Those who have read CLR James’ Beyond a Boundary will be all too familiar with Matthew Bondman. James describes Bondman on the second page so that the name is likely to have been encountered even by those who did not get very far into the famous book.
The Bondman description reads in part as follows:
“For n‘er-do-well, in fact, vicious character as he was, Matthew had one saving grace—Matthew could bat. More than that, Matthew, so crude and vulgar in every aspect of his life, with a bat in his hand was all grace and style. When he practised on an afternoon with the local club, people stayed to watch and walked away when he was finished.
“He had one particular stroke that he played by going down low on one knee. It may have been a slash through the covers or a sweep to leg. But, whatever it was, whenever Matthew sank down and made it, a long, low ‘Ah’ came from many a spectator, and my own little soul thrilled with recognition and delight.”
When the Brian Lara Stadium was opened officially last Friday, 12 May, Mr Bondman immediately came to my mind. Our politics makes our language violent and our voices loud. But then there are moments when we can exhibit such grace as a people that it can thrill the soul with recognition and delight.
On many occasions, sport has done that for us.
I throw my mind back to the Dennis Lawrence header which secured a historic place for T&T in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. I was working in Woodbrook at the time and the office ‘migrated to a more suitable viewing venue’ in St James.
My most distinct memory is walking down the road back to the office and experiencing the crowded street spontaneously breaking out into the national anthem. The singing came from a place which could only exist in a moment like that.
I have never experienced that again; however, I saw hints of it on Friday.
No amount of noise from the Opposition could keep their supporters away from seeing the Prince of POS. I doubt if there was any political persuasion not represented at the opening.
However, the Opposition were not the only ones to misinterpret what Friday meant.
The Government, likewise, mismanaged the event at every stage, the scoring of political points appearing to take precedence over all else. This was underscored by Minister of Sport and Youth Affairs Darryl Smith’s insistence that this was the first time Lara had been engaged in any meaningful way in the development of the facility.
It would do the Minister well to revisit the genesis of the venue to see who are the ones more likely to be left with mud on their faces as a result of his affirmation.
Lara himself felt compelled to publicly state his own embarrassment at the way the entire event had been managed. Of course, the supporters of the PNM will place all the blame at the feet of the Opposition. It seems to me that the politicians believe that this entire enterprise—construction, refurbishment, official opening, etc—was really about them.
By no stretch of the imagination is Brian Lara an ordinary citizen and The Prince of Port-of-Spain is very high up on the short list of persons in our society who transcend political divisions. The possibility of seeing him—even briefly!—out in the middle in full cricket gear and, with luck, on the go trumped any political affiliation.
The politicians may not publicly admit it—the arrogance of partisanship would not allow them so to do—but they know that there are moments over which they have neither control nor influence. That is a reality with which they must come to terms.
Yes. Friday was not about the PNM or the UNC; it was about Brian Lara and his people, the people of Trinidad and Tobago.
Neither the PNM nor its supporters can conscientiously lay the failure to open the stadium at the feet of the Opposition, given that the facility was originally earmarked as a venue for the 2007 Cricket World Cup.
Or do we want to pretend that the name Karamath rings no bells?
Now that the cows have finally come home and the venue is officially opened, what will make this venue any different from so many of the others which have been left to go to rack and ruin because of inadequate maintenance regimes and underutilisation?
This, Minister Smith, is what we wanted to hear on Friday—what we still need to hear. We have heard Lara’s vision but is it going to be realised? And if yes, how?
This is the debate that I would like—that the country needs to see the politicians engaged in. But, alas, we are no longer at the crease and, true to form, thanks to the Bondman blood in our veins, we are likely to morph back into political antagonists and allow yet another opportunity to go begging.
Or will we?