My earliest memories of cricket involve black and white images on the TV with my dad sitting in an armchair, a voice droning on, and the room being incredibly warm. At the time, I think I maybe associated the warmth and the droning voices with boredom. I paid no attention to the little men in white uniforms making unintelligent sounds and saying phrases like, “Silly mid-on,” “Leg bye,” and “Howzat.”

Leap forward to my late teens, the mighty West Indies were striding across cricket fields in the UK followed by men with afros, jackets, and pieces of iron, while chasing quite sexy looking men in white with incredibly bright smiles across fields of green. And then the West Indies won the first cricket World Cup. The noise my father and his friends made probably frightened the neighbours. Island pride was particularly high as two Antiguans, (Sir) Andy Roberts and (Sir) Vivian Richards, were being hailed as the best players in the world. Finally, our small island was on the map. Well, not literally… however, I could preface conversations about my parents’ land of birth with “Do you know that place that just won the World Cup…”

Cricket came to life for me in 1986, an emotional series with the West Indies rampaging against a beleaguered England. My cousin told me that I would have to meet him at 7:00 am at the Antigua Recreation Grounds (ARG). I duly arrived and was met by a wall of sound, people, hucksters, the smell of frying, and the sound of glass clinking. We found our seats – a long wooden bench in a rather rickety stand that continued to fill up as the morning wore on. Music cranked up and the biggest coolers and pots appeared in our row. After all these years, I still don’t know how they got there.

 

*photo: Edwin Doran

 

By the first ball, fully fed and watered, I found that the action off the field was far more interesting than what was happening on it. Every other person is an umpire/coach and expert, shouting advice and starting one way conversations within anyone within ear shot. As the game played on, the voices got louder, and arguments built up in defense of or against some player or the other. More rum, more food, louder music.

By day four, I had made friends with some English tourists who had brought a cooler full of champagne, which we duly drank as England’s captain uttered the phrase, “This ship has well and truly sunk,” an homage to a popular Calypso sung by David Rudder and blasted every time an English batsman got out.

And thus, a cricket baby was born. I was duly hooked. The experience of being there, that buzz whether we won, lost, or drew – everyone has an opinion, a reason, or theory as to why and how. The biggest lesson I have learnt is that cricket reflects our lives on this small island on Planet Earth – our swagger, playfulness, and full on pride with no fear of size. On the cricket field, we walk as though we own the world, even if no one can find us on the map.

–   –   –

Have you attended an island cricket match?

Brenda Lee Browne

Current Rock of Residence:

Antigua

Island Girl Since:

1986 – 1995 returned 2003

Originally Hails From:

London UK

Born and raised in London. Lover of cricket, handbags, and chocolate. Trained as journalist, parents from Antigua, and migrated to England in 1957. Fell in love with Antigua whilst visiting her grandmother, took four years to move back to Antigua – that six week visit in 1986 turned into a ten year stint – rediscovering her writing wings – working in media, PR and cricket. Brenda returned to the UK and then back to Antigua in 2013 and it is home now. It is working in cricket that allowed her to travel from island to island and then onto India – from West to East. If someone starts a blog about India, she will join that too.

Mother of one, yet, through her life journey she has had the privilege of collecting more children, some older than her biological son and all enrich her world. Two main highlights – teaching creative writing to students, inmates at HMP, hosting a Writers’ Retreat, and publishing her first novella London Rocks. She’s still young enough to have dreams .Island life is all about the portfolio life… creating and living the portfolio life.

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