Statistically speaking, half a story
This is a weighty tome, authored by a Professor Emeritus, Dr Keith AP Sandiford and a statistician with a particular interest in West Indian cricket, Ray Goble. In short, the academic and the statistician in tandem: not a rare combination, but ideal for producing literature for the cloisters of academia. For postgraduate students of the University of the West Indies and elsewhere, whose theses and dissertations are based in the game of cricket, this book will have some value. Reading from the back, there is an index from pages 541 to 554 in small type. In even smaller type, statistics rain across pages 221 to 540. These include every detail available including the remotest of them. The detail is insufferable, and as is the case with all bare statistics, they circumlocute rather than illustrate the truth.
More pain is inflicted on the reader. From pages 171 to 187 we are regaled with world records set by West Indians in Test cricket. And from pages 187 to 205 there are potted biographies of West Indian-born cricketers playing for other countries.
Then comes the meat of the book between pages 3 and 156, which carries a potted history of 75 years of West Indian cricket. It is a reasonable account but one which is highly circumscribed. That I could accept, but the flaws are prominently in evidence from the very beginning.
Listen to this: "Sports sociologists everywhere are still marveling at this miracle which defies adequate analysis or explanation." The author is referring to the tremendous successes of the West Indies team from 1980 to 1995.
This is no miracle. Traditions long deeply rooted came to full bloom in large part because of our continued participation in English county cricket and the Lancashire leagues where our game reached full maturity.
And then another whopper! I could hardly believe my eyes: "The territories have neither the material nor human resources to make an impact in such fields as agriculture, commerce, industry or technology."
Well, I'll be sugared, more so because I learnt quite early that the sugar-producing islands of the Caribbean with home grown labour and varied technical expertise financed the industrial revolution in England.
Do we lack human resources? No we don't. Much of it resides abroad disillusioned by the lack of innovative social and political leadership. Oil and natural gas in Trinidad, Bauxite in Jamaica, a West Indian University, and a mass of technical colleges are material enough, I would have thought.
Normally, I subscribe to a ritual when I view televised Test matches involving the West Indies from the comfort of my sofa. Always the vittles are carefully laid out with a flask of brandy at hand, but never without a copy of Beyond a Boundary by CLR James and A History of West Indian Cricket by Michael Manley. It shall remain so until better comes. This book, despite the hard labour involved in producing it, does not qualify.