May 2017

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Arguably, cricket has inspired the most artistic devotion of any sport in the world. Songs, sculptures, paintings, exhibitions and books of all genres: fiction, biographies, sociological and historical studies; the corpus is remarkable when you think about it.

In the course of my own academic research, I discovered that over a century, probably a hundred biographies and autobiographies have been published on West Indian cricketers alone. During that research, I was also struck by the sheer volume of calypsoes that have been composed on the subject. Professor Gordon Rohlehr has done a wonderful job of analyzing this body of work, and has provided researchers with context within which to understand the environments that spawned these musical editorials.

In November 2016, a discography of sorts was published by Nasser Khan, a cricket enthusiast and a prolific writer on a diverse range of subjects. The book, “History of West Indies Cricket through Calypsoes” was financed by NAGICO Insurances, as part of a youth literacy initiative to be distributed to regional high schools (167 in T&T) at no charge. This effort that hopes to find an off-the-syllabus method of encouraging reading is to be commended because it can fill many voids. It combines four areas, music, history, sociology and sport and allows the seeker to imbibe them freely without feeling that they are being mandated to “study.”

The book carries lyrics, articles, photos and drawings, and profiles of players and calypsonians, as well as a list of all West Indian cricketers from 1928 (when the West Indies first achieved Test status) to 2016, and some scorecards of milestone matches.

In the introduction Khan notes that between 1926 and 2016, “some 215 cricket-themed calypsos (not including remakes, those calypsoes that were re-recorded by other calypsonians) have been composed and sung, recorded and documented.”

Khan has found a way to reproduce these lyrics, which would be a welcome addition to any cricket or calypso lover’s library, but it is not for sale. It is a pity, though with additional sponsorship it might be able to have broader distribution.

An online quiz/contest to engage students is envisaged in due course via NAGICO.

The book is already available at various libraries, and on April 19, Khan and Kevin Davis, the Executive Manager of Sales and Marketing at NAGICO Insurances (who was very involved in seeing the book come to pass) visited the Alma Jordan Library at the St. Augustine Campus to present copies of the book to add to its collection.

Davis told the gathering at the handover ceremony that apart from its support for cricket, NAGICO was committed to developing literacy and adopted the Cumaca RC Primary School and has built a library for the students and are in the process of stocking it with books. It is the kind of gesture that our corporate citizens might want to emulate.

(Vaneisa Baksh)