Bourda Cricket Ground

and the Guyanese iden­tity

Stabroek News: Lifestyle - - Front Page - Mark McGowan

There is a spe­cial place in the rich history of cricket in the Caribbean re­served for the Bourda Cricket Ground, the home of the Georgetown Cricket Club (GCC). As one of the old­est cricket grounds in the Caribbean spec­ta­tors over the years have wit­nessed thou­sands of runs, hun­dreds of wick­ets, and of course—given Guyana’s weather pat­terns—count­less rain­drops. Founded in 1858, the GCC is the long­est sur­viv­ing cricket club in the Caribbean. Ini­tially, the club’s mem­bers prac­tised and played matches on the Pa­rade Ground be­fore dif­fi­cul­ties prompted them to ac­quire a ground of their own. Soon, con­struc­tion of the ground com­menced at its cur­rent lo­ca­tion. Stephen Ca­ma­cho, a for­mer GCC cap­tain, notes that the ground was for­mally opened on De­cem­ber 26, 1885,

with a cricket match played be­tween teams rep­re­sent­ing “the World” and the “West Indies”. Later in 1887, Bourda hosted its first in­ter-colo­nial match be­tween Bri­tish Guiana and Bar­ba­dos where the lo­cal side emerged vic­to­ri­ous. And while the GCC may pri­mar­ily be a cricket club, it has also been home to other sports such as hockey. Bourda, how­ever, is a truly spe­cial ground for cricket. Writ­ing on the pop­u­lar cricket web­site, Martin Wil­liamson de­scribed Bourda as “the first Test venue on main­land South Amer­ica and the only one in the world be­low sea level,” while adding that it “has a very old-world feel about it with the splen­did wooden pav­il­ion at fine leg an im­pos­ing struc­ture.” He also spoke about the pas­sion­ate, but oc­ca­sion­ally volatile, crowd not­ing the propen­sity for “mini ri­ots” and “pitch in­va­sions.” In fact, the com­ple­tion of at least two One-Day In­ter­na­tion­als (ODIs) played at the ground was ad­versely af­fected by spec­ta­tors run­ning onto the field of play be­fore the match was of­fi­cially over. How­ever, for Travis Dowlin, a for­mer Guyana and West Indies player, the in­ti­macy of the ground and the pas­sion­ate spec­ta­tors were what made play­ing cricket at Bourda a joy. The in­ti­macy be­tween play­ers and spec­ta­tors, was a re­sult of the prox­im­ity of some of the stands to the ac­tion in the mid­dle. The spec­ta­tors, he added, con­stantly en­gaged the play­ers and were never afraid to ad­vise them. This in­ti­macy be­tween crowd and play­ers, he sug­gested, is now ab­sent at the Guyana Na­tional Sta­dium in Providence − the ground which has been host­ing all in­ter­na­tional cricket matches held lo­cally since 2007. Dowlin also re­mem­bers spec­ta­tors trav­el­ling from far flung ar­eas such as Ber­bice and sleep­ing at the nearby Mer­ri­man Mall sim­ply to be able to get into the ground early in or­der to soak in ev­ery ball of the game. For him play­ing at Bourda was al­ways a priv­i­lege as he had a deep ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the rich history as­so­ci­ated with the ground. For the true cricket fan there are a lot of mem­o­rable per­for­mances that oc­curred dur­ing re­gional and in­ter­na­tional matches at Bourda. Sig­nif­i­cantly, it was the first Test match played at Bourda that saw the West Indies Cricket team record­ing its first ever Test vic­tory. The lo­cal boys de­feated the English­men by 289 runs in Fe­bru­ary, 1930, on the back of out­stand­ing per­for­mances by Ge­orge Headley, Clifford Roach, Learie Con­stan­tine and Ge­orge Fran­cis. Known as a bat­ting par­adise given the gen­er­ally flat na­ture of the pitch, it is no sur­prise that a num­ber of the more mem­o­rable feats there were ac­com­plished by bats­men. The great Sir Gary Sobers scored 853 runs in seven Tests at Bourda, at an av­er­age of 94.77 runs per in­nings. Cricket fans would re­call Alvin Kal­lichar­ran’s un­beaten 100 on de­but against New Zealand in 1972, which made him the first bats­man to achieve this feat in a Test at Bourda. It was in this same match that New Zealand’s open­ing bats­man, Glenn Turner, scored 259 runs, the high­est Test score recorded at the venue. Oth­ers may re­call the match in April 1988, when the great Pak­istani crick­eter, Im­ran Khan, recorded match

fig­ures of 11 for 121, the best bowl­ing fig­ures recorded at the ground in Tests. Fast for­ward a few years, it was at Bourda that Brian Lara scored his first Test cen­tury in the Caribbean, 167 against Eng­land in 1994. This was the same match where Shiv­nar­ine Chan­der­paul made his Test de­but and scored a classy 62. It was also here in 2003 that Shiv Chan­der­paul scored a 69ball cen­tury against the Aus­tralians, which at that time was the third fastest hun­dred in Test cricket. Not sur­pris­ingly, he also reg­is­tered his first Test dou­ble cen­tury of 203 not out at Bourda against South Africa in 2005. This re­mained his high­est Test score which he equalled in 2012 against Bangladesh in Dhaka. It was also at Bourda that another Guyanese, Carl Hooper, reg­is­tered his high­est Test score of 233 against In­dia in 2002. So when Bourda held its last in­ter­na­tional game and One Day In­ter­na­tional (ODI), on May 7, 2006, it marked the end of more than 76 years as a venue for in­ter­na­tional games. Some re­gional cricket matches, how­ever, are still played at the ground. For sev­eral years there was talk of merg­ing the Bourda cricket ground with the neigh­bour­ing Georgetown Football Club ground so as to cre­ate a grand sport­ing com­plex. The irony was that at that point in time, the play­ing of cricket at this venue was not on the agenda and the mere idea drew the ire of many fans. Later, in Novem­ber 2013, media re­ports sur­faced that lo­cal busi­ness­man Dr Ran­jis­inghi Ram­roop had made a pro­posal to ac­quire both the Bourda Cricket Ground and the Georgetown Football Ground, propos­ing to in­vest ap­prox­i­mately US$30 mil­lion to re­vamp the two fa­cil­i­ties. Ac­cord­ing to these media re­ports, the pro­posal in­volved con­struct­ing a new sta­dium with mod­ern ameni­ties as well as es­tab­lish­ing an academy for football and cricket. The pro­posal was sub­se­quently pulled and not much has been heard about it since. At this junc­ture in our na­tion’s history, the fu­ture of Bourda is any­one’s guess. What is sure though is that this im­por­tant part of our na­tional her­itage should not be al­lowed to go the sad way of dis­re­pair like many of our other his­toric sites. For the preser­va­tion of a na­tion’s built, cul­tural and so­cial her­itage is in­te­gral to sus­tain­ing its iden­tity.

The Mem­bers’ Pav­il­ion, pos­si­bly the best kept sec­tion of the Bourda Ground

A view of one of the stands at the Bourda Ground

An early un­dated photo of the Georgetown Cricket Club, Bourda

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