British rule is long gone from Jamaica, but reminders of it linger on. Cricket is one such memento from the days of colonialism. Once the most popular sport in Jamaica, it lingers throughout the Caribbean as the people’s sport. For a time in years past, the West Indies cricket team was the number one team in the world, and led the world cricket scene. Today’s teams have declined in the world rankings, but glory days aren’t far gone. And Jamaica has produced many of the West Indies’ and the world’s best players, so bragging rights still remain.
Cricket was long considered a sport for the elite. This extremely British game was first played in Jamaica only by the upper classes. The strict rules of the game are still enforced, both technical and social. Teams are divided between “gentlemen” and “players,” each with their own locker room. Until recently, gentlemen were the only men who could captain a team. Players were paid to play. Those unfamiliar with British social structure may find the game’s adherence to antiquated social organization a bit confusing, but the appearance of propriety and manners is important to the playing of the game.
Unlike football, cricket was reserved for the elite, and had a reputation as being a game that exemplified English reserve. Over time, Jamaicans of all social backgrounds got involved in the game, and today it thrives throughout the West Indies regardless of socioeconomic background or status.
In Kingston, the 12,000-seat Sabina Park stadium is one of the largest and most famous cricket stadiums in the Caribbean. Matches are still played all over the island, and the sport remains a favorite spectator sport. When a match is set to be played, large audiences will be on hand to cheer their favorites, and just as likely, boo their opponents.
The game is played with a ball and bat, but it’s nothing like baseball. Only three men in the field have gloves, and the bat is much smaller than a baseball bat. A test match is played over the course of five days, and each round lasts roughly seven hours. That’s quite an endeavor for both players and fans.
Famous cricket players fro the Caribbean include George Headley, Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Jeffrey Dujon, Alfred Valentine, Jackie Hendricks, Collie Smith, Lawrence Rowe, Allan Rae, Maurice Foster, Jimmy Adams and Robert Samuels. George Headley, a star from the 1930s, is arguably Jamaica’s most famous cricket star.
While cricket is popular in the region, interestingly enough only one team represents the entire West Indies in international competition. The team began playing in 1928, with the 1935 team winning the first test series. The biggest change in the game occurred when the team achieved a series victory in 1950 and West Indies teams started playing all over the world. From the 1960s to the 80s, the team took the lead on the world cricket scene. Alas, nothing lasts forever, and the team’s prominence lessened over time. Still hugely popular, the game is still taken quite seriously by its fans.