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Best of stroke

Kensington Oval, often referred to as the 'Mecca' by many commentators, is truly the supreme test for quality cricket

Carlisle Best
Kensington Oval, often referred to as the 'Mecca' by many commentators, is truly the supreme test for quality cricket.
It was any home ground for many years as a player, both for Barbados and the West lndies, and I have learnt to judge the quality of a player from his performance at the oval.
Barbadians in particular will remember the 25-year-old Lawrence Rowe's 302 in the third Test against England in 1974 at Bridgetown.
Twelve years later, Carl Hooper, aged 19, majestically stroked his way into the hearts of Bajan fans with a brilliant 129 against Wayne Daniel and the rest of the Barbados attack.
Since then, several players have shown sparks of quality batsmanship at the 'Mecca', including Tony Powell against Barbados, but they have not been able to carry on as expected.
Once again in 2000, for the West Indies versus Pakistan second Test, the Kensington Oval pitch provided the launching pad for young Test batsmen.
Yousuf Youhana, the 25-year-old right-hander pulled Pakistan out of trouble with an excellent 115, while the West Indies left-hander Wavell Hinds brought smiles to many West Indian hearts with a superb 165.
Debutant teenager Ramnaresh Sarwan delighted a moderate Kensington crowd with a stylish but important 84 not out in ideal cricket conditions.
On the other side, the teenaged Pakistani openings batsman Imran Nazir, in only his second Test, hammered a scintillating 131 in an opening partnership of 219 with Mohammed Wasim.
Once again Kensington has been the floodgate for enterprising outstanding performances from youngsters.
Unlike most other pitches around the Caribbean, the Oval provides competitive bat and ball rivalries.
The heroic Courtney Walsh and the world-class off-spinner Saqlain Musthaq both captured five wickets each, which confirms the un-biased nature of the Bridgetown arena.
Batsmen and bowlers can do well at Kensington as long as they put in the necessary effort.
In addition, the knowledgeable crowd, particularly in the Kensington and Eric Inniss Stand, provides the players, West Indian or otherwise, with constant moral support and appreciation of top quality performances.
Like all the other territories in the region, Barbados, as a business community, welcomes the occasion to be hospitable to our visitors during international tours, the economic benefits from which are well recognised by all regional leaders.
It would therefore be folly for the West Indies Cricket Board to attempt to ostracise any one territory [for example, Guyana] for such losses may be immeasurable to most countries.
The Best Of Strokes, however, maintains that success at Kensington is indeed a fit and proper benchmark in determining the quality and rate of progress of West Indies cricket.
Kensington is easily the 'hallmark' of great West Indies cricketing exploits.
My own experiences, which include 179 against Trinidad and Tobago, and 164 against England, are memorable statistical evidence to support the religious belief that Kensington is the 'Mecca'.