On the Front Foot: It won't be pitch perfect but Freddo's ARG can pass test
Sunday 15 February 2009
When the cloud gathered over the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Friday, Keith Frederick was holding the silver lining. He has been the curator of the Antigua Recreation Ground for 10 years, and when the last Test match was played there in 2006 his sadness was boundless. "But I was always sure that [Test cricket] would be back at the ARG," he said, hardly able to contain his excitement. Two heavy steamrollers were flattening the outfield as he spoke, an army of decorators had been brought in to paint the place. "I always tell people who come in from the boats that we would have Test matches again." Freddo, as he is known to all, had been at the Sir Viv Ground when the Second Test was called off after 10 balls on Friday. The sand on the outfield had made the bowlers' run-ups all but impassable. It was the shortest Test match in history. Almost immediately, Freddo made his way back to the ARG, sensing that this was his opportunity. Barely an hour later, officials from the ICC and the two countries' cricket boards got in touch. They asked if he could prepare a pitch in a day and a half and he assured them he could. It is not perfect. The ARG might have a charm all of its own but it is dilapidated. Football is played there more often than cricket and the halfway line runs across the pitch on a fast-bowler's length. Freddo was intent on steamrollering it into submission. "This is a really happy day for me," said Freddo. "I'll be choosing my team of groundsmen. That lot at the other ground drink on the job."
It's your honour, Mr Willey
The honours board still hangs at the ARG. Some of the great names of cricket adorn it, including the man who scored the first century in Tests there. Not Sir Viv himself – he got the second – but Peter Willey of England, who made 102 in adversity in the first Test at ARG in 1981.
ICC deserve praise for Aids stance
The International Cricket Council receive plenty of stick, not least from this direction. Indeed, there was a frank exchange of notes last week after the umpiring cock-up in Kingston which saw a last-minute replacement. The ICC obstinately claim complete innocence. Then there was their part in the ground fiasco in Antigua, for which, outrageously, they refused to take responsibility. But on some matters, which receive scant attention, they are to be lauded. Their HIV/Aids awareness campaign has been running quietly but determinedly for five years. The day before the Second Test, West Indies' captain, Chris Gayle, and the England opener Alastair Cook met youngsters from an Antiguan support group for people affected by the condition. The kids were clearly thrilled, and to have a Caribbean hero such as Gayle involved will not only increase recognition but diminish the dreadful stigma in a region where thousands and thous-ands are affected and dying.
Cheeky Chickie sinks Gower
Chickie the DJ, who made his name along with his dancing sidekick Gravy (who is now retired), will feel far more at home at the ARG. He was the first man to introduce music to cricket with his "Double-decker Disco" stand. Perhaps his most memorable moment was in 1986 when Viv Richards, his former school- mate, made the last of his three hundreds at the ground in just 56 balls. Chickie spun a track by Gypsy which was aimed squarely at David Gower, who was leading England: 'Captain Your Ship Is Sinking'.
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