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The Caribbean Ashes

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)

Roger Sawh
25-Feb-2013
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

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.