Whenever decision day draws near each year, both sides roll out their team and there is an unrelenting fight to see who will emerge victorious. The Island will clearly be divided, we will be saturated with a litany of colorful commentary- both positive and negative - and there will be a great deal of handwringing as the numbers come in. The people, however, will have to content themselves as passionate observers from the sidelines. This, after all, is Cup Match.
Born out of Emancipation celebratory activities, Cup Match, along with the numerous related activities, has now established itself as our most popular, most vibrant, most colourful cultural activity of the year. Almost all of us are engaged in something over this, for all intents and purposes, four-day holiday. The cricket match in Somerset, though, is the hub around which all else revolved.
In his brilliant book, “Beyond a Boundary”, the Trinidadian intellectual CLR James explored the relationship between cricket and the wider society; an analysis that still resonates today. Both Somerset and St George’s ensured team discipline and presented a united front, even if there were cracks in the armour. The strategies adopted to achieve a win were critical and there no doubt there will be many commentators critically assessing Somerset’s strong win. Team endurance is always a critical factor as they have to contend with the often oppressive conditions on the ground; not unlike the challenges facing other teams seeking a win.
As much as the team has to work together there is room for individual excellence: one or two players through their exceptional talents can help carry the day for their team: witness the superb performances of Greg Maybury and Kamau Leverock this year.
Team captains are the leaders, chief strategists and the ones tasked with adjusting the play according to events on the field. A captain without courage, unable to excite and mobilise his team or paralysed by over-analysis will not likely make it back next year in that same position. Merely aspiring to be team captain is not a sufficient qualification - the responsibilities are too great and the prize too valuable. Competence, courage and conviction are great qualities to begin with.
The match was surrounded by highly opinionated spectators, who critically assessed each stroke, each play and the performance of each player. As is to be expected. Unlike other arenas where teams contest for victory, the partisan nature of Cup Match is such that loyalty reigns supreme - no switching of allegiances here. These allegiances run deep and have even been known to divide families, at least during the duration of the game.
Anyone having grown up in Bermuda will know that it is difficult to remain neutral when casting an opinion about the outcome of the match. The platitudes ending with, “and may the best team win” ring hollow with me and many others. Why? Because we know which is the better team, we know the talent of their players and we believe their strategy will carry them to victory. For many of us this is sufficient reason to stay to the wicket.