Nostalgia of Bourda Oval, Guyana

By: Prof Ravi Chaturvedi*

TORONTO, Canada – Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC), Bourda Oval stadium is a cricket ground in Georgetown, Guyana, used by the West Indies and the Guyanese cricket team for Test, territorial and CPL matches.

The ground is one of the two cricket stadiums in the South American mainland and is uniquely surrounded by a moat for flood-prevention and drainage reasons.

The Bourda Oval stadium is located in Georgetown, the capital township of the country. The GCC is the nerve center of cricket in Guyana. The ground structurally is unique due to its cantilever stands. The notable seating area are the Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd and the Ladies stands. An unprotected part of the ground which plays loud music is the Mound, reminded me of notorious Sydney Hill (now demolished).

The ground earned the epithet of “The Cornerstone” on February 21, 1930 when home team on its first Test on the venue put it across the visitors from England by 289 runs.

Bourda has grand gigantic wooden pavilions and a prominent Ladies Stand. It is the oldest ground in the Caribbean, the venue of 30 Test matches and 10 ODIs. Oddly, last five Tests have been inconclusive as rain plays spoil sport.

Nostalgia of Bourda Oval, Guyana

Burda’s Rohan Kanhai Stand

The ground became functional in 1884 after it was carved out of the silent sea and now can accommodate 25, 000 spectators. It ranks as the only cricket venue situated below sea level.  To prevent the flooding of the stadium, there is a moat around it.

During my 1976 visit as an All India Radio commentator author found that the stadium has its own share of charisma and awe. My short stay attested to the uniqueness of the Bourda.

The stadium was modernized with a generous help from Govt. of India to stage the 2007 World Cup matches. The newly named – the Providence Stadium, however did not find favour with the organizers.

The Guyanese crowd is passionate and occupy every available space within and even trees nearest to the stadium. At times spectators have been volatile and unruly, thereby stadium has been the scene of mini riots and pitch invasion.

The nastiest situation was witnessed during the rebel Word Series Cricket (WSC) SuperTest when pavilion was raided where some players had to hide and others donned helmet for their safety.

In 1999, Australia required 3 runs for tie and a boundary of the last ball of the match. Moment skipper Steve Waugh completed his second run, there was pitch invasion and stumps stolen when Shane Warned made his ground. The volatile situation on the ground forced the authorities to hold back the announcement of result till players had left the venue.

Rain is part and parcel of cricket packet in Guyana. The 1976 tour itinerary had a match each against Guyana and West Indies. After a smooth landing at Timeheri International Airport, it was incessant rain from the following day. When ceased day before the Guyana match, my Bourda Oval visit was short as heavens opened up again.

Bourda Oval flooded in 1976

Bourda Oval was a swimming pool than a cricket ground. As I entered Guyana Pegasus hotel, I was handed a message that the Indian Manager, Polly Umrigar (played in West Indies in 1953 & 1962) wanted to see me. Once in his executive room, he handed over a letter from the Indo-Guyanese community that April 8 was the birthday of Lord Rama when community observes fast and recite holy Ramayana throughout the day. It did not go down well with the community that Indian team was scheduled to play the Test match. Umrigar wanted to find a way out. Author suggested that rest day and the festival days be swapped with each other. The relief on the face of Umrigar’s face conveyed everything.

Rival captains Jeff Stollmeyer (West Indies) & Vijay Hazare (India) congratulate each other before cutting the joint birthday cake at Bourda Oval on March 11, 1953

Rival captains Jeff Stollmeyer (West Indies) & Vijay Hazare (India) congratulate each other before cutting the joint birthday cake at Bourda on March 11, 1953

Bourda Oval, Georgetown has been host to rival skippers Vijay Hazare (India) and Jeff Stollmeyer (West Indies) for their birthday on March 11 during India’s maiden 1953 Caribbean tour. The duo cut a joint birthday cake in a party hosted by the West Indies Board after the match in the evening at the Carib hotel in Georgetown. According to Polly Umrigar who came to the Caribbean as a member of the team, it was the most enjoyable and memorable tour, both from the cricket and for the bonhomie between the two contesting teams.

It may be pertinent to point out that Guyana is a sovereign state on the northern mainland of South America, geographically not a part of the Caribbean. However, it is included in the Caribbean region due to its strong cultural, historical, and political ties with other Anglo Caribbean countries and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

 

*Prof Ravi Chaturvedi is a commentator, author of 23 cricket books and an avid Caribbean cricket follower since 1976.

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