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Tracing the Journey
The Vice Chancellor's XI Cricket match

by Elizabeth Buchanan-Hind

If there is one thing that is known for sure about Pro Vice Chancellor Hilary Beckles it is his passion for West Indies cricket. His numerous books, his quest to ensure that all former “West Indian Cricketing Greats” have their rightful place in West Indian history and the 3 Ws Oval at the Cave Hill Campus, reflect his commitment to the sport and its development. It is therefore no wonder that The Vice Chancellor’s Match is his brainchild.

It was in 1995 that Professor Beckles approached Sir Alister McIntyre, who was then the Vice Chancellor, and Captain Peter Short, who was then the President of the West Indies Cricket Board, to discuss the possibility of a combined Vice Chancellor’s XI playing against the international touring team in a one day match.

It seemed fitting that these two bastions of regional integration should join in this endeavour so bringing together sport and education. Recognising the invaluable benefits to both institutions, the West Indies Cricket Board and the University were pleased to collaborate on this initiative.

It was agreed that the initial Vice Chancellor’s XI would comprise UWI students, current West Indian test players, retired West Indian cricketers, West Indies “A” Team players and international cricketers on the verge of making their test debut, as was the case in 1997, when Makahya Ntini and Mark Boucher played for the Vice Chancellor’s XI vs India in Trinidad. Both went on to become outstanding players on the South African test team.

These Vice Chancellor’s Matches, it was hoped, would also assist the University in developing its cricket programme. Over time the Vice Chancellor’s XI would comprise more UWI students and fewer invited guests with the end result for the University being a first class team of its own. It was also agreed that the event would eventually move toward first class status.

The inaugural Vice Chancellor’s Match, played on March 23, 1996, at Sabina Park in Jamaica, restored the University to its rightful place in international cricket. There is probably hardly anyone who can recall the University ever playing international matches prior to the Vice Chancellor’s Cricket Match. But for those who remembered that Sir Frank Worrell, one of the greatest West Indian captains and probably one of the greatest captains ever, was employed at the University up until his death in 1967, it would follow that cricket of some standing would have had to be played at the University. Professor Baldwin Mootoo, former Pro Vice Chancellor, Research and Deputy Principal of the St. Augustine Campus and one of the original members of the Vice Chancellor’s Cricket Match Committee recalls that Sir Frank, while serving as Student Counselor and Administrator at the Mona Campus, arranged for touring test teams to play

matches against combined UWI staff and student teams. In tribute to this great man who embodied West Indian sport and academia, the three major cricket grounds at all three campuses now include his name.

Thirty-six years ago New Zealand toured the West Indies for the first time and the first match they played in that tour was against a UWI team at the Mona Campus. This was also the last match the University played against an international team for more than two decades. It somehow seemed appropriate that 25 years later, the inaugural Vice Chancellor’s Match would be played against the New Zealand touring team.

Another of Professor Beckles’ creative ideas was to use each Vice Chancellor’s Match to pay tribute to those who had made West Indies Cricket great and so it was that he called Sir Vivian Richards who was then residing in Brunei at the Sultan’s invitation, to be honoured in Jamaica. On that beautiful Saturday in Jamaica, crowds poured into Sabina Park to witness the return of the “Master Blaster”. The roar of the crowd as they stood to their feet to welcome Sir Vivian as he walked from to the Pavilion to the crease would be remembered forever by those who were in the spectator stands on that day. The air was filled with great anticipation, excitement and nostalgia of an era past and Sir Vivian did not disappoint. With every stroke, he revived memories of the glory days.

This excitement was repeated in Barbados in 1998, when Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes were honoured and also opened for the Vice Chancellor’s XI vs England at Kensington Oval. The English cricketers formed a guard of honour as Gordon and Desmond made their way to the crease. Both English and West Indian spectators leapt to their feet with loud shrieks on several occasions during the match as they were taken back in time to the days of that beautiful, indomitable opening partnership of these two great West Indian cricketers.

The Vice Chancellor’s XI did not win either of these matches or most of the subsequent matches but so began the University’s journey back to international cricket.

As was intended, the Vice Chancellor’s team has evolved to include more students and in the Match played last year in Antigua, students comprised more than half the team and led the Vice Chancellor’s XI to victory for the first time against an international team.

The students have shown great enthusiasm and commitment to the sport and the University has also made considerable progress in nurturing the students through the development of its sports facilities and courses offered. The University is carefully charting its course and one day will have a first class cricket team that will be a force with which to reckon.

All three campuses now boast first class cricket grounds and both the Cave Hill and St. Augustine cricket grounds will be used for the World Cup warm-up and practice matches in 2007.