/Find out more about Colin on: http://colinbabbauthor.com/
Good afternoon Colin
Thank you for being one of the first people to welcome Caribcommx back after our enforced pause through illness. I notice that you have been busy recently – particularly with book signing sessions. What is your schedule like of over the next few months.
Have you managed to interview or trace any well-known former cricketers?
My recent interview chats have mainly been with cricket journalists, writers, broadcasters, and administrators rather than former players. Including Reds Perriera – the Guyanese cricket commentator, journalist and sports administrator based in St.Lucia – via Zoom. I interviewed Hilbert Foster, President of the Berbice Cricket Board, during a recent trip to Guyana. I also tracked down Jim Foat’s contact details for a chat. He played for Gloucestershire in the 1970s. I have been fascinated with Foat since watching him play for Gloucestershire v Sussex in the 1973 Gillette Cup final where he ran out Tony Greig!
Is there anything that you wish to tell us about other books and projects you may have in the in the pipe-line?
I’m knee deep in research, interviews and writing for my third book for Hansib productions. The plan is to create a collection of articles, essays, interviews, memories and observations for the book. Including features on film, football, identity, television and, of course, cricket. One of the planned chapters is called ‘Basil Butcher – from Port Mourant to Lord’s’ which is partly based on an interview I did with Butcher in Guyana in 2014. Reds Perriera and Hilbert Foster each shared their thoughts with me about Butcher’s life and contribution to cricket for Berbice, Guyana and the West Indies.
I have just finished compiling a set of amends and edits for the next reprint of 1973 and Me for Hansib. I’m also planning to do more book promotion ‘gigs’ between now and the end of the year. Some of my recent promotional events have been at bookshops, libraries, schools, cricket societies and at The Oval.
Do you have an observation to make on West Indies’ failure to qualify for this year’s cricket World Cup – which has been a considerable disappointment – especially in regard to their glorious history in the competition?
Did I expect West Indies to do exceptionally well and go deep into the tournament? No. Did I expect them to get through the qualifying stages? Yes. It was hugely disappointing for the West Indies to not be in a World Cup tournament for the first time. I know many people, understandably, would argue that the exit after the qualifiers and, especially, the defeats to Netherlands and Scotland were extra nails in the coffin for West Indian cricket. But it’s also impossible to deny that some of the so-called developing cricket nations have made considerable progress in recent years. Especially in the shorter formats of the game.
Is there any glimmer of hope for the future? A particular player or development?
There will always be short flushes of success to celebrate, and an intense sense of hope held by many in the Caribbean and in the global Caribbean diaspora. Despite the persistent gloom, overall despondency and years of, seemingly, unstoppable decline. I remember Howard Wilkinson once said during his time as the manager of Leeds United, ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope’. I’m hoping that young Tagenarine Chanderpaul becomes a long-term, reliable Test opening batsman. Nicholas Pooran played a few impressive knocks the T20Is v India in the Caribbean. Things can only get better?
I know that you are particularly interested in Guyana and the Eastern Caribbean generally? Are there developments there about which we could become enthusiastic?
I went to a T20I game – West Indies v India at the National Stadium in Providence, Guyana and was impressed with the atmosphere – in a stadium which was not, by any means, full. I always enjoy watching the Caribbean Premier League (CPL) as, to be honest, it’s the only one of the many annual T20 franchise tournaments that I’m interested in. The Albion Community Centre Cricket Club ground in Berbice, Guyana is being redeveloped which is, historically, interesting. In 1977, the Albion ground hosted West Indies v Pakistan, the first ODI in the Caribbean. I had a look at the current state of reconstruction at Albion during my last trip to Guyana. Gudakesh Motie, who made his debut for West Indies last year, played for Albion.
How do you think a more positive attitude could be portrayed leading to the England v West Indies Test match series here next summer?
I can’t really offer you a great deal of optimism regarding the West Indies Test tour next year. They haven’t won a Test series in England since 1988, and I can’t see that changing. However, it wouldn’t surprise me if they avoided defeat in one of the Tests or won one of them. It’s significantly different when West Indies play England in the Caribbean. Since 1968, the West Indies have only lost one Test series v England in the Caribbean.
I am disappointed to see such little cricket played in the inner-city – indeed, such little interest in the game. Has cricket become too middle-class? Or is there some hope of restoring its working-class base?
For me, one of the main issues is the lack of access to watching international cricket on television – free-to-air. We’ve just had a thrilling Ashes series which could have captured the imagination of millions – cricket fans, non-cricket fans, and casual observers from all ages and social backgrounds, if it was available on free-to-air TV.
You can watch the England football and rugby teams play in world cup tournaments on free-to-air TV, but you can’t watch the England national team play in cricket World Cup tournaments. Cricket always seems to be visibly out of reach to many, and faces fierce competition from other sports – football being the obvious one – and the rapid growth of home entertainment devices and online gaming. Maybe the live free-to-air TV coverage of The Hundred, which I have not seen enough of, might make a difference in terms of generating interest via TV with healthy attendance figures in the grounds.
I remember, a while back, speaking to a parent about her son’s experiences at their local cricket club. There was an uncomfortable social divide at her son’s club between those who attended private school and those who attended state schools, which produced an unhealthy atmosphere. I haven’t read the Independent Commission for Equity in Cricket (ICEC) report – Holding Up a Mirror to Cricket – in detail. However, I’m aware that They Gave the Crowd Plenty Fun, my first book for Hansib, was one of the many books used as reference material. The ICEC report strongly suggests that there is a need to urgently tackle English cricket’s ‘class problem.’
We all have our favourite cricketers. Who – from the fine galaxy of talent – epitomised for you what has been best in West Indies cricket over the years?
I can’t single out one player. So, I’m going to name a batch of players. Some of my personal favourites who I strongly admired were Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Viv Richards, Michael Holding – I imagined I was Holding (including a very long run-up) when I was trying to bowl fast at my friends in the park – and Shivnarine Chanderpaul. With a nod of respect to the enduring legacy of Sir Frank Worrell’s leadership as the first full – time black captain of the West Indies, Clyde Walcott’s role in helping to shape and develop cricket in Guyana during the 1950s, and Basil Butcher’s contribution to cricket in Berbice, Guyana and for the West Indies.
Cricket is not the only sport in which you have a keen knowledge and expertise. Which activities do you see expanding in the next few years, and what is their attraction?
Growing up as a child in 70s Britain, football was the other sport which, alongside cricket, I focussed my attention on. I hope to get back to Elland Road this season to watch Leeds United. There will be some current and nostalgic content about football and athletics in my new book. Including my memories of Lasse Viren from Finland – who I remember winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres during the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal. In the last 10 years or so, I revived my interest in watching athletics, and kept a keen eye on the excellent BBC coverage of the recent World Athletics Championships in Hungary. Supporting Team GB and athletes from the Caribbean.
Thank you, Colin. We are meeting here at Waterloo railway station – not too far the Windrush Monument – and I know that you have a train to catch. Thank you very much for taking the time to talk to CaribCommx.