Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Sunday | February 1, 2009
Home : Arts &Leisure
Perfect six for 'Jamaica at the Wicket'

Jamaica at the Wicket by historian Arnold Bertram will hit the market shortly. This 700-page study of Jamaican cricket traces the development of the game from its appearance in the post-emancipation period when it was the exclusive pastime of the white, planter/merchant class, up to the 21st century when the globalised economy makes cricket the full-time pursuit of the professional.

The book will appeal to a far wider readership than the immediate cricket fraternity, due to the fact that it is written within the wider framework of the social history of Jamaica and explores the role of the game in the shaping of Jamaican society. Readers are provided with a profile of Jamaica's first cricketers, who emerged from the early cricket clubs established in the 19th century and represented Jamaica in the island's first cricket matches, beginning in 1895. These include W.G. Farquharson, the first recognised Jamaican batsman, and C.R.W. Chandler, who established Jamaica's tradition in pace bowling.

The book explores the context in which Jamaica's first black cricketers emerged and the role of Calabar Elementary School and Lucas Cricket Club in this landmark development, which led to the selection of Jamaica's first multiracial team in 1902. Multiracial cricket was the platform on which J.K. Holt Sr, Karl Nunes, O.C. 'Tommy' Scott and Charlie Morales made their appearance and collectively carried Jamaican cricket to a new stage.

dedicated to the memory of George Headley

The publication is dedicated to the memory of George Headley, Jamaica's greatest cricketer and the first Jamaican to be acclaimed the best in the world in any field of endeavour. In 2009, Jamaica will be celebrating the anniversary of his birth, and in recognition of this landmark, the book devotes considerable space to his career. There are invaluable insights into his early life and his exploits during the decade in which he carried Jamaican and West Indian cricket like 'Atlas' of Greek mythology. It also documents his travails in his twilight years, and lauds the recognition he received - which he so richly deserved - before his death.

Students of the game will be able to reminisce about Jamaican cricket during the years when Headley, F.R. Martin, O.J. Cunningham, O.C. Stephenson and Leslie Hylton, among others, carried Jamaican cricket to its greatest heights and made the period between the wars the 'golden age'. The present generation of cricket lovers will be more familiar with the names of the post-war generation of players, including J.K. Holt Jr, Alan Rae, Alfred Valentine, 'Collie' Smith, Ken Rickards and Neville Bonitto, who carried the game to the eve of Jamaica's independence. By then, popular music, track and field athletics and football had begun to challenge cricket's dominance of the cultural stage. Unfortunately, during this period the game also suffered from the tragic death of 'Collie' Smith and the banning of Roy Gilchrist.

The post-independence renewal led by Easton McMorris, Maurice Foster, Jackie Hendriks, Renford Pinnock and Lawrence Rowe revived spectator interest, and the emergence of Michael Holding, Jeffrey Dujon and Courtney Walsh restored the primacy of Jamaica's contribution to West Indies cricket.


The study finally explores the challenges to the game posed by globalisation, which places the professional cricketer in the ranks of modern entrepreneurs whose primary objective is to get the best return from their investment of time and talent and to identify the point in the globalised market which will reward them best. The nationalist agenda traditionally associated with cricket no longer exists in the same way.

Those who engage in endless discussions about the game will be able to refer to the comprehensive data base of individual career records of Jamaican players, as well as the statistical data which is available.

Finally, readers will find much to discuss in the chapters which identify the parsons and politicians who have graced the field of play, and to join in the controversy which is generated by any attempt to pick an all-time Jamaican eleven.

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