By Prof. Ravi Chaturvedi
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – As my fingers were ready on my laptop to pen down my nostalgia of the Queen’s Park Cricket Club (QPCC), a quote of Amy Bloom, a American writer and psychotherapist’s novel ‘Away’ came rushing to my mind, “The past is a candle at great distance: too close to let you quit, too far to comfort you.” It is a testimony to both the past and the present of this illustrious club.
My romance with the QPCC commenced on March 18, 1976 on my first Caribbean sojourn to cover the India West Indies series for All India Radio (AIR).
The picturesque surroundings of the cricket venue was captivating. The Savannah, a 260 acres of sylvan surroundings, abounding in luxurious greenery, dotted by large samaan and pui trees provide a celestial setting to this international Caribbean cricket venue.
Then the luxurious and sprawling Savannah adds splendor to the scenic settings of the club. The backdrop of Laventille hills add to the beauty of the venue. The hills are part of the mystery and mystique of the ground.
This cricket venue is managed and maintained by the QPCC, headed by Deryck Murray, ex Windies Test cricketer. It can accommodate around 20, 000 spectators to watch various formats of cricket. The icing on the cake was the staging of the 2007 ICC World Cup and lately the glamorous Caribbean Premier League. Historically, it is one of the hoary seat of cricket in the West Indies and a monument testifying to the troughs and crests of the Caribbean cricket.
The record of memorable deeds of Learie Constantine, Jeff Stollmeyer, Sonny Ramadhin and Brian Lara are permanently etched on the walls of this stadium.
The records reveal that international cricket set its foot on the Oval in 1897 with Lord Hawke’s team playing against the Queen’s Park Club where home team had upper hand. When West Indies joined the international Cricket (then) Conference (ICC) in 1926, the club hosted the maiden home Test series v England in 1930. Since then QPCC has been a permanent venue of international cricket.
Author’s second visit to the QPCC in 1976 for the third Test as substitute for Guyana’s rain-ruined Bourda Test became most cherished as Bishan Bedi band Indians came back from behind to hit incredible 406 to record a memorable six wicket win over Clive Lloyd led Caribbean cavaliers.
It was second time in history of Test cricket that a team scored more than 400 runs in the fourth innings to win a Test. The cricket legend Don Bradman’s Aussies set the ball rolling by scoring 403 to win Leeds Test in 1948 against England.
My 1976 visit became nostalgic to meet in person cricketers –Jeff Stollmeyer, Gerry Gomez and Prior Jones who played in the inaugural India West Indies Test at New Delhi in November (10-14) 1948. The memories of this Test are permanently etched in the mind of then a teen ager. It was first ever Test watched by the author.
Author was again at the QPCC in 2002 as a commentator. By now the Trinidad Test cricket venue was a big stadium, catering to the comforts of the spectators by building covered stands with a spacious media center, stands, pavilion and ground ends named after Test cricketers of yester years – Gerry Gomez Media Center (a commentator after retirement), Learie Constantine stand, Willie Rodriguez end and Brian Lara pavilion.
Triniposse stand (like the cheerleaders of the IPL) added luster to the ambience. This was time to catch up with the commentator comrades- Tony Cozier, “Reds” Perreira, and David Lamy. Lamy published my interview on the changing facets of cricket and nostalgia of my Caribbean visit in the Queen’s Park Club magazine-Parkite.
This visit had both the highs and lows- meeting old friends Wes Hall, President, West Indies Cricket Control Board, Sir Gary Sobers (commented with him for World Tel. in 1994) and making to the funeral of ex Indian Test cricketer settled at San Fernando- Subhas Gupte.
The recent pilgrimage to the QPCC was as a Guest Commentator for the Guardian Radio with journalist-cum-commentator Vinode Mamchan ex Test cricketers- Tony Gray, Philo Wallace and Rajendra Dhanraj in the commentary box.
The high-point of this visit was my 80th birthday celebrations at Tacarigua with sister-in-law Dora Rickhi and nephew Dr. Rudy Rickhi (his wife Rohini, sons-Rohan, Rajeev, Rudra) and other close friends-Dave Lamy (commentator), Prof. Brinsley Samaroo (UWI), Hans Hanooman Singh (socialite), Tony Hartford (sports promoter), Neil Ramtahalsingh and Anil Ramdin (entrepreneurs).
The Caribbean Airlines like its parent-British West Indies Airways (my carrier on earlier visits) was hospitable.
As my flight made way skywards from Piarco international airport, the memories of the QPCC reminded me of lines of Harry Belafonte-Jamaican Farewell Lyrics, “Sad to say I’m on my way. Won’t be back for many a day”, echoed loud and clear in my ears.
- Ravi Chaturvedi, a retired Professor of Zoology from Delhi Univ., is a pioneer Cricket Commentator in India with 23 cricket books to his credit and bestowed national award of Padma Shri for his contribution to cricket.