“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” – Henry V, Act IV, Scene iii.
At a time when a minuscule minority of young people have been grabbing headlines by killing each other and other citizens, we pause to take stock of the efforts of another bunch of young folks – men in their 20s and – early 30s – who did a very old thing: maintain West Indian pride in Fortress Kensington, our cricket Mecca.
They demolished arch-rivals England, notional representatives of the former colonial power who were taught their own game by our men and preceding generations of West Indian cricketers.
Their 381-run victory on Saturday is an important notch above the historic Test victory in June 1950 by a largely youthful band of West Indian brothers, leading to a first Test series win against England. That was the beginning of the beginning of the rise of the most famous cricket nation in the former Empire.
The pride they restored to Kensington is no mere insular jingoism. Only once before in the last half-century have England won a rubber in the West Indies – that was in 1994.
This was not a stellar achievement merely by Barbadian players. From rookie opening batsman John Campbell to pacer Shannon Gabriel, this was a true team effort, something we have so longed for and seen precious little of at times.
And yes, credit is indeed due to outstanding leaders and important cameos with bat and ball by those who came from the rough-hewn crucible of Barbados cricket.
We have the world number one allrounder in the person of WI captain Jason Holder – a feat not achieved since 1974 when, a year before his greatness was capped with a knighthood by Her Majesty the Queen, our National Hero the Right Excellent Sir Garfield St. Aubyn Sobers was judged the greatest with bat and ball on Earth or Mars.
Holder has repaid handsomely on the investment of trust placed in him by then Chairman of Selectors Clive Lloyd – the leader of the winningest side in world cricket from 1975 to 1995. This young man’s calm demeanour, earnestness, decency, generosity and gentle, self-effacing good humour are emblematic of the very best of the Men in Maroon through the years, but also of our national motto, Pride and Industry. It is more than enough to make his mother Denise beam with justifiable satisfaction of her parenting efforts.
Spare a thought – several, in fact – for other partners in West Indian profit in this historic match, but we are particularly impressed by Roston Chase, 26. His performance was no mere fluke, despite the bitter outbursts of critics. In 27 tests and 37 innings at bat, Chase has made 2060 runs, and has taken 50 wickets with his subtle, sensible but beguiling off-breaks. He turned in at Kensington his best bowling figures of 8/60 – an economy rate of 3.44. He has already had three four-wicket hauls and two five-fors since his Test debut against India in 2016. Yet he is labelled derisively a part-time bowler. Perhaps it is because part of the time he is batting, spend another part fielding and the other part bowling?
But the wider point to be made is that these two have been stellar achievements by already firm craftsmen of our fate. It is young people, not old men in boardrooms, who are going about the business of rebuilding of West Indies cricket while obstacle after roadblock is strewn in their way.
Beyond a boundary, it is young people who are innovating in culture, science and information technology, among diverse other fields of endeavour. We meet them as young leaders on the global stage, and as stars of stage and screen and soundtrack. And we meet them every day – as farmers and gas station attendants and economists and ordinary productive citizens of Barbados, striving to thrive in a hostile economic and social environment.
It is these young people who have helped in large measure to place their electoral faith in the first post-Independence generation to hold the reins of political power. May 25 2018 was not so much a general election as a generational election, the first in which people born in this century exercised the franchise.
Yet our young people endure the scorn and derision of older, greyer heads. For some vocal naysayers, every young person is seemingly presumed to be destined for the court pages. It is as if they ask, what good can come from young people?
But it is these same young people who are being called on now to lift this country out of its decade-long morass. What have we done for them lately? What support, assistance, funding, and just plain moral backing do older Barbadians give our young citizens? Beyond the political posturing and high-sounding words of a ‘youth strategy’, we need to give unconditional positive regard to those we will ultimately trust to be strict guardians of our heritage.
It is high time that we park our prejudice and give our young people more than the mere time of day. Perhaps we could have begun by putting more of our own bums on empty seats while England supporters tried their best to create a cricket atmosphere redolent of Kennington Oval in south London, not Kensington Oval on the northern edge of Bridgetown.
Our current crime wars and acts of gang violence by a small number of young people should not blind us to the enormous potential that this nation’s young men and women possess to build a new and brighter future. They also goad us to do more to save our children from a destiny as dark and cold as a mortuary refrigerator.
One swallow may not a summer make for West Indies cricket. We have already said here that the future must include the resignation of its current chief administrators.
But the other day, about a dozen young Caribbean people, with prejudice among their people and neglect from their bosses, pointed the way to our own salvation – just as their predecessors have done since 1928, when their foes were racial discrimination and colonial domination.
They have made a statement to all of us, bold as brass. We would do well to sit up and take notice.