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Christopher, Joe

Class, Race and Cricket in West Indies Cricket: A Review of C. L. R. James


Beyond A Boundary
What do they know of cricket who only cricket know !o answer
involves ideas as well as facts.
"
In all of his work, it is the reco#nition of the vitality and validity of
the independent $e#ro str%##le that serves as Jamess #%ide. and the
vitality of the
James did not #o into cricket with his politics, &%t came to his
politics o%t of cricket.
'
(ften called the )*i&le+ of cricket, CLR James *eyond A *o%ndary is the most
complete st%dy of cricket done thro%#h perhaps the most &rilliant and the keenest st%dent
the #ame has ever had. James idea that one has to know somethin# more than cricket to
%nderstand it stands a testimony not only to the #ame &%t also to the #eni%s of the man,
who viewed the #ame as a contested terrain, an art form and also as a mode of self
e,pression. -or James cricket was not only a site where racial stereotypes and hierarchies
were reprod%ced, and enforced &%t is also the one terrain where these perceived notions
co%ld &e .%estioned challen#ed and chan#ed. -or James cricket was at one level a #ame,
while at another level it somethin# more than #ame. Cricket for James was drama, a
contest, an art, a window to e,perience life etc. Cricket in the West Indies, as elsewhere
"
/reface 00I, James, C.L.R. Beyond a Boundary
'
1artmann, 2o%#las. 3What can we learn from sport, if we take sport
serio%sly as a racial force Lessons from C.L.R. Jamess Beyond A
Boundary, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 4ay '556 pa#es 78"97:6.
"
Christopher, Joe
was intertwined with the societal formations, and in the case of West Indies the #ame was
linked closely to the aspects of race, class, and at times to caste.
4anthia 2iawara, in his article 3;n#lishness and *lackness: Cricket as
2isco%rse on Colonialism
6
has s%ccessf%l ar#%ed that the privile#e of playin# cricket in
West Indies was ;n#lishness, while the ina&ility was *lackness. Cricket was one of the
privile#es that came alon# with white skin. 4ike 4ar.%see in his Any One But England:
An Outsider looks at English Cricket ar#%es that the ;n#lish prided on the fact that the
Americans did not play cricket, and that the ;n#lish view Cricket, and the a&ility to play
the #ame as their privile#e. It is in this conte,t that James &ecomes very important. As he
himself descri&ed, James was a p%ritan and a re&el at the same time. While the likes of
his #randmother, and a%nts instillin# the notions of &elief, fair play etc., W.C. <race,
!homas Arnold, the school and Christianity stren#thened it. While at school, for a
composition paper, James, when asked to write a composition on any topic, wrote a&o%t a
cricket match &etween (,ford and Cam&rid#e that he had read a&o%t earlier. James as a
school&oy was in awe of the ;n#lish #ame and of the literat%re played the #ame in
complete. As James says
!wo people lived in me: one the re&el a#ainst all
family and school discipline and order= the other, a /%ritan who wo%ld
have c%t off a fin#er sooner than do anythin# contrary to the ethics of the
#ame.
7

While the colonialists for entertainin# themselves played cricket in the
&e#innin#, the #ame was e,tended to the colo%red races in the Cari&&ean islands as to
6
>ee 2iawara, 4anthia. 3;n#lishness and *lackness: Cricket as a
2isco%rse on Colonialism, Callaloo 13 (1990!
7
James, C.L.R. Beyond a Boundary, p. ':
'
Christopher, Joe
civilise them. !his civilisin# tool soon fo%nd its way into schools, amon# workers etc.
4ost cricket in the islands was or#anised aro%nd cl%&s, which were .%ite e,cl%sive.
James ideas on the #ame and race were formed in the school that he attended, the
premises of the !%nap%na Cricket Cl%&, the cl%& cricket str%ct%re that was prevalent in
!rinidad, thro%#h the writin#s of $eville Card%s, and most importantly thro%#h the #ame
played &y vario%s cl%&s in !rinidad. James said that cricket was the window for the
Cari&&ean 3self e,pression, in 4anthia 2iawaras word cricket was the &lack players
ticket to ;n#lishness.
*orn into a p%ritanical, ed%cated &lack family in !%nap%na, some miles
away from the capital city of /ort of >pain, in !rinidad= James earliest impressions on life
and of the #ame were formed &y the &lack players practicin# or playin# at the !%nap%na
Cricket Cl%&. Apart from his p%ritanical family, his other infl%ence were the cricketers
incl%din# his pariah nei#h&or, a s%per& cricketer 4athew *ondman. Jamess relatively
well9off, p%ritanical a%nts and #randmother often scoffed at *ondman, who went
&arefoot, scowled at people, was %nemployed and swore at every&ody. 4athew *ond
mans play at the crease thrilled the yo%n# James to no end. While descri&in# the &attin#
of *ondman, James says:
4athew, so cr%de and v%l#ar in every aspect of his life,
with a &at was all #race and style. When he practised on an afternoon with
the local cl%& people stayed to watch and wake away when he finished. 1e
had one partic%lar stroke that he played #oin# down low on knee. It may
have &een a slash to the covers or a sweep to the le#. *%t, whatever it was,
6
Christopher, Joe
whenever 4athew sank down and made it, a lon#, 3Ah? came from many
a spectator, and my own little so%l thrilled with reco#nition and deli#ht.
8

Characters like 4athew *ondman filled the mind of James. James while dwellin#
on *ondman f%rther says
3<ood for nothin# e,cept to play cricket, did not seem
ri#ht to me. 1ow co%ld an a&ility to play cricket atone in any sense for
4athews a&omina&le way of life. /artic%larly as my #randmother and my
a%nts were not in any way s%pporters or followers of the #ame.
@
While his family for&ade him from interactin# with players like *ondman etc.,
they did not diss%aded from talkin# to his %ncle C%dAoe, who was a &lacksmith. C%dAoe
was as colo%rf%l as *ondman, yet C%dAoe played with the white men in a white team.
James, while talkin# of his family informs %s of his #randfathers fetish to #o to the
ch%rch on a >%nday mornin# dressed in a hat, coat and walkin# stick= and of his familys
desire of not fallin# short of affordin# this attire while #oin# to the ch%rch.
When it came to Aoin a cl%& for the #ame, James had to choose from one
of the three availa&le cl%&s that *lacks co%ld Aoin. Cl%& cricket in !rinidad was &ased
strictly on race and class. While the more elite, white /rotestants were the part of the
B%eens /ark Cl%&= the well to do old Catholics Aoined the >hamrock. While &oth these
cl%&s admitted the powerf%l colo%red families, still a &lack man was not welcomed to
these cl%&s. While disc%ssin# these cl%&s James says
8
James, CLR. Beyond a Boundary! /. 7
@
I&id. p.8
7
Christopher, Joe
A &lack man in the B%eens /ark was rare and %n%s%ally
anonymo%s: &y the time he had ac.%ired stat%s or made eno%#h money to
&e accepted he was m%ch too old to play.
C
1e f%rther adds
I wo%ld have &een more easily elected to the 4.C.C. than to either
DB%eens /ark Cl%& or >hamrockE.
:
!he cl%&s that were meant for the colo%red people were >hannon, >tin#o and
4aple. While 4aple, the cl%& that James finally Aoined, was made of the well to do
&rown pop%lation, >tin#o was completely made of ple&eians. >hannon, the cl%&, which
prod%ced the likes of Constantines, >t. 1ill, and three Ws etc. was made of the lower
class &lacks. James in many instances r%es the fact that he had not Aoined the >hannon
inspite of them contactin# him.
James were of the opinion that >hannon definitely the &est side in the
island, knew that they were representin# the maAority of the Cari&&ean pop%lation. !hey
knew that most of the pop%lation looked %p to their cl%&s s%ccess, and Aealo%sly
enth%siastic crowds often s%pported them. >tin#o never enAoyed the same s%ccess nor the
s%pport. >tin#o, accordin# to James never represented the hopes and am&itions of the
&lack pop%lation of the island, as most of its players were ple&eians. James &rin#s o%t the
element of class with in the conte,t of race when he says
!he crowd did not look at >tin#o in the same way. >tin#o did not
have stat%s eno%#h. >tin#o did not show that pride and impersonal
am&ition which distin#%ished >hannon.
C
I&id. /. 7F
:
I&id. /.85
8
Christopher, Joe
!he >hannon team, accordin# to James played as if all men were e.%al on the
field, and that they were the &est at cricket. 4aple the team that James played for never
hired the proletarian or the ple&eian &lack. !he cl%& str%ct%re was so strictly &ased on
race that a very promisin# &lack cricketer wo%ld not &e welcomed into the &rown or
m%latto cl%&s. !he m%lattos were not welcomed &y the white cl%&s. While disc%ssin# the
iss%e of cl%&s, race and colo%r James says
Associations are formed of &rown people who will not admit into
their n%m&ers those too m%ch darker than themselves, and there have &een
heated ar#%ments in committee as whether s%ch and s%ch persons skin
was fair eno%#h to allow him or her to &e admitted witho%t lowerin# the
tone of the instit%tion. Cl%&s have &een known to accept the da%#hter who
was fair and ref%se the father who was &lack.
F

In the same &reath James adds
>ho%ld the darker man, however, have money or position of some
kind, he may aspire, and it is not too m%ch to say that in a West Indian
colony the s%rest si#n of a man havin# arrived is the fact that he keeps the
company with people li#hter in comple,ion than himself.
"5

In the chapter 3/rince and /a%per, James &rin#s o%t the reasons &ehind the
s%ccess of Learie Constantine and while in the chapter 3!he 4ost Gnkindest C%t he tries
to seek the reasons for the fail%re of the very talented >t. 1ill. >t. 1ill and Constantine Ar.
played for >hannon side, and were from a proletarian &ack#ro%nd. While Learie
Constantine was a s%ccess in Lancashire Lea#%e, West Indies cricket and at International
F
I&id. /. 8".
"5
I&id. /. 8'
@
Christopher, Joe
level, >t. 1ill &est years in international cricket were wasted d%e to acrimonio%s selection
policies. !he selectors wo%ld always play white &atsman and &lack &owlers, and with Joe
>mall of the >tin#o side makin# into the side, >t. 1ill a s%per& &atsman was #enerally
i#nored. James correctly points o%t that Learie Constantines s%ccess had m%ch to do with
the fact that he &elon#ed to the first family of West Indies cricket, which saved from
&ein# a victim of the racial selectors.
James, as he himself says, in the "F65s did not s%pport nor &elieve Learies view
that the West Indies team had to &e led &y a &lack captain. As mentioned earlier, the
p%ritan in him &elieved that the &est man, &e it &lack, white or &rown had to lead the
team. It was the #eneral practise in West Indies cricket that a white man was always made
the captain of the team. James notions of e.%ality were shaken when -rank Worrell,
ar#%a&ly the &est captaincy material in the team was not made the West Indies captain.
Inspite of the colo%red players &ein# more in n%m&er in the team, most white
administrators of the #ame in West Indies were of the opinion that a &lack man, havin# no
pedi#ree or eti.%ette wo%ld find it hard to captain the side. James while writin# on this
iss%e says
!he more &rilliantly the &lack people played, the more it wo%ld
emphasise to millions of ;n#lish people: 3Hes, they are fine players, &%t,
f%nny, isnt it, they cannot &e responsi&le for themselves9they m%st always
have a white man to lead them
""
.
James is of the opinion that it is in West Indies that politics interferes the most
with cricket. In this chapter 3/roof of the /%ddin#, perhaps the &est written in the history
of the sport, James while talkin# a&o%t cricket, race etc. &rin#s o%t the reasons for the
""
I&id. p. '66
C
Christopher, Joe
s%pport of a &lack captain. 1e had definitely reversed his Iictorian, p%ritanical stance
that the captain sho%ld &e the &est man in the team, not in the terms of #ame alone &%t
otherwise.
James e,plicitly points o%t the reasons why cricket is so dear to West Indies. In
what is perhaps the most to%chin# para#raph in the &ook, James says
What do they know of cricket who only cricket know West
Indians crowdin# to !ests &rin# with them the whole past history and the
f%t%re hopes of the islands. ;n#lish people, for e,ample, have a
conception of themselves &reathed from &irth. 2rake and mi#hty $elson,
>hakespeare, Waterloo, the char#e of the Li#ht *ri#ade, the few who did
so m%ch for so many, the s%ccess of parliamentary democracy, those and
s%ch as those constit%te a national tradition. Gnderdeveloped co%ntries
have to #o &ack to cent%ries to re&%ild one. We of the West Indies have
none at all, none that we know of. !o s%ch people the three Ws, Ram and
Ial wreckin# ;n#lish &attin#, help to fill a h%#e #ap in their conscio%sness
and in their needs. In one of the sheds on the /ort of >pain wharf is a
painted si#n: 6@8 <arfields >o&ers. If the old 4aple9>hannon9B%eens
/ark type of rivalry was now insi#nificant, a national Aealo%sy had taken
its place.
"'

It is for these reasons that James was all for makin# -rank Worrell the captain of
the West Indies on their to%r to A%stralia. While the /rime 4inister and other mem&ers of
the ca&inet were &lack men, the captain of the team till James and his intervened was
always a white man. (n this .%estion James says
"'
I&id. p. '66
:
Christopher, Joe
It is the constant, vi#ilant, &old and shameless manip%lation of
players to e,cl%de &lack captains that has so demoraliJed West Indian
teams and e,asperated the people9 a people, it is to &e remem&ered, in the
f%ll tide of transition from colonialism to independence.
"6

1e later adds
3KAnother pro&lem in West Indies cricket is that the captain has
%s%ally &een chosen from amon# the ;%ropean stock. J%st think of the
most famo%s West Indies cricketersK Learie Constantine, -rank Worrell,
;verton Weekes, Clyde WalcottKall are colo%red, &%t none has led his
co%ntry. Het Worrell was often skipper of Common Wealth to%rs in India,
and he did a fine Ao&.
"7

While talkin# of race and cricket in West Indies cricket James says
!he clash of race, caste and class did not retard &%t stim%lated
West Indies cricket. I am e.%ally certain that in those years social and
political passions, denied normal o%tlets, e,pressed themselves so fiercely
in cricket Dand other #amesE precisely &eca%se they were #ames.
It is in this conte,t that James notion of two levels of cricket, one as a #ame, and
the other mas.%eradin# as it &ecomes clear. James is of the opinion that of all #ames
cricket is #ame that is &est s%ited to carry o%t vario%s kinds of politics. While talkin# on
the cricket he says
"6
I&id. p. '6'
"7
I&id. p. '6'
F
Christopher, Joe
Cricket is a #ame of hi#h and diffic%lt techni.%e. If it were not it
co%ld not carry the load of social response and implications which it
carries.
"8

James viewed the #ame as an art form whose place was with the drama, the &allet
and literat%re. James sharply differed with Card%s on the iss%e. While Card%s was also of
the view that cricket was an art, his view was that since most people co%ld %nderstand it,
%nlike m%sic compositions, it was not a hi#h art or a #reat art. Card%s was of the view
that cricket, as an art form was lower than m%sic, since it was pop%lar one. It was for this
reason that Card%s who often &ro%#ht m%sic into his writin#s on cricket, never %sed
cricket in his writin#s on m%sic.
-or James, the #ame, an art form was a means of self9e,pression. James
believed that cricket in West Indies organized on the lines of race and
class, provided the marginalized and disempowered West Indians,
more often than not, an unparalleled medium of social interaction,
communication and self-expression. It was through cricket that a
source of social solidarity, collective identity and group pride, was
ushered in the West Indies. West Indian teams and star players served
as symbols of the entire community, rallying points, a way to establish
collective identities and express collective sentiments. *e it Constantine or
<eor#e Challenor, <eor#e 1eadley, or >t. 1ill, cricket was the only place where they
e,pressed themselves. 4ore than the nat%ral a&ility of the cricketer, it was the
responsi&ility, and the challen#e that made the West Indian cricketer innovative. While
talkin# of the &attin# of some of the West Indian players, James says
"8
I&id. /. 67.
"5
Christopher, Joe
!est match or no !est match. If I am not mistaken, in >o&ers,
3Collie >mith, and Lanhai I have seen the same spirit fi#htin# for
e,pression a#ainst the heavy &%rdens that were %ne,pectedly placed %pon
them in "F8C.
"@

James was of the view that the art of West Indian cricket was a prod%ct of the
racism, determination, class str%##le etc. Gnlike Card%s, and most other thinkers of the
4ar,ist school, James was of the view that art was not a%tonomo%s to life, and that
cricket is no e,ception. $eil LaJar%s s%mmin# %p the de&ate on art says
James writes not only a#ainst the $eville Card%ses of his world,
e,ponents of a frankly confessed conservatism in c%lt%ral criticism, &%t
also a#ainst implicitly, a#ainst s%ch radical c%lt%ral theorists as !heodor
W. Adorno, who also insist %pon the )a%tonomy+ of modern art from life.
"C
James was ri#htly critical of the patronisin# attit%de that the ;n#land press
adopted while it e,oticised a West Indian player. While talkin# of one partic%lar stroke of
Constantine, the le#9#lance from o%tside the off st%mp to lon#9le# James says
It was not d%e to his marvello%s West Indian eyes and marvello%s
West Indian wrists. It was d%e, if yo% m%st have it, to his marvello%s West
Indian &rains. 1e saw that the &est lea#%e &owlers were always o%t to pin
him down, and the conditions incl%din# the marvello%s lea#%e crowds,
compelled him to work o%t new and safe ways of co%nterin# them.
":

"@
I&id. p. "6".
"C
>ee LaJar%s, $eil. 3Cricket, modernism, national c%lt%re: the case of
C.L.R. James, "ationalis# and Cultural $ractise, p. "85, "FF8!
":
>ee James, C.L.R. Beyond a Boundary, p. "6'.
""
Christopher, Joe
West Indian Cricket provided the pop%lation with
sym&olic capital
"F
as well.
Constantine cricket took him to Lancashire and he in t%rned helped James p%&lish
James political work on West Indies. !he athletic intellect%al and the intellect%al minded
athlete
'5
as /a%l *%hle has addressed James and Constantine provided to &e the finest
specimens in ;n#land, as they went a&o%t lect%rin# on the needs of West Indian
independence.
James, &red on ;n#lish school ed%cation, classics, and morals was of the view
that the #ame ;n#land and the ;n#lish were the &est. James &elieved in the spirit that was
ta%#ht in the school, adhered to the morals that were preached to him. 1e realised
towards the end of his schooldays the life in West Indies was completely modelled on the
;n#lish. 1e says
It was only lon# years after that I %nderstood the limitation on
spirit, vision and self9respect which was imposed on %s &y the fact that o%r
masters, o%r c%rric%l%m, o%r code of morals, everythin# &e#an from the
&asis that *ritain was the so%rce of all li#ht and leadin#, and o%r &%siness
was to admire, wonder, imitate, learn= o%r criterion of s%ccess was to have
s%cceeded in approachin# the distant ideal9to attain it was, of co%rse,
impossi&le. *oth masters and the &oys accepted it as in the very nat%re of
thin#s. As for me it was the &eacon that &eckoned me on.
'"

"F
1artmann, 2o%#las. 3What can we learn from sport, if we take sport
serio%sly as a racial force Lessons from C.L.R. Jamess Beyond A
Boundary, Ethnic and Racial Studies, 4ay '556 pa#es 78"97:6.
'5
>ee *%hle, /a%l. 3/olitical >tyles of C.L.R. James: An
Introd%ction,C!%!R! &a#es: 'is %i(e and )ork, "F:@.
'"
>ee James, C.L.R. Beyond a Boundary, p. 65.
"'
Christopher, Joe
What is dist%r&in# in Jamess &ook is the fact that he &elieves in the distinction
&etween the &eni#n and the otherwise colonialists. James, tho%#h a 4ar,ist, was
infl%enced &y the literat%re of !homas 1%#hes, W.C. <race, and !homas Arnold. James,
thro%#h these fi#%res &elieves that there is a h%man aspect to the coloniser as well. !his, I
pres%me is the reason why he says
Clearin# the way with &at and &all, West Indians at that moment
had made a p%&lic entry into the comity of nations. !homas Arnold,
!homas 1%#hes and the (ld 4aster himself wo%ld have reco#nised -rank
Worrell as their &oy.
''

James said these lines while descri&in# the farewell that -rank Worrells men #ot
in A%stralia, which was %nparalleled in the history of sport. James definitely so%nded
.%ite optimistic here, as the racial 4.C.C very soon &ro%#ht in the one &o%ncer r%le to
c%r& the West Indian cricket.
Jamess Beyond a Boundary was s%pposed to &e the %nofficial twelfth man in the
West Indies cricket teams. $o other &ook on cricket had capt%red the essence of the
cricketers, nation and the #ame the way Jamess one did.
''
>ee James, C.L.R. Beyond a Boundary, p. '@".
"6
Christopher, Joe
*i&lio#raphy
1! *%hle, /a%l. 3/olitical >tyles of C.L.R. James: An Introd%ction,C!%!R! &a#es:
'is %i(e and )ork, "F:@.
*! 2iawara, 4anthia. 3;n#lishness and *lackness: Cricket as a 2isco%rse on
Colonialism, Callaloo 13 (1990!
3! <%ha, Ramachandra. 3*lack is *o%ntif%l: C.L.R. James, +he %ast %i,eral and
Other Essays, /ermanent *lack, '557.
-! 1artmann, 2o%#las. 3What can we learn from sport, if we take sport serio%sly as a
racial force Lessons from C.L.R. Jamess Beyond A Boundary, Ethnic and Racial
Studies, 4ay '556 pa#es 78"97:6.
.! LaJar%s, $eil. 3Cricket, modernism, national c%lt%re: the case of C.L.R. James,
"ationalis# and Cultural $ractise!
"7