Independent Media cricket writer Lungani Zama.

The bucket list will never be complete without a trip to the West Indies. Not in my book, anyway.

For decades, the maroon cap and the obligatory swag provided all the cricketing inspiration I required through school, varsity and an interesting sojourn in club cricket in the UK.

Brian Charles Lara was an obsession; a daily reference to how cricket should be played. All his records were ingrained in the memory – his exploits at Warwickshire in that golden summer an ode to god-like cricket.

Heck, the obsession got so bad that even my golfing habits followed the great man’s advice.

Though I also batted left-handed (the term batted is used loosely), BC Lara had decided that he had to play golf right-handed, in order not to allow bad habits to creep into his delicious, free-flowing style at the wicket.

If that logic was good enough for the Prince of Cricket, then it was good enough for an aspiring Zulu leggie.

The stint in the UK also included two years playing for Merseyside Commonwealth Cricket Conference.

Granted, it was a mouthful, so the papers and the opposition referred to us as MC cubed. The cube bit was the little 3 above the C, obviously.

There, we had a United Nations as a team. The Zulu opened the batting with a Guyanese carer who didn’t care much for quick singles – or calling for a run.

The captain was a gentle giant named Eddie, but nicknamed Corey after Collymore. They shared a likeness and a bowling action.

The all-rounder Phil was a DJ in the hottest hip-hop club on Victoria Street, and the mongrel in the team, Kelvin Alleyne (yes, he of Hartley) was the hardest man you will ever meet.

Even Tauriq Afridi, older brother of Shahid, made a star turn in a league-winning season. They were the absolute best of times; a cacophony of camaraderie, calypso cricket and catastrophic time-keeping.

And through all of this, there was always an eye on the fortunes of the West Indian side. Dwayne Bravo was actually supposed to be the pro in 2004, but a national call-up got in the way.

So, a Zulu was summoned in his stead.

When West Indies won the Champions Trophy in late 2004, upsetting England, we were all huddled in Bongo’s flat on Upper Parliament Street.

As the name might suggest, Bongo was a dealer in the herb industry, and was famous for wearing a beanie wherever he went – even in the height of summer.

That flat, liberally scented and a bundle of nerves, roared into life when the winning runs slapped into the fence.

The cricket club was a microcosm of the Windies islands themselves – unique cultures combining, often arguing, but all working towards one goal. The club colours, fittingly, mirrored those of Clive Lloyd and company.

Watching T20 riches rip out the soul of West Indian cricket was a body blow for the Merseyside lads, especially as most had grown up watching their countrymen wipe the floor with anyone who wanted a game.

West Indies captain Jason Holder, right, leads his team out the field after defeating England by 381 runs. Photo: Ricardo Mazalan/AP
West Indies captain Jason Holder, right, leads his team out the field after defeating England by 381 runs. Photo: Ricardo Mazalan/AP

But, hope never dies in places like the West Indies. The candle that lights the bloodfire can never be extinguished, and they wait in hope for a new generation to make them proud of their men in white once more.

24 January 2019 would have been a happy day, then. Watching the Windies blow England away for 77 was a throwback and, one hopes, a glimpse of what tomorrow might bring. Jason, the resolute Holder of the Test candle, continued the good vibrations on Friday, with a bumba-clart double century.

Bongo’s joint on Upper Parly would have been rocking, with stories of the good ol’ days, when the maroon cap was the symbol of cricketing terror.

Brap! (Big up!). A suh wi dweet! (That’s how we do it!). De bucket list will nah complete without hearing dem word fresh off de island. Brap! Brap!

@whamzam17


Sunday Tribune

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