‘If you ask me, West Indies lost but Guyana won’
By Vishani Ragobeer
August 8, 2019. That was the last time I was at the National Stadium, Providence, for a cricket match, international or otherwise.
On that day, the West Indies took on India in a One-Day International (ODI) match. And yes, my little cricket heart was happy, particularly because it was the first time I would’ve been able to see Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma, Shreyas Iyer (my faves) and the rest of the boys in blue play in real life.
That day, undoubtedly because of my bad luck, the match was abandoned due to rain. Patrons were given a partial refund and encouraged to attend the other matches in the series.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make any of the other matches because I was preparing to leave for my Trinidad university.
And since I left for Trinidad, that meant that I also missed the local matches of the 2019 Caribbean Premier League (CPL)- you know, the one where the Guyana Amazon Warriors won all of their matches except the finals.
Then came a pandemic. Yes, the same one we’re living through right now that placed a ‘time-out’ on sporting activities, among other things.
On Saturday, however, that time-out was lifted, at least in Guyana. The second match of the West Indies vs Pakistan T20 International series in the Caribbean was being played at Providence.
And, more importantly, it was the day that international cricket made its return to Guyana, since August 2019.
A few months ago, these matches were announced but the announcement that fully vaccinated fans could attend the T20 Internationals was made only six days prior.
And, it was emphasised that only about 6,000 fans could occupy the 15,000 capacity of the National Stadium since social distancing measures would be enforced.
At around 11:00hrs, the match got underway and us enthusiastic fans, equipped with our face masks, were scattered throughout the stands.
My feelings towards this match-up were an interesting dichotomy. On one hand, I wanted to see Babar Azam (another fave) in action. But, on the other hand, I wanted to see West Indies demolish the Pakistani batting line-up and then make it rain boundaries at Providence.
The match in and of itself was only half of the experience, though.
The in-person viewing brought back those inexplicable feelings of euphoria, when we jump out of our seats and flail our hands in the air, without feeling the slightest bit self-conscious.
That feeling came when wickets started tumbling for the Pakistani batting line-up, especially when Guyanese cricketer, Romario Shepherd took a marvellous one-handed catch at the boundary. Or when Nicholas Pooran smashed boundaries, providing us with the hope that the West Indies could bring the game home.
There’s just nothing like it!
There is also the common anxiety felt when there are one too many dot balls in the chase and the run rate climbs closer to an uncomfortable level. You can always count on the pseudo-commentators in the stands to cut the tension with their quips or jabs, though.
For me, these are just the experiences that make the matches truly memorable. And while I understand that the COVID-19 pandemic is no joke, I am happy that Guyana has been able to find a way to safely allow people like myself to enjoy something we love.
I also think it’s worth mentioning that just around the time when the ‘Universe Boss’ Chris Gayle struck his first six for the West Indies, President Dr. Irfaan Ali made an appearance at the match.
Not only did he attend the match, but he sat down four rows behind me and indulged the many eager West Indies’ fans who wanted a photograph with him.
That meant there were chunks of the game he missed out on and I did not envy him.
By the time it was the last over of the match, West Indies needed 20 runs to claim victory. It was reminiscent of the final match-up in the last World T20, when West Indies needed 19 runs to win and Carlos Brathwaite smashed four consecutive sixes to clinch the game.
I sat on the edge of my seat, hoping that either West Indies captain Kieron Pollard or Pooran could spring some Brathwaite-like heroics and win us this game. The over started and Pollard, who had not yet made a significant impact in this game, was on strike.
Then, even though it initially felt awkward shouting while the President was just behind me, I couldn’t help but call out Pollard.
“C’mon Polly, do sumn fuh yuh gyul” became my chant.
It came down to 18 runs needed from the last three balls. A manageable total if a six was struck immediately. That six didn’t come and we immediately knew that the game was lost- unless of course the final two balls were no-balls and wides (they weren’t).
As expected, people got up and left before the last ball was hit. Perhaps they were angry and couldn’t bear to see the last of the game or perhaps, they all wanted to beat the East Bank traffic and felt leaving earlier would help their cause.
For me, though, I didn’t feel that sinking feeling I usually feel when my team loses (queue the reminders of our annual Warriors’ heartbreak).
Maybe it’s because there are still two more games left in the series. Or maybe, it was just because I was content just being able to witness the game, knowing that many of my Caribbean friends are still unable to do so in their countries.
Whatever it was, in spite of the loss against Pakistan, the match was certainly a historic one.
And, if you ask me, Guyana won.