Cricket - Sri Lanka v England First Test Preview - Galle, Sri Lanka - 25/3/12
Locals play beach cricket ahead of the first test between Sri Lanka and England
Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Jason O'Brien
What The Hell Happened to Cricket in The Bahamas? (Part 2)
I originally wrote this for the National Sports Museum but they never paid me so here it is. To read part 1 click here.
Part one of this piece dealt with Cricket’s origin and the expansion of the sport throughout the British Empire into The Bahamas. This chapter deals with the expansion and eventual dwindling of The Sport in The Bahamas.
The Expansion of Organized Cricket in The Late 19th Century
At the end of 1872 the Bahamas Cricket Club formed and in January of 1873, construction began building a pitch on East Shirley Street. This would become the main pitch where black players and crowds gathered on Sundays to play the sport and socialize (Craton & Saunders, 1998).
By the 1880s cricket was the preeminent form of recreation for boys in The Bahamas. There were a number of cricket clubs on the island as well as a few pitches available to play on including the site of the current cricket club. Baseball, despite its raging popularity in the nearby United States, was nonexistent in The Bahamas. (Northcroft, 1902)
Cricket remained the most popular sport in The Bahamas for the first half of the 20th century, however, the islands themselves didn’t fare as well.
The great depression, which started in 1929, had rendered the Bahamas a destitute wasteland of a colony, especially in the out islands where residents deserted en masse to the U.S. and to New Providence. Governor Sir Bede Clifford decided to divert the colony’s limited resources towards the centralized population base in New Providence. Clifford also wanted to make the island more welcoming to out-island transplants by improving the island’s recreational facilities.
He would go on to personally ply his trade as a surveyor to convert to the area near Fort Charlotte into a beautiful recreational area that included a Cricket pitch and a golf course (Craton & Saunders, 1998). That recreational area that he painstakingly laid out is now known as Clifford Park.
In the decades following the renovation of Clifford Park, the western cricket pitch remained a prominent social and sporting gathering for upper-crust Bahamians on the weekends. Cricket continued to be the most popular form of recreation for Bahamian children, but its status as the top sport in The Bahamas would not last.
The Waning Popularity of Cricket in the Late 20th Century
As the Bahamas continued its slow march towards independence following the end of the Second World War, the sport of cricket became increasingly niche thanks to the fact that fewer officials were being sent to The Bahamas from cricket loving places. There were fewer government bureaucrats and teachers from England and fewer policemen from Barbados to perpetuate the sport in The Bahamas (Craton & Saunders, 1998).
While the infusion of enthusiastic supporters from England and the West Indies dwindled, the sport lost some of its best local talent to baseball in the 1950s and 1960s. The earliest generation of Bahamian Baseball players, athletes like Wenty Fordand a young cricketeer who was taught to hit a baseball at the advanced age of 17 named Andre Rodgers, were premier Bahamian cricket players who converted to baseball in the 1950s.
A generation of pioneering, and wildly talented baseball players such as Vince Ferguson, Ed Armbrister and Tony Curry followed in their footsteps eschewing cricket, the game they grew up loving, for the fame and fortune of Major League Baseball. The choice was an easy one to make considering they had more access to the highest level of baseball while the prospect of them making anything resembling a living playing cricket was a near-impossibility.
This group became role models for little boys in The Bahamas, (Craton & Saunders, 1998), creating the environment that decades later would breed former Major League Baseball player Antoan Richardson and top-ranked prospects Jazz Chisolm and Lucius Fox Jr.
Cricket wasn’t able to withstand the drain of talent created by the ascendance of baseball in The Bahamas. Andre Rodgers, Tony Curry, Ed Ambrister and the great baseball players of their generation had unwittingly made unpopular the sport that they grew up loving.
While the rise of baseball led to a drain on Bahamian cricket talent, the advent of television led to a drain on Bahamian interest (Craton & Saunders, 1998). By the 1970 Bahamians were able to watch American sports like Basketball, American Football and Baseball in their own homes on local Miami stations.
Sunday outings at the cricket pitch were replaced by Sundays on the couch watching football, which became more compelling at a time when the more talented cricket players were now baseball players.
The late 20th and early 21st Centuries: Fielding International Teams.
Cricket continued to be played recreationally in The Bahamas despite its decline towards the end of the 20th century. In 1987 the country became an affiliate member of the International Cricket Council (ICC) in the Americas Region. The Bahamas played a number of matches but it didn’t make its international debut until 2002 when it came 5th place in the ICC Americas championship. (Cricket Archive, 2017)
The Bahamas Cricket club has built on the successes of the national Cricket team to expand into local primary and secondary schools, in an effort to build a talent base for itself (The International Cricket Council, 2017).
Though the Bahamas has had recent success in international cricket, the future of the sport is uncertain. Cricket has come a long way from being the sport of choice played by children on every street in Nassau to being supplanted in popularity by track and field, baseball, basketball and even American football, greatly thinning the sport’s talent base in The Bahamas.
With a combination of older players and coaches who remember the glory days of Bahamian Cricket, transplants from other Caribbean countries and homegrown talent, the Bahamas national cricket team hopes to continue building on the successes it experienced in the first decade of the 21st century.
Meanwhile, Bahamians have moved on in other sports.
Birley, D. (1999). A Social History of Cricket. London: Aurum Press.
Bowen, R. (1970). Cricket: A History of its Growth and Development. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode .
Craton, M., & Saunders, G. (1998). Islanders in The Stream Volume II: From the Ending of Slavery to the Twenty First Century. Athens, Georgia: University of Georgia.
Cricket Archive. (2017, February 26). Full List of ICC Members. Retrieved from cricketarchive.com: https://www.cricketarchive.co.uk/Archive/Countries/index.html
Northcroft, G. H. (1902). Sketches of Summerland. Nassau: The Nassau Guardian.
The International Cricket Council . (2017, Februrary 28). ICC Members: The Bahamas. Retrieved from The International Cricket Council Website: https://www.icc-cricket.com/about/members/americas/affiliate/72
Wynne, T. P. (1997). The History of Cricket: From The Weald to The World. London: Seven Hills Books.