January 19, 2013

West Indies cricket

The Caribbean Ashes

Roger Sawh
Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul troop off after a net session, Ahmedabad, October 7, 2006
Trinidad and Guyana have produced many a talent for West Indies  © AFP
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One of the most important aspects of international cricket is the fact that countries, as opposed to franchises, go head to head on such a regular basis. As opposed to the Yankees v Red Sox, Celtics v Lakers or Barcelona v Real Madrid, the national representation structure of cricket (notwithstanding the rapidly expanding world of franchise cricket in T20s) lends regular matches and series the feeling of a quasi-war. While outward animosity isn't that pronounced, there are some rivalries that are so spirited and historically significant that their manifestation in cricket is quite fierce - India and Pakistan are probably the most passionate, Australia and England might be the oldest, and anyone and England (the colonial masters) might be the most historically entrenched. On a slightly smaller scale, there's one rivalry within the Caribbean nexus that is big and is only getting bigger - Guyana v Trinidad (or Trinidad v Guyana, depending on your allegiances).

This rivalry does not have military connections, but is instead spurred on by a shared history and a similar socio-cultural and economic reality. In a nutshell, it's like two siblings fighting - they're similar in so many ways, but their differences invoke vehement clashes. On the face of things, Trinidad and Guyana have much alike when compared with the other members of the West Indies - they're the only two countries to have large Indo-ancestral roots alongside Afro-ancestral ones, which has led to the creation of cultures that appreciate curries as much as calypso. The noticeable presence of Hinduism and Islam existing alongside Christianity, and the theatre of Shah Rukh Khan being as influential as that of Brad Pitt make Trinidadian and Guyanese societies quite analogous.

There are, though, small differences in the cultures that act as springboards for perceived difference - Guyanese say 'chicken curry' while Trinis say 'curry chicken', Trinis like to 'fete' while Guyanese like to 'sport' (they both mean 'party' for the uninitiated) … and so the long but quite unimportant list goes on. Besides linguistic differences, there are obvious claims over who does things better, who has had more success, or even who is the smarter one - as I said, a real sibling rivalry!

On the economic front, Trinidad has done quite well for itself thanks mainly to its oil-based economy, while Guyana is still working on finding its economic footing (though aspirations of oil shine bright as a potential way to progress). This ties in to the politics of the two countries, which have had undeniable racial links at one level or another (and have always served as an ugly backdrop to efforts for national unity). Both countries are working their internal differences out, but as young nations, there are definite growing pains.

On the cricketing front, Trinidad has birthed the genius Brian Lara while Guyana may claim to have had more 'big names' of the West Indies' past, like Clive Lloyd, Lance Gibbs, and Rohan Kanhai. In today's West Indies team, Trinidad has provided some of the brightest stars, while Guyana can claim the stalwarts. In general, Trinidadians and Guyanese have played cricket in similar ways also - spin based bowling attacks (think Sonny Ramadhin, Dinanath Ramnarine and Samuel Badree against Lance Gibbs, Mahendra Nagamootoo and Devendra Bishoo) that complement wristy and stylish batsmen (like Larry Gomes, Daren Ganga and Darren Bravo versus Alvin Kallicharran, Carl Hooper and Ramnaresh Sarwan).

To take a small slice of recent history, Guyana and Trinidad have yet another commonality - they are the only two countries to have won the West Indies' domestic T20 tournament since its inception under Allen Stanford. That reality has provided the latest bit of spice in this bilateral bacchannal, which grew to a fever pitch yet again a few nights ago in the round-robin stage of the 2013 tournament in Port of Spain. Both teams were undefeated going into the game, and Guyanese and Trinidadians alike were confident that their teams would win. They both relied heavily on spin, and there was a shared knowledge that they are each other's biggest test. While Trinidad emerged easy victors, the anticipation of another possible face-off in the tournament final keeps the flames of competition burning bright.

The rivalry will continue far beyond 2013, from the cricket field to the kitchen to the DJ booth, and many other places. While the chasm could be so much wider (there are no fundamental religious, racial or historical differences to fuel any hatred), we simply fight because we're alike. Claims of superiority will continue to be made, evidence will be cited, teasing will be done, and banter will continue, but despite all of this, Trinis and Guyanese will both be right - like siblings, they are both equally special.

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Angela SLU on (January 30, 2013, 17:33 GMT)

Great descriptive article on the relations between Trinidad and Guyana. It is short and sweet as well.

Posted by Roger Sawh on (January 23, 2013, 15:35 GMT)

Thanks for the many kind comments everyone. Cricket G, your grammatical observation is quite correct, though I'd suggest that the mistake I made is quite common (and is thus widely understood). Nevertheless, you're right. I think it's important to mention that I did not intend this to be a consideration of all of the greats from Trinidad and Guyana over the years, as the likes of Shiv (who happens to be my favorite cricketer), Colin Croft, Jeffrey Stollmeyer, Ian Bishop, and many others would have certainly made the list. The names I mentioned were simply some of the first that came to mind when elaborating my point. Additionally, you're perfectly correct in noting that this is a cursory look at the Trini-Guyanese dynamic - the article was composed with cricket as the focus, and I sought to simply set the scene of the rivalry. I would suggest that a full analysis of the relationship between Guyana and Trinidad would be a wonderful topic for a book, far beyond Cricinfo's scope!

Posted by meister on (January 23, 2013, 3:02 GMT)

I have to admit to the Guyana crew ... chasing down and beating Jamaica after Gayle went crazy was deserving of the trophy ... that was a great T20 score in any competition for any team world-wide, so getting it was a fantastic effort. But ... I wouldn't go so far as to say Trinidad couldn't also chase it down. On paper, we have the batting to do it, not every day, but then what team can say that? What I will say is this ... I don't think Gayle would have roughed up our bowling to that degree. Beaton was excellent, BTW, looking forward to seeing him in maroon. I also love and respect Chanders like a good chicken curry :-).

Posted by Cricket G on (January 22, 2013, 16:42 GMT)

The article is a cursory, skims the surface of the matter and gives just a little glimpse of Trini/ Guyana rivalry. How can an article like this omit Chanderpaul along with other greats. But in a nutshell it expresses the correct view that we love each other and that's why we are so competitive.

Roger, a note ' working out their internal differences" and not "working their internal differences out."

Posted by Ujjwal Ingolikar on (January 22, 2013, 6:22 GMT)

Good to see an article on the Caribbean culture and its cricket. As a neutral, one is always interested to know more about their cricket, their celebrations, their life which is so enriched by many factors.

Posted by Geronimo on (January 21, 2013, 15:39 GMT)

Trinis say "Boy" Guyanese say "Man",The Trinis can now ask "Whose's the Man?

Posted by windies_superstar69 on (January 21, 2013, 15:33 GMT)

I am impressed by this article and it is very true about the cultures of these countries. I am a proud guyanese but I'm very disappointed with the final result...can't believe trinidad beat us but we'll be back in the 4 day tournament..I am entirely disgusted with the commentary of this t20 though..the commentators have been so biased against guyana..especially fazeer mohamed...they always bad mouth guyanese just because they know we're a big threat..its disappointing that guyana didn't have a commentator because they all had their filthy statements to say about guyana...anyways trinidad have won but guyana will be back!!!!!!

Posted by David Mohamad on (January 21, 2013, 12:37 GMT)

NICE....Well done....

Posted by Devon Pinder on (January 21, 2013, 12:24 GMT)

well written Roger.....the fact that only Guyana & TT have tasted T20 success @ the regional level makes their cricket matches, like roger said, a mini-ashes at least in T20. Although a bit mismatched for the past 2 years Guyana & T&T are the best in the format in the region & Guyana seems to be the only team that can keep the powerhouse of T&T in check. Here's to hoping the franchise system from 2014 keeps a fair amount of the national pride we all take for granted now in domestic T20 cricket.

Posted by Balbir Bahadursingh on (January 21, 2013, 10:16 GMT)

Well written. Let the game continue. Let the competition be high. And as Brian Lara put it "Lets Entertain"

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