'On the cricket field all men are equal'

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The Independent Online

It was not unpatriotic yesterday to welcome the early-morning resistance to the idea of all-conquering England by the young West Indian pacemen led by the fiercely committed Fidel Edwards. The wait for some English success in the Caribbean has been long enough, and marked by terrible defeats, but the sense of satisfaction over victories in the first two Tests had to be limited by the sense of the end of a wonderful sporting tradition.

Events in Barbados may be merely a postponement of confirmation of the long-held fear that we will never again see the likes of Viv Richards, Garfield Sobers, Frank Worrell, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall, and certainly there had been a despairing rage in the islands over the decline of both Brian Lara's team and his aura as one of the greatest batsmen of all time.

On the eve of the third Test, it was poignant to return to the pages of CLR James's Beyond A Boundary and his assessment of why it was the West Indians had always attached such importance to the game.

A particularly haunting passage considers the meaning of the famous club Shannon, who operated on the Savannah, the great expanse of green in Port of Spain. "Shannon," wrote James, "had more than mere skill. They played as though they knew that their club represented the great mass of black people on the island. As clearly as if it was written across the sky, their play said: Here, on the cricket field if nowhere else, all men are equal, and we are the best men on the island."

Yesterday morning, who knows, we may have seen some re-kindling of that spirit. For any cricket lover it is a hope that surely goes beyond the boundaries of blood.