I’m tired. Aren’t you? Regardless of how we have soldiered on, it has taken a toll on the body, on the spirit. As an act of preservation, I am turning my mind away from the dispiriting public discourses that can make bitter cynics of us.
Besides creating a kitchen garden, one of the activities that has nurtured me has been the return to my work on the biography of Sir Frank Worrell, which had suffered from my fitful engagements with it. I have settled down to almost daily writing, but it is slow going because of how much research needs to be done to capture information accurately.
Much has been written about Sir Frank, but it is mostly accounts of his cricket, and where it is personal, it is the kind of repetitive anecdotes that suggest that the authors merely copied what they had seen online or in print. In any case, except for the short biography by Ivo Tennant, all the published works are given to pure adulation and lack analysis of any depth.
Trying to present a narrative of this extraordinary man has been challenging because he was quite a complex character, carrying quite a heavy burden of private baggage that has not undergone sufficient scrutiny. I believe that a study of the man, and his foibles will bring us a better understanding of how someone like him came to be such an exemplar to our region.
In the quest to interview people and look at records, I had gone to England, India, Canada, the USA, Jamaica and Barbados, and the thing that has been painfully obvious to me has been the paucity of material. It is true that it has been 53 years since he died and few of his peers are alive or mentally alert. I knew the task would be difficult because of the passage of time; but it has been doubly so because of the absence of records. Whatever records exist are match reports. If it were not for my dogged nature, and my journalism training—and, I concede gratefully, a considerable amount of luck—I would never have reached as far as I have.
But at this juncture, as many people are talking about their acts of deep-cleaning in their households, it reminded me of a proposal I had made when the region was getting ready to host the Cricket World Cup in 2007.
I had suggested then that with all the efforts to build and refurbish stadia, it would be an excellent opportunity to encourage people to dig out their sporting memorabilia and to donate them to help to build some kind of national sporting archive in the museums I had hoped would be part of every stadium. The proposal did not find traction.
But I want to throw out three ideas here, because I think while we are still under some degree of lockdown, this is another chance for us to do something different with our time.
My first idea might appear rather self-serving, but I am convinced it has a public-good element, so I will go ahead and throw it out. I would like to ask readers who might have, or know someone who has, cricket material, particularly relating to Frank Worrell—it could be a story, photos, books, magazines, letters, official correspondence… anything—I would be happy if they would contact me at my email address to discuss it.
I would also like to encourage the public, as they clear their houses from all the old stuff that has been accumulating over the years, to think about the value of these documents towards building national archives and museums. I would be happy to be involved in the cricket-related material as I have been working on the idea of developing a cricket collection that is of some substance. Rather than dumping them, maybe they could be donated to the national archives or museum?
My third idea evolved from the first two, but was triggered by the discourse surrounding the fate of sporting bodies as one by one planned events are being postponed or cancelled. I would urge them to engage their players in working towards the same goal of archiving during this period, when everything is up in the air.
Let me use cricket as an example here, though I think it can be extrapolated to all sport: to horse racing and football, and swimming and athletics, and archery … everything. I take Queen’s Park Cricket Club as an example because late last year, they had spoken at the annual general meeting of plans for a heritage museum. This is an opportunity to invite membership to dig up their memorabilia, to contribute the files and papers that drive everyone crazy in their homes.
Our young athletes can work on documenting their life stories, can present scrap books of sorts to their sporting bodies. And I am not talking simply about print material. I mean digital stuff in particular. If our organisations can work on providing some kind of template for them to follow, they can easily spend their time compiling personal material that will be of a similar standard, and it will give them an opportunity to track and document their own careers.
It’s not the kind of thing that would be done under other circumstances, but it is a good time to think of posterity.