup in the recent past. Surely the exposure that football WC has had some effect.

Regarding the attraction football has, the best explanation I heard was from a woman:

"I can imagine myself playing a ball with a racket, bat, or club.
Somehow I can envisage myself running after a guy and wresle him to the ground or pass a ball with my hands.
But I definitively cant visualise myself doing what a footballer does with his feet. Thats contra natura, and we humans love anything thats freakish"

For the record...had I grown up in a Test Nation, mi unflinching love for football would have been directed towards cricket. I only came into contact at the age of 26, and I am now back in my Argentina.
Cricket is far mor complex that football. There are so many technical, tactical psycological (for me the most appealing) variation in a game that anybody with half a brain would chose cricket over football. It just want to be.

P.S. My 4th place in the GUblog Fantasy League is my most cherished sporting achievement this year ;-)

ericverschoor said...

I just read over my comment and realised my English is declining by the second. Well Im a football head. Sorry

file said...

eric,

your English is fantastic and you have been trained to laugh like Stuart Hall, 'nuff said

did you ever hear any of his quantum football reports? He was forever trying to compare Doncaster Rovers' second goal with the seige of Troy or Drogba defending as Perseus coming to Andromeda on the rocks...wonderful

I wonder if any of the good people here might be able to dig out some Stuart Hall footie snips?

perhaps not on a cricket thread, hmmm...

sorry leeroycal no intention to hijack

you make good points well, the whole subject of which races choose and excell at which sports is going to be drawn in even sharper focus as globalisation intensifies.

Traditions will not hold new generations if there are glittering bangles elsewhere and another worrying trend is that less younger folk are taking an interest in sport generally

growing up welded to keyboards (tsh!) and paddles instead of on the park with a bat and a ball, decreasing the pool of potential spectators for the future

despite Pele's famous prediction about the future success of African football it hasn't really happened yet but it will be interesting to see the effects on the world game of Indian and Chinese passion for footie as time goes on

I think we are going to see more of this sort of thing and the sports we know and love now will evolve, get ready for the future test successes of Egypt for example...

MotM said...

I think there is a lesson here - don't take core audiences for granted.

For many reasons, in the space of a generation, we lost much of the West Indian support for cricket and the depth of its playing base. The ICC, to be commended in bringing the World Cup to the Windies if nothing else, are far more interested in the Sub-Continent. Follow the money.

It's a terrible shame.

BlueinBetis said...

If Key didn't have a beer gut, then he had definitely been at the pies...

I always remember the Windies teams of the eighties and nineties coming over and being very well supported, especially at the oval. If they don't have the same support, it's a real shame.

The comparison with the sub-continent just goes to show how strange India, Pakistan and Bangladesh really are, culturally speaking. That part of the world is like it's own little world.

One can only hope that cricket is not completely erased from the West Indian culture, does anyone think that any other team is stronger than the West Indies 1985?

In my opinion, the finest team ever to play the game. (It was one of the first ones I'd seen...)

bluedaddy said...

A bit late for this one but just wanted to say that for me the sound of cricket is as much those mad fer it Windies fans cracking their tins together all day in the 70s and 80s, as it is village greens or baggie greens.

It doesnt help that there is no Richards, Roberts or Marshall to demand with their prowess that the fans turn up to pay homage.

As for BIB's point re 80s Windies: strongest team in sports history possibly, let alone just cricket. Imagine them playing Waugh's Aussies!

Zephirine said...

Late, but this seems to be the best place:

Really good TV programme on BBC 4 Saturday 19th, in their series 'Nation on Film', about the 1976 W Indies tour and what it meant for the Caribbean community in the UK. It'll probably be repeated a few times - try to catch it.

More about it here:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/nationonfilm/topics/cricket_1976/background.shtml

bluedaddy said...

Cheers Zeph. Missed it last night but will look out for it.

Oh to have one of those nifty things that knows what you like and tapes it whether you tell it to or not. Better still when are we going to be able to talk to our computers, Star Trek style.

"Sorry to bother you Mac, but is there anything new on Pseuds worth reading?"

"Offside's put a new cocktail up, you say? Mix me one of those then will you Mac, be a doll!"

MotM said...

BlueDaddy - How far away are we from just thinking stuff and the computer knowing via a Bluetooth or something? With another one at the other end, you add it up and get... telepathy! In our kids' lifetime I suspect.

MotM said...

Zeph - Thanks. King Viv talks about this quite a lot. I'll try to catch it.

zeph said...

Mouth, bluedaddy - It sparked off some ideas for a written piece on the subject, but I don't want to just end up duplicating the programme.. I may consult you guys about it if you don't mind, when I've written a bit.

MotM said...

Zeph - I'd be honoured to help in any way. It's just about the limit of my memory of being obsessive about cricket as opposed to watching the World Cup in 1975 and Lancashire's Gillette Cup matches in the early 70s, so I feel really strongly about that fantastic series.

zeph said...

I was actually out of the country that year, and busy being young and silly. So I was pretty much discovering that series through the programme.

greengrass said...

Hockey was (is?) big on the sub-continent. Do Brits with Indian heritage excel at hockey?

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