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By Damaris Martin

Cricket has always held a special place in the hearts of Vincentians. However, for the past decade, the excitement of international matches on our home soil, while a distant memory, was still our dream.  The return of international cricket brought a wave of enthusiasm that swept across the country and the anticipation was palpable as seasoned fans eagerly awaited the chance to witness world-class cricket up close once again.

When I first heard that World Cup cricket matches were scheduled to be played in St. Vincent, my excitement was undeniable. However, that initial excitement was quickly dampened by the disappointment that no West Indies matches would be held in my home country. Initially, I didn’t think I could muster the enthusiasm to attend games between teams with which I had no direct affiliation, let alone pay for the experience.

Boy, was I wrong?

Receiving complimentary tickets to the first game was a game-changer. My genuine love for cricket took over and the rest is history. Words like “scintillating”, “pressure-rising”, “tense”, “nail-biting”, and “heart-thumping excitement”, barely do justice to the experience. The matches were electrifying, each one a masterpiece of suspense, skill and even theatrics. Witnessing Afghanistan’s historic win over Australia and then over Bangladesh was nothing short of awe-inspiring. There were moments that made my cricket-loving heart swell with nostalgia as I was reminded of the days of West Indies cricket when no score was too small to be defended.

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Despite the heartbreak of the West Indies’ Super Eight loss to South Africa, the proverbial “chink in the armour” couldn’t deter me from rallying around our men in maroon. However, I needed a mood booster after our loss, and the final game at Arnos Vale did not let me down. There was excitement from the first ball and when the rain interrupted the game at a critical stage, I heard one spectator exclaim, “Ah wey rain ah go?” The rain, an unwelcome guest, seen as a nuisance, couldn’t dampen our joyous spirit, as supporters of both teams, strangers, engaged in friendly banter at the uncertainty of the outcome of the match.

One of the most heartening aspects was seeing the Vincentian turnout at the games, despite the absence of the West Indies team. The support was phenomenal, showcasing the unifying power of cricket. The stands were filled with passionate supporters, their cheers creating an electrifying atmosphere. The energy was contagious, reminding us all why cricket is more than just a game — it’s a unifying force that brings people together. And I must say, our cricket stadium, which is undoubtedly now one of the most beautiful cricket grounds in the world, added to the experience.

The players, too, felt the unique energy of Vincentian supporters. Many remarked on the incredible atmosphere and the warm reception they received. It was a mutual appreciation, as the players’ performances inspired the crowd, and the crowd’s support fueled the players’ determination.

For many of us, it was an opportunity to introduce a new generation to the sport, allowing young Vincentians to experience the magic of live international matches for the first time. These matches ignited a cricket flame in people who had never attended a game before and as a nation we must do everything we can to keep this newly-lit cricket flame ablaze in the hearts of the younger generation.

One young adult told me of her exhilarating experience as she tried to focus on the field, to understand what was happening in a game she knew little about even as she tried to take in all the sights and sounds at the stadium. I found myself explaining the intricacies of cricket to a newly passionate fan, whose enthusiasm is now truly lit. This flame no doubt is also lit in the student-volunteers whose service extended into the night, but was done with such enthusiasm and energy that were truly inspiring. The spirit of volunteerism exhibited by the children and adults is a shining example for others to follow.

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Rodney “Steel Pan Boss” Small, second from left, and his incredible band.

Another highlight of the cricket matches was undoubtedly the electrifying vibes brought to the stadium by Rodney “Steel Pan Boss” Small and his incredible band. The sound of the drums, the chants, the infectious rhythm that you couldn’t resist, and the mesmerising dancers made the Double Decker stand the most desired spot for attendees.

I hope Rodney and his band know that every cricket match from now on will come with the expectation of their presence, adding that unique Vincy Vibes to the games. Thank you, guys. You made us proud and promoted our country beautifully.

The matches were more than just games; they were a celebration of our West Indian heritage, an awakening of cricket passion and a testament to our enduring love for cricket. It was a reminder that cricket transcends teams and national boundaries. With this renewed energy, St. Vincent stands ready to embrace its cricketing heritage, with hopes of establishing regular fixtures that will continue to inspire and engage Vincentians. 

In the end, cricket was the true winner in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

The opinions presented in this content belong to the author and may not necessarily reflect the perspectives or editorial stance of iWitness News. Opinion pieces can be submitted to [email protected].