Elton Robert protested. He is for keeping the peace of St. John’s, not cricket at the recreation ground. Elton runs a fast food restaurant in St. John’s, known as the capital area of Antigua. I asked him if they were upset because Antigua cricket moved from St. John’s Recreation Ground to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, far outside the city?
Elton Robert did not expect such a question, ‘why be upset? Cricket has left here, it’s good. Now it’s time to be more surprised. I asked out of curiosity, why? Elton is a bit excited, ‘You know what would happen here if cricket was played? The whole city would get jammed. People and people in this small town. If England played, only 5-6 thousand Burmese army would have come. The peace of the city was destroyed. The people of the city are relieved that cricket has gone away. Those who want to watch the game go there.
It was difficult to accept the word. There is a thing called tradition! These fiftysomethings should know better than I do about the traditions of the Antigua Recreation Ground. Brian Lara’s 375 runs on this ground in Tests, 400 unbeaten on this ground, Viv Richards’ 56-ball Test century before that. All were world records at that time, Lara’s 400 is still a world record. Antigar legends like Andy Roberts, Vivian Richards, Richie Richardson, Curtley Ambrose… grew up playing on this ground. The memory of such a field will be erased by neglect?
After 2009 cricket is not played in the ground. The condition of the field is so deplorable that it is better to call it Dhankhet instead of field. Cricket is today exiled from the ‘house’ of Roberts-Richards-Richardson-Ambrose and Brian Lara’s arena of fame. Andy Roberts stands, Richie Richardson stands and the black manual scoreboard stands dumbfounded. But the people of Antigua do not have any headache!
Cricket moved away from the recreation ground after 2009. It’s true that St. John’s, the heart of Antigua, is not a very large area. Although it is a ‘town’ to the locals, the roads are very narrow. Houses and shops are almost on the road. When a car comes from the opposite direction, the car next to it has to either stop or move aside to give way.
As there was no separate place for parking, people used to park their cars on the road and enter the stadium to watch the game.
It is easy to imagine the chaos that international cricket means in such a place. Lara’s record stage was therefore a source of pain for St John’s residents
Compared to that, the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium built a little outside the city and its surroundings are not short of space. All modern facilities are available here.
After the crickets were banished, the maintenance of the recreation grounds declined. It is now a venue for football and various events. There will be a big carnival here next month. Preparation for that is going on now. Preparation means painting the stadium. However, as part of that preparation, I saw the preparation of another destruction that day. A person who came to renovate the grounds pointed to the famous wooden double-decker gallery of the recreation ground and said, ‘We will tear it down and make a new gallery here.’
The damaged appearance of the field also testifies that this field is no longer for cricket. Green has disappeared even earlier. It is better to call the field Dhankhet instead of field. Here and there the marks on the wheels of the car seemed to be in the stadium, but driving is also taught or not! However, a local said, it is not like that. Many people park their cars in the field when they come to this area. That’s why the tire marks.
The original identity of the recreation ground is being lost in such multi-purpose use. One day, no one will recognize this field as ‘Lara’s 400-run field’. A chapter of history will be lost from their lives. Are Antigua Recreation Ground silently crying? Even if you cry, there is no one to hear your cry.