For the sound of leather on willow, and an unbeatable match-day atmosphere, be sure to watch a game of cricket on the cricketing treasure island of Barbados. Take a look at our definitive cricket lover’s guide to Barbados.
One minute the ground is empty and quiet, apart from a groundsman's thrumming mower. Next, it’s a crowded throng of drumming, singing, clapping, chanting cricket fans. The mood is raucous, the volume ear-splitting. A big-screen is pumping out cricketing anthems as baton-twirling cheerleaders dance amongst uniformed marching bands. The din wanes, momentarily, for the first over of the day: the sound of leather (ball) against willow (bat) exerting its power to hush the melee – if only or a second.
Much has changed since cricket first arrived on Bajan shore, but the majesty of cricket remains. On the throne, is Barbados’s own ‘King of Cricket’ Sir Garfield Sobers – a swashbuckling batsman, athletic fielder and jack-of-all-trades bowler and a Bridgetown-born cricketing hero. In a sweeping tide of patriotism, Sobers carried the hopes of his compatriots through the early days of independence, rising up from humble beginnings (he famously used to scrape melted tar off the road to use as a ball) to dominate at the game's highest level. Today, cricket is everywhere in Barbados – and as the national sport, it owes much to the island's favourite son. Kids practice their bowling on sandy beaches while teens perfect their backyard bowling. Barflies debate batting averages into the wee small hours over homespun rum while radio show hosts rally-cry for the Kensington Oval to be awarded spiritual status.
Set on the glittering waters of the Caribbean Sea on the outskirts of Bridgetown, the national capital, the Kensington Oval is the island’s cricketing Mecca. On this hallowed turf, Brian Lara sealed a rousing Test victory against Australia – considered the West Indies' best ever by many cricketing diehards. Next door, the Legends of Barbados Cricket Museum pays homage to 50 of the best bowlers, batsmen and allrounders ever to play for Barbados. A statue of Sir Garfield Sobers overlooks the scene, capturing the great man’s trademark drive-through batting stroke in all its effortless glory.
Fans unable to snap up tickets for an international Test Match, Twenty20 game or One-Dayer gather at Sober’s feet to cheer on their home team courtesy of a transistor radio. Good cricket, however, isn’t hard to find in Barbados, from an exciting local First Division match, or a friendly game on the beach to an afternoon of fiercely fought overs on open pasture or a village green.
Cricket, in all its forms, bridges societal classes and unites Barbados’s diverse population regardless of their cultural differences, as Sobers - and the other three Bajan cricketing knights, Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Everton Weekes – so positively proved. Almost as famous as the cricketers themselves is local calypsonian and cricket fan Mac Fingall who now leads the cheering at the Oval with his small band of musicians – look our for him moving from stand to stand as he whips the crowd into a frenzy!
Header photo: Cricket batsman © Ahmad Faizal Yahya/ThinkstockiStock
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About the author: SarahWoodsSarah Woods
Award-winning travel writer, author & broadcaster Sarah Woods has lived, worked and travelled in The Caribbean since 1995. She has visited resort towns, villages and lesser-known islands where she has learned to cook run-down, sampled bush rum, traded coconuts, studied traditional medicine, climbed volcanoes and ridden horses in the sea. Sarah is currently working on a travel documentary about the history of Caribbean cruises.