100 years of Leeward Islands cricket
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Despite minor cultural differences, cricket has been the major foundation upon which the bonding of the Caribbean Region and its peoples were built.
This game of glorious uncertainties had seen the West Indies dominating world cricket from the 1970s through the 1980s, with Sir Garfield Sobers, Lance Gibbs, Gordon Greenidge, George Headley, Brian Lara, Clive Lloyd, Malcolm Marshall, Andy Roberts, Alvin Kallicharran, Rohan Kanhai, Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, Curtly Ambrose, Michael Holding, Joel Garner and Sir Vivian Richards all being inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame.
In an exclusive interview with local cricket historian Cyril Pringle Webster Jr., also known as ‘Puntan’, he told this publication that “cricket was first played in the West Indies at Caines’ Pasture, Dieppe Bay, St. Kitts in 1895 when a number of Caribbean teams were selected to play against visiting English teams”.
Webster explained that following the introduction, the game was regularly played in the Caribbean and that led to the formation of the West Indies Cricket Board, which, in 1926, became a member of the sport’s international ruling body, the Imperial Cricket Conference.
He also explained that the West Indies was granted Test status in 1928 and had the distinction of being the fourth Test nation in the world.
Webster was however more concerned in discussing cricket played in the twin-island Federation and, by extension, the Leeward Islands.
He noted that the St. Kitts Cricket Association was founded in 1913 with four or five clubs from around the island.
“The first cricket club in the entire West Indies was the St. Christopher Cricket Club, which was founded by one Reggie Yarwood,” Webster said.
He noted that other clubs in St. Kitts that shortly followed were Redoubtable, Progressive and Northerners, which was a combined team from the rural areas.
Webster is of the view that Yarwood was the first President of the St. Kitts Cricket Association, but added that he was unsure.
“The Leeward Island Cricket Tournament was also founded in 1913. The first teams were the St. Kitts Cricket Team, the Antigua Cricket Team, the Dominica Cricket Team and the Montserrat Cricket Team,” Webster declared.
With the Leeward Islands Cricket Tournament being founded in 1913, it therefore means that this year it will be celebrating its 100th anniversary.
“The first Leeward Islands Tournament I saw was in 1946 when the tournament was played in St. Kitts and the teams were St Kitts, Antigua and Montserrat. All the teams used to play in one country and it was on a knockout basis,” Webster explained.
According to former St. Kitts, Leeward Islands and Combined Islands cricketer, Victor Eddy,
Nevis became a member of the Leeward Islands Association in the late 1940s.
“Nevis came into it when the late Padget Berridge, a former St. Kitts captain in 1948, was a representative to the Leeward Islands Cricket Board. He brought the proposal to a meeting and Nevis become part of the Association but was admitted in 1949. It was in that year, and for the first time, Nevis had competed in the Tournament.”
Eddy added: “With Nevis’ admittance in 1949, they created history some 24 years later when they produced the first player from the Leeward Islands and the first from the smaller islands in Elquemedo Willet to represent the West Indies team.
When asked about some of the best Leeward Islands cricketers he has ever seen, Webster said, “As a batsman George McMahon was the best, in my opinion, seconded by Len Harris. I have not seen another leg spinner like Leroy Coury, while Austin Eddy is the best off-break bowler I ever saw.”
Webster added that Stanley Thompson Jr. was the best wicketkeeper he had known, and “Auckland Hector was second best”.
Webster was also asked about his thought on the current state of Leeward Islands Cricket and responded by voicing his disappointment in the current performance of the team, and called for immediate action to fix its rapid decline.
He however had words of praise for the late Andrew Weekes for the contribution he made to Leeward Islands cricket.