HAND-IN-HAND HISTORY OF CRICKET IN GUYANA, 1898-1914Product no.: HP229
Volume 2: A Stubborn Mediocrity
The second volume of Hand-in-Hand History of Cricket in Guyana examines the stagnation of the game in colonial Guyana (British Guiana) in the decade and a half before the Great War. This is not easy to explain since the premier club in the colony, the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC) founded in 1858, was an august institution and the sole custodian of the game for many decades. Yet, British Guiana languished at the foot of the ladder of regional cricket, routinely vanquished by Barbados and Trinidad in the Intercolonial Challenge Cup (ICC).
The GCC was vibrant in fostering regional cricket, as it was pivotal in initiating several contests with English touring teams to the region, between 1895 and the Great War, in addition to two West Indies tours of England, in 1900 and 1906. Yet Guyanese cricket was marooned on a plateau of underachievement, despite the GCC’s unflagging enterprise in engaging the services (at Bourda) of three of the best pioneer pace bowlers in the region: Tom Burton, ‘Float’ Woods and Oliver Layne, all Barbados-born, all non-white. Guyanese cricket was stained with a stubborn mediocrity.
The GCC remained enmeshed in the race, colour and class assumptions of the age. They were tardy in participating in local club cricket against coloured and black teams in Georgetown. This prolonged the stagnation of the colonial game, their own included. Moreover, the GCC was resolved to uphold the exclusion of gifted black professionals (such as Burton, Woods, Layne, Archie Cumberbatch and George John) from the ICC. Their strangled social and cultural convictions undermined the game locally and in its regional dimension.
But the communication hurdles (poor roads and the vast Amazonian rivers traversing the coastland) also retarded cricket in the colony; as did the chronic malaria that ravaged this man-made habitat, where, paradoxically, the anopheles mosquitoes thrived in the reclaimed habitat when the saline water (the species did not like it) was replaced by fresh water for irrigation. Endemic malaria bred a lethargy of mind and body that was ameliorated only from the late 1940s. Social and natural forces, therefore, were instrumental in diminishing the potentiality of the local game in British Guiana. This contrasted with the marginally less inflexible social assumptions and substantially more salubrious environment of the British West Indian islands. Still, throughout British Guiana among all races, the passion for cricket remained inviolable: the seed never died despite the unpropitious character of the soil.
Clem Seecharan is Emeritus Professor of History at London Metropolitan University. He was born in Guyana and has lived in the United Kingdom since 1986. His books include Muscular Learning: Cricket and Education in the Making of the British West Indies; From Ranji to Rohan: Cricket and Indian Identity in Colonial Guyana, 1890s-1960s (Hansib) and Finding Myself: Essays on Race, Politics and Culture. His study of Jock Campbell was awarded the Elsa Goveia Prize 2005 by the Association of Caribbean Historians. He recently received the Doctor of Letters from the UWI (Trinidad). His next book is on Cheddi Jagan and the Cold War.