Colin Babb was in conversation with Clayton Goodwin

West Indies and England continue their cricket tradition. Neither team stands sufficiently high in the world ratings as to merit the former importance accorded such events – but the tradition is rich in famous deeds and memories, the present is balanced between teams of similar standing, and the future, being the future, is always promising.

Author Colin Babb has kindly consented to share his views on the game, the series and himself.

We started by asking Colin to tell us something about his background, how he came to cricket, and why he decided to write books.

Colin: I describe myself as a ‘BBC,’ a British Born Caribbean. My family are from around the Caribbean region including Guyana, Guadeloupe and Barbados. Alongside many other endeavours, I’ve worked for the BBC, as a teacher in Hong Kong, Hungary, Japan and Thailand, and as a photographer in the Caribbean for an education book publishing company.

I ‘discovered’ West Indian cricket from absorbing conversations about the game when Caribbean family and friends visited our flat when I was growing up in England. I consciously and subconsciously absorbed elements of these debates, stories and nostalgic memories, which helped to develop my inherited interest in West Indies cricket.  

This was enhanced by watching Test matches, the John Player League and more, live and free-to-air on the BBC during the 1970s. I’ve always been fascinated by the connection between cricket and the Caribbean community in Britain, which has inspired my cricket-related books for Hansib Publications.

How will you be following the forthcoming Test series?

Colin: As a loyal BT customer (?!), I eventually got BT Sport added to my TV service for a reasonable sum. So, it’ll be a combination of watching on BT Sport, listening to the radio and following online.

What do you think of the strengths and weaknesses of the team that has been announced. Its strengths and weaknesses.

Colin: Looking at both line-ups, both sides appear to have as many weaknesses and strengths. England had a very rough time in Australia during their last Ashes tour. West Indies were easily beaten by Sri Lanka during their last Test series outing. However, Desmond Haynes, the newish West Indian lead selector, is upbeat and says his squad has a good balance of exciting young players and more experienced players.

Who are the players to note? Perhaps somebody of whom the public are not yet fully aware. Do you think that anybody who should have been included has been omitted?

Colin: The inclusion of Veerasammy Permaul is an intriguing selection. He has been around for a while but hasn’t played a lot of Test cricket. So, I’m curious to see how he develops during the series. I’m still in hope that the West Indies can develop a top class spin-bowler who can make a long-term impact in Test cricket.

What do you think will be the outcome of the series?

Colin: Well, I’m never keen to predict the outcome of a series. But you’ve put me on the spot! West Indies have a dismal record in Tests in England – not winning a series in England since 1988. However, since 1968 the West Indies have only lost one Test series v England in the Caribbean. So, if pushed, I’m going for a 2-1 West Indies win.

What is your first memory of West Indies v England cricket? Where were you and at what stage of your life did you become interested in West Indies v England?

Colin: The first Test series I remember was the West Indies tour of England in 1973. This was my starting point. From a Guyanese perspective, I quickly developed a strong connection with the 1973 team as it had six Guyanese players in the original squad. Rohan Kanhai made history as the first West Indian of Indian-Caribbean heritage, and the first Guyanese, to captain the team for a full series. We watched the ’73 series on our new colour TV. Three years later, I represented a Boys’ Brigade under-18s cricket team in a cup final at The Oval. I scored a duck but we won the cup!

Which players of the past have inspired you – and why? Do you think their achievements and character would inspire the current generation of players and supporters?

Colin: I was inspired by many cricketers as a young schoolboy. Rohan Kanhai, Garry Sobers, Roy Fredericks, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards and West Indians who didn’t play Test cricket. For example, Lonsdale Skinner, who was from my grandmother’s village in Guyana. He played for Guyana and was one of the first black cricketers to play for Surrey. I was also interested in cricketers who were not West Indian including Zaheer Abbas from Pakistan, Dennis Lillee from Australia, and Geoffrey Boycott and Derek Underwood from England. Kent’s Alan Ealham was the first player I can remember admiring purely for his tremendous fielding skills and powerful throwing arm.

I’m always hopeful that former West Indian players involved in the team set-up, including Desmond Haynes, recently installed as the West Indies lead selector, can inspire the current players. West Indies also need some all-conquering Test cricket heroes to inspire the region and help win matches against the best – home and away.

What single thing do you think could improve West Indies cricket?

Colin: A very difficult question to answer briefly. However, deep financial investment in the sport would help to assist development. But where that money comes from is very hard to say. It’s a continuous struggle for West Indian cricket to successfully challenge the political and financial muscle of India, England and Australia.

How do you feel about Guyana (Trinidad and Jamaica) missing out on a Test match? Is there anything that can be done about it?

Colin: If the annual cricket calendar was not so congested it would, probably, be easier to play five Tests and include Guyana and Trinidad or Jamaica. For some, it appears that England Test tours in the Caribbean are organised to visit countries most popular with the majority of England travelling supporters.  

And most important

Please would you like to tell readers something about your book? How has it been received? Are there any signing sessions coming up? Is another book in the pipe-line?

Colin: My latest book is 1973 and Me. My life as a young schoolboy born into a Guyanese/Barbadian family in Britain alongside a range of events that year. These include the 1973 West Indies cricket tour of England. It also reflects on patterns of Caribbean migration to UK, wider perspectives on comedy, 1970s football, history, identity, music and shared family experiences of watching television in 1970s Britain. Public appearances to support book sales were held back by COVID. But, I’ve had a recent surge of media interest and public appearances with more to come soon.

There will be an updated and revised version of 1973 and Me ready by the end of 2022 with additional content supplied by Dennis Amiss, Alvin Kallicharan, Andy Roberts and, hopefully, Dickie Bird. I’m working on a few ideas for my next book, and a couple of former West Indian players have asked me to write their biographies. More news to come, hopefully soon!

Thank you, Colin. It is almost time for the cricket to start. Good watching and listening.

You may contact Colin at – 

Colin thinks that we might be interested in his interview with Andy Roberts. Most certainly we are –

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