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January - March 2009 lime 67 REQUIREMENTS Knows the game better than the West Indies captain and gives direction where necessary. A nephew who shoulda made the West Indies team but failed due to a) liquor; b) women; or c) the system. Fluent in wide- ranging ole talk and preparedness to bad talk other islanders as well as the opposition. A favourite seat in the ground, and reasons supporting rightful ownership when occupied by another. Rote knowledge of Brian Lara's stats to correct anyone who talks the great man down. Ability to hold court on why the WICB is playin too many Jamaican on the side. If Jamaican, why too many Trini makin' the team, and so on. Anatomy of a WEST INDIAN cricket fan APPEARANCE AND DRESS ? 1 Faded maroon West Indies one- day shirt ? 2 Old shorts and sandals ? 3 Once- white broad- brimmed Richie Richardson hat ? 4 Sunglasses ? 5 Beer belly big enough to rest yuh glass ? 6 5 o'clock shadow ACCOUTREMENTS ? 7 Favourite ( personal) cup to drink rum from ? 8 Cushion from yuh mama couch ? 9 Cooler brimming with curry duck and roti, Johnnie Walker, rum and ice ? 10 Conch shell and ability to blow it loud ( air horn as back- up) ? 11 Day's newspaper ? 12 Binoculars ? 13 Flag in island's colours ? 14 4/ 6 Card ? 15 Transistor radio for ball- by- ball commentary loud enough to annoy yuh neighbour ? 16 Umbrella to shade from the sun on the walk to the ground ? 17 Spare cash/ rum to bribe de gateman when you arrive late without a ticket AFP/ GETTY IMAGES ILLUSTRATION: CHRIS BURKE

68 lime January - March 2009 CRICKET dishevelled looking man shuffl ing around the rows with two buckets pulling his arms to the fl oor shouting, " Cold beer! Cold beer!" Could this be so, I blinked, like a man seeing a mirage, cold beer delivered to my seat? Before I could say anything my Caribbean colleague had hailed the man, tested a bottle and summarily dismissed him. " The beer warm man." Now, beer warmth is a subjective topic, especially in 30 degree heat, and my friend seemed to sense my I- don't- care- he- brought- it- to- us expression. " Cool yuhself nah, ah next man comin', watch." And of course he was right – along with the nuts man, the pie man and the souvenir man. And so it was all day. With the beer issue resolved – and frankly that would've been enough – I was freed up for other new experiences. Next up was picong. Crowd involvement is part of sport but there's a delight in the West Indian crowd interaction with the players that is unique – it's a sport in itself. As one fi elder dived full length for a ball near the boundary rope and came up with nothing more than a brown stain a spectator shouted: " What happen, yuh mess yuhself?" Cue riotous laughter, back- slapping and rib- jabbing. With the arrival of Brian Lara at the crease, and two crisply struck fours from successive deliveries, the crowd noise intensifi ed. The bowler then stopped, mid run- up, complaining of a twingeing hamstring. Cue hoots of derision. " The man doh want tuh bowl tuh Lara. He ent pull no tigh muscle, he pull ah heart muscle." As Lara's fours slapped into the boards another feature of Caribbean cricket had become evident: the Carib Girls. Each time a boundary was struck, high- tempo soca music fi red up and the Carib Girls, an eight- strong troupe dressed in skin- tight blue- and- gold shorts and tops, jumped up and began to wine enthusiastically. The art of wining is an article in itself but is essentially the rotating of the hips in a suggestive manner to music. Caribbean women are born to it, and when performed at speed it's a mesmerising spectacle, like a washing machine on fast spin. Watching is one thing, but unfortunately a succession of reddening tourists, their inhibitions loosened by rum and sun, had convinced themselves wining looked easy and began shakin' their " bad thang" down to the ground, before needing help to regain the perpendicular. On this evidence, and speaking to men like Matthews and Camacho, talk of a regional cricket demise is premature. The crowds at Sir Allen Stanford's recent Twenty20 extravaganza in Antigua show how deeply that love for the game is rooted and feels like a sleeping giant waiting for a successful team to re- emerge. Come what may, it will always be a popular destination for travelling English fans, as the Barmy Army's operations manager Katy Cooke explains: " It's not hard to see the appeal of a Caribbean tour; the West Indian love of life, passion for cricket, knowledge of the game, weather, friendly people and crowd atmosphere make it an amazing place to sit and watch cricket. Furthermore, each island has its own distinct personality so it's effectively six tours in one." The consistently huge home support of the 1980s might not be ever-present now but there won't be many spare seats when the English come to town. And perhaps the Windies are due these leaner years in any case. As I sat on my kitchen stool all those years ago watching Botham, Gower, Gatting and Gooch being blasted into submission there certainly wasn't a sense of mercy extended, and nor should there be. Whatever happens, fans will keep the faith. " I'm with the team through thick and thin," says Matthews. " That's what it's all about, and they know that. I love cricket and the passion will always be there; it's part of my West Indian heritage. " As long as I got breath brother, you'll see me at the cricket." It's an uncomplicated philosophy and one which is wholeheartedly endorsed by a large number of West Indians as well as England's No. 1 fans, the Barmy Army. " What I like about cricket and the Caribbean tour especially is the way people mix," says Barmy Army media offi cer Paul Winslow. " I follow football as well, and there the club and national rivalries mean I'll mostly just stick with my own friends. It's not like that with cricket; fans of either side mix freely and drink and party together." Music is integral to Caribbean culture and, alongside a partying mentality and love of the game, was fundamental in the formation of the most famous West Indian supporters group of modern times, The Trini Posse. " I had been away from Trinidad for eight years doing my dentistry training and when I got back the fi rst thing I wanted to do was to watch some cricket," says Trini Posse co- founder Nigel Camacho. " The fi rst opportunity was a Test match against Australia in Barbados in 1991, so a group of eight of us got together with our music box and headed across to the Kensington Oval." The trip went so well they vowed to make Barbados an annual pilgrimage. The following year saw the one- off Test with South Africa, which was boycotted by the Bajan public because one of their own, Anderson Cummins, was not selected. Undeterred, Camacho and friends, around 40 of them this time, had come to have a good time. " We were virtually the only people in the ground. We had gone with all our regalia and our fl ags and were determined to have fun, so we were making plenty of noise and playing our music," says Camacho. " The following day the newspaper came out and underneath a picture of us the caption read: ' The boycotted Test match… except for the Trini Posse'. That's where the name came from, we liked it and so it stuck; the Trini Posse was born." The mix of music, partying and fanatical support of the West Indies took hold and soon around 100 people were making the yearly jaunt to Barbados. The Posse even became sponsored. " We were literally being paid to go to Barbados and watch cricket," exclaims Camacho, his voice etched with incredulity. " It was a tremendous, tremendous time because apart from the cricket in the day there was plenty of nightlife as well. It was just a whole week of fun." Eight friends going to watch a cricket match in 1991 has, 18 years later, led to a 1,500- seater stand erected in their honour at Trinidad's Queen's Park Oval. Camacho is still amazed at the turn of events. " When we went in 1991, all we had was a little yellow music box and we just sat there with our cooler and played music all day, having the grandest time. We had a passion for the game which, coupled with being young and having a good time, just naturally progressed into the Trini Posse. It was wonderful and it became an obsession; it became a cult." There are unmistakeable similarities between the Barmy Army, who will bring around 5000 fans to the Caribbean this year, and the Trini Posse, as Winslow explains: " There's a defi nite synergy, a meeting of minds if you like. We are famed for the way we generate a crowd atmosphere and have a good time. The West Indian supporters have always done that as well. It's all about fun and crowd participation, and music is key for both. In fact the Trini Posse is the only fan group that has ever out- sung us ( on the last tour) so we will have to restore the balance this time." It was in the Trini Posse Stand that I fi rst experienced cricket- watching West Indian style. Not that music was uppermost on my mind; rather it was a Sitting in the sun and liming with the boys, having a few beers, that's how I like to enjoy my cricket LL