As regular readers will recall and for the benefit of my new readers (welcome), at the end of each ‘foray’ into cricket tours and tourist venues, I try to summarise my thoughts and views on what I have experienced. So here goes but interspersed with some of my favourite photos! (Suggestions have been made that I enter some for competitions?)
Each of the islands – Antigua, Barbados and Grenada – has its own style and approach. Not having visited any of these countries before, it’s very much ‘a first impressions’ view.
Antigua portrays itself as a cross between a party island and a holiday destination with small intimate beaches and coves. Limited opportunities to see much other than the cricket ground(s) and the hotel/resort complex but the roads need a lot of work!
Barbados was brash, bold and with over 8,000 England fans including the ever-present barmies it turned, for me, into what cricket would be like in Benidorm! I’m not a great fan of the ‘in your face’ approach. However, again I was there only for a week with little opportunities outside cricket to explore properly so there’s probably more to see, outside of Bridgetown.
Grenada for me was the favourite. Everywhere is a photographer’s delight with so much to see. So much colour and vibrancy, spectacle after spectacle and a cricket ground with some of the most colourful views you’ll ever see. Admittedly there was more time to explore given England’s poor performance and perhaps this extra time has swayed my views.
But everywhere people were welcoming and so pleased that we’re visiting after their tourist industries – the drivers of their economy – just stopped with the pandemic. Each nation is getting to grips with reopening and there are teething challenges along the way, but accept that, as well as the regional culture and everything will be fine…eventually!
Whilst I’ve been to other faraway places to watch cricket, this was my first experience of a ‘big’ tour – ‘big’ in terms of numbers of people but also as major holiday destinations, with dare I say, more people interested in the sun/beach/pool aspect of their time away rather than the cricket. I know cricket is not top of everyone’s list but nonetheless those who were following the cricket were as intense, immersed and involved as ever.
The knowledge of my fellow tourists continued to surprise, delight and reassure me that the intensity and passion for test (proper) cricket continues to thrive across the ages.
Loud! Everywhere wherever music is played it’s done so at ear shattering volumes, so much so that on more than one occasion the ground several metres away shook from the noise. Health and safety or choice/preference/consideration for others nowhere to be seen; hearing loss businesses will do a roaring trade fairly soon! Ok, it’s called music but to me it sounds like a racket – yes, I know, I’ve been called an old git or f**t on many occasions and I need to ‘get down with the kids’ and I inhabit a parallel universe when it comes to popular culture but…
…It is part of the culture in the Caribbean and needs to be absorbed but the sheer noise level volume takes one by surprise. And writing of noise levels…with the England team and members of the media staying in the same hotel in Grenada, it’s clear from the ‘end of tour karaoke evening’ why the players and journos have chosen the careers they have 😱!
One other thread which has made this tour unique is the need to manage all aspects of the pandemic – additional testing before and during, different approaches in each nation but also the economic and operational impact of the re-opening of economies. Richer countries just went into deep freeze whilst those with fewer resources struggled to get by – and as a consequence are finding reopening difficult.
Perhaps some travellers have set higher standards and expectations and have found things wanting. ‘Travel broadens the mind’ and just underscores the rich variety of lifestyles seen around the globe; the best way with these things is just to ‘go with the flow’ and follow the Caribbean anthem – ‘don’t worry, everything’s…’
On the cricket pitch there has been plenty to savour, enjoy and to photograph/write about (and thank you dear reader – my blog site was viewed over 2,700 times last month) and off the pitch plenty to enjoy, discuss and laugh over.
Somewhat tongue in cheek, elsewhere I’ve described following an England tour to the Windies as a ‘tough job but someone’s got to do it’ – Tiring? Yes! Enjoyable? Yes! Would I do it again? In the blink of an eye!