Rally round the West Indies Cricket and The University of the West Indies – Symbols of the West Indian Spirit
Analogies between The University of the West Indies (UWI) and the West Indies Cricket Team are frequently made, but the rich history of The UWI with respect to cricket may not be as widely appreciated.
From UWI’s inception, students used its playing fields at Mona to play cricket. That this was the game of choice was not surprising, since in the post war era when the University was founded, the West Indies Cricket Team represented one of the few entities in our region with an international presence. In the same year that UWI admitted its first students (1948), the West Indies Cricket Team won its first series against England. By the time the first group of students had completed their first degree, the West Indies had won series against England in England, India and New Zealand in what were the first series played against those countries.
As the University expanded and new Faculties were established, the University Cricket Team participated in the Senior Cup, the premier club championship in Jamaica. More than a few Caribbean leaders played cricket for the University in these games.
When our beloved Sir Frank Worrell retired from test cricket after the England tour in 1963, he joined the UWI staff as Warden of Irvine Hall. During the early days, Sir Frank Worrell and then Professor Gladstone Mills were the pioneers in the development of cricket at the Mona Campus.
In 1965, Sir Frank Worrell was seconded to the Trinidad Government as Community Development Adviser. He did not return to Irvine Hall and Mona at the end of this period, but was appointed Dean of Students and Director of Sport at the St. Augustine Campus.
Sadly Sir Frank Worrell died in 1967, but his memory lives on at all of the UWI Campuses with the Frank Worrell Oval at Mona, and the Frank Worrell Cricket Field at St. Augustine. Sir Frank Worrell was buried at the Cave Hill Campus not far from the playing fields he helped to design. A Hall of Residence was also given Sir Frank Worrell’s name at Cave Hill.
In the late 1960s C.L.R. James delivered his famous Beyond A Boundary Lecture at the Mona Campus and faculty members began to publish articles on West Indies Cricket, including Orlando Patterson and Maurice St Pierre.
Both staff and students continued playing cricket during the 1970s and importantly the Sports Advisory Committee under the Chairmanship of the late Professor Gladstone Mills, succeeded in convincing the West Indies Cricket Board to hold matches against touring teams. Combined UWI teams played against India (1971), New Zealand (1972) and Australia (1973) at the Mona Bowl.
In the late 1980s students and staff continued to play inter-hall, and inter-college matches. At the end of the 1980s when Freddy Green was Director of Sports and Professor Edwin Jones was Dean, the Faculty of Social Sciences introduced a cricket match on Easter Monday – Social Sciences versus ‘The Rest of U (UWI)’. This match was played for two years.
In the 1990s, with a view to reviving cricket at The University of the West Indies, Pro Vice Chancellor and now Principal of the Cave Hill Campus, Professor Hilary Beckles, successfully convinced Vice Chancellor Sir Alister McIntyre and the West Indies Cricket Board to reintroduce matches between The UWI and touring teams. The West Indies Cricket Board and The University of the West Indies as part of their mutual strategic development plan reintroduced the tradition in 1996. The UWI team won the Vice Chancellor’s XI match for the first time in 2006, against Zimbabwe.
Thanks to the efforts of Pro Vice Chancellor Hilary Beckles, a Centre for Cricket Research (Now the C.L.R. James Centre for Cricket Research) was established at Cave Hill. The Centre hosts the annual Frank Worrell Lecture series. Courses in The History of West Indies Cricket and Sports Politics and Society have been introduced at the Mona Campus and all three Campuses have graduated students, two with PhDs, who have written theses on West Indian cricket. Some of our graduates have played in West Indies teams and many of our staff have participated in some way as members of cricket boards and liaison officers for touring teams.
It is clear from the above discussion that West Indies Cricket and The University of the West Indies have been closely linked over a long period of time.
Since the start of the new millennium, The UWI has upgraded all its cricket facilities bringing them back to first class standards. As a result of this, The UWI will play an integral part in the CWC 2007 as the 3 Ws Oval at Cave Hill and the Sir Frank Worrell Field at St Augustine will be used for warm-up matches.
Both The UWI and West Indian cricket have been longstanding regional entities that have played significant roles in developing the confidence and self worth of the people of the Caribbean. It is no accident that the two places where the flags of our territories fly together most often are the UWI campuses and the cricket grounds of our region.