Just as one thought Test Cricket might be sipping on that old pineapple rum, not without disdain for its siblings, its own time in the sun was snatched away from it, rather rudely, definitely prematurely, wonderfully farcically, and ultimately temporarily, by another relatively well-known sibling ... beach cricket. That Test Cricket never felt threatened by this one was to its own peril.
And it was never more apparent than on the beach nation of Antigua on the eve of Valentine's Day. The love affair between Antigua and Test records was mostly on the back (literally) of the Antigua Recreation Ground. After all, that is where the most runs in one single Test innings were scored ... twice. While close friends (and enemies, for that matter) of that ground equally referred to it as the ARG, they must have realized that they wouldn't have to look too far for another nickname for its successor ... how about a nice, flat, "ARGHHHH!""
Travesty, unbelievable, ridiculous, unprecedented, unreliable,
dangerous, downright disgrace, utterly incomprehensible, farcical,
unknown and many others. The words will roll from tongue and
dictionaries straight into headlines. Unfortunately, they are all
correct ... It was
totally disgraceful, shameful even. This was an insult for cricket
worldwide and especially cricket in the Caribbean.
Believe it or not, that was NOT about the SVR - well we have to use the official name some time - stadium's recent claim to shame. It was, in fact, one of the initial responses to the Sabina Park episode from 1998. But you can't be blamed for guessing it was a response to the recently abandoned "2nd Test" between England and the West Indies. After all even the number of deliveries it took to abandon the match might mislead one to Sabina Park, but for closer inspection - 10 overs versus 10 balls.
The "SVR" in question is none other than one Mr. Vivian Richards himself, the "S" standing for Sir, a title which he possibly feels embarrassed to hold, given what he said on air on BBC's Test Match Special just as a new record was being established in Antigua:
"This is not a little curry goat match as we call it, this is not a
little festival match, this is a Test match and you can hear it in my
voice that these guys have done us not that proud in my opinion. Those
who've been given the responsibility to put on a good show here have
failed again. It's a really tough pill to swallow. This is an arrow
right through my heart."
There is another love affair that can't be ignored. One between the West Indies Cricket Board and disorganization. After all, that is where a Test Match was abandoned due to dangerous ground/ pitch conditions sans weather/ light on the very first day ... twice. Paul Winslow of the Barmy Army is not enamored by said relationship:
If you want to know just how much of a farce this game was I'll take you
back to a little incident that happened as we turned up at the ground
early to sell some merchandise. We were stopped at the gate and jumped
out to empty the boot.
There were seven guys, all wearing Barmy Army T-Shirts. We had three
cricket bags between us and the security guard took one look and said
"Oh you're the players, come straight in."Admittedly one of us has
blonde hair and is as tall as Stuart Broad (he's even called Stuart),
but to assume we were the England cricket team was ridiculous.
Mike Selvy, blogging on the Guardian, suspects a ménage à troi, with conspiracy being the third consenting senior citizen:
This has been on the agenda ever since the decision was taken not to
redevelop the Antigua Recreation Ground for the 2007 World Cup and
instead, with the aid of oodles of cash from the Chinese government,
build a new state-of-the-art ground out of town. Anywhere else, with
proper construction, it would be a fine facility. But, as art goes, the
outfield is up there with Tracey Emin's unmade bed.
Since that farcical ICC tournament there has been only one match played
here, the drawn Test between West Indies and Australia last May. No
regional cricket is played on the island any more because there is no
money, so the Leeward Islands play on St Maarten, in the Dutch
Antilles, or St Kitts. On Antigua the game is as dead as a doornail.
Dead as it might be otherwise, Test Cricket will revive the game, however briefly, at the vintage venue. Only this time, it will 'Test' someone other than the 15 men in the middle. It will test Keith Frederick, says Andrew McGlashan on his Tour Diary from there:
"I always believed Test matches were going
to come back to the ARG," said a tired, but proud Keith Frederick.
However, he would never have believed the scenario which sees
international cricket back in St Johns after three years. It's been a
surreal few days in Antigua as a Test has been moved to a new venue in
less than 48 hours.
When it was announced on Friday that the second Test at the Sir
Vivian Richards stadium had been abandoned, Frederick sensed what was
about to happen. For the past day-and-a-half he has become the most
important man as far as the short-term future of this series is
concerned. "I was at the [SVR] stadium watching the game and when I
learnt the game was off I quickly jump in my car and left. I suspected
this might happen."
Looks like someone started planning, and ahead of time too.
As for the administrators in charge of conducting the-2nd-Test-that-will-now-be-the-3rd, this time around, payback might be a beach!