Wednesday, 07 March 2012 02:30
By Kwame Nkosi Romeo
Antigua St John's - Sir Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards' 60th birthday is on March 7. He is celebrated as the most dominant, combative, and militant cricketer over two decades from 1974 to 1991.
Sir Viv knows that cricket extends beyond the boundary. Besides being a cultural giant whose batting and captaincy embodied Caribbean pride, Sir Viv was as terrifying as he was electrifying. From the Caribbean to Australia, countless commentaries, world-renowned cricketers and fans have already focussed on his exploits, overpowering skills, big heart for dismissing fearsome bowlers, and a captaincy that brought WI victory after victory, never losing a series. He played at the time when WI cricket was at its apex for more than 15 years!
Caribbean cricket displayed our sense of commitment and unity of purpose. This courage emboldens others to defy the odds, and Sir Viv's revolutionary message alerted the biggest cricketing nations of their impending doom. But Caribbean politicians failed to comprehend this analogy.
As the honouring of Sir Viv continues, there is concern regarding West Indies cricket's gloom in this era of globalization; the money culture has won. Have we, West Indians, surrendered hope? We have a tendency to blame the players, but we run away from critiquing our lack of administrative focus and planning at the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) level.
Perhaps we don't want to shine that light on our political leadership, since Caribbean politics mirrors crickets decline! I remember a Radio Antilles interview in the 1980s with Jackie Hendricks, former West Indies wicket-keeper and member of the West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) said that "The West Indies Cricket Board of Control is losing money." Likewise, many Caribbean countries, long before the recession, suffered from serious fiscal deficits, and up to now human development is not taken seriously.
So, interest in human development became secondary, as with Caribbean government leaders treatment of the community, so too with cricket administrators, the community distrust both! Since politicians promote a country's richness based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP), instead of GINI coefficient relevance to poverty, only a few always benefit. And herein is the sports paradox, the Caribbean as a championship cricketing team for more than 15 years, were not fairly compensated for their rich talent. During the golden years of continuous triumph, Caribbean cricketers were paid much lower than others from developed countries.
Past Caribbean players, advertised enjoyment, a love for the game, a winning spirit, but lived in poverty in comparison to their peers. They were better but were mistreated for their excellence. The GDP of developed countries benefited, along with their cricketers, and Caribbean cricket administrators, never Caribbean cricket or the players!
During Sir I.V.A. Richards' era of playing, it was not about money, players were paid less than the minimum, and at a time when some players were most vulnerable, huge offers came from apartheid South Africa. Sir Viv refused an open cheque with the strongest of political statements: "When my people are free, when they have what is rightfully theirs, their independence and national sovereignty I will say yes , not to you, but to them, my people, black people, beautiful people"
Sir Viv has the heart of a revolutionary and the power of a champion! But, politicians on this side were agents for Apartheids mercenary regime, and revived the middle passage enslavement misdeed. Only this time, the weapons and ammunitions were coming from Antigua and Barbuda and not Europe. This was cold-hearted cruelty to massacre the black population, suppressing the black liberation struggle, and reiterate with candid arrogance, they would do it again! Next, would be the indignity against our national hero, Sir I.V.A. Richards.
And one of the biggest indignity against our living legend, and national hero Sir I.V.A. Richards, is that after more than 13 years the bronze statue of 'Dignity' is still not completed. Both ALP/UPP have shown scant disregard to a gift from the Cuban people, and one of the greatest celebrated Cuban sculptor Andres Gonzales Gonzales. The idea of the statue titled 'Dignity' emanated from a Viv Richards Ovals Action Committee (VROAC) proposal in 1998 to two Cuban government officials in Havana, Cuba: Lazaro Caberza, Cuban Ambassador to Antigua, and Minister of Culture Abel Prieto.
After the VROAC request was acknowledged by the Cuban officials, PM Lester Bryant Bird followed with an inquiry question "What about a statue of Sir V C Bird?" His request was passed on and simultaneously approved, included in the annexed of the agreement. The signing of the agreement took place at the Protocol Lounge at the Palco Hotel, Tuesday, 17th November 1998.
3 years and 8 months later, the statue of Sir V C Bird was unveiled on July 01st, 2002, Caricom Day. But Sir Viv's statue is doubtful, shameless politics. Not even a change in leadership in 2004 saw it necessary to allocate the US$44,000 needed to complete Sir I.V.A. Richards statue, long before the world recession. This is not the first time our heroes are treated with such political contempt and disdain, remember Sir McLean Emmanuel 'King Short Shirt' lamentation on Radio Observer July 2002! Sir I.V.A. Richards deserves better, so too does Andy Roberts!
Many argue that the state of cricket reflects Caricom political limitation, bound now within the boundary, not extended beyond it. However, Sir I.V.A. Richards is an exemplary Caribbean ambassador, challenging cultural imposition with his leadership, pride, culturally fierce and loyal attitude, there is indeed hope for our future generation.
Sir I.V.A. Richards' statue embodies a work of art and legacy of his contribution to world cricket and struggles for human dignity. There is much to learn from art, the creative aspect of life is evident in art, plus the reality of our culture embodies that spirit of revival and survival against combative hostility.
So, this story of the statue of 'Dignity' celebrates Sir I.V.A. Richards lifeworks, and embodying this fighting spirit was his fastest century at the Antigua Recreation Ground (ARG) on April, 15th 1986. This fervent victory jubilation was a historical photo snapped by Colin "Bones" Cumberbatch, and used as a model for the statue of 'Dignity'. And the area identified for the statue's prominence is the round-about, since statues are usually placed in relative areas of significance.
After more than 13 years it's time for Sir I.V.A. Richards statue of 'Dignity' to become a reality, it is long overdue.
Happy 60th Birthday, Sir I.V.A. Richards