The national cricket teams of Jamaica and Trinidad will have more than winning in mind when they arrive in South Florida for a historic match celebrating each country’s golden jubilee of independence.
Athletes and organizers of the matchup at Central Broward Regional Park say they hope to do what Federation of the West Indies politicians failed to do geopolitically 50 years earlier: unite the English-speaking Caribbean.
“Cricket isn’t just a sport,” said Anil Ramnanan, consul general for Trinidad and Tobago in Miami, whose consulate is promoting the event along with Miami’s Jamaican Consulate General. “Cricket is a language and the history of the West Indies could be told in the tale of cricket.”
Indeed, in a region separated by ocean and dialect, but united by a common history, cricket has been a unifying force: The West Indies cricket team consists of players from across the English-speaking Caribbean.
“The only time we come together as one nation is West Indies cricket,” said Kamal Abdool, who is organizing the Friday and Saturday matches with help from the countries’ diaspora groups. “The one thing that is a common thread throughout the English-speaking Caribbean is cricket.”
Retired Jamaican-born cricket player Lawrence Rowe agrees.
Now a Miami resident, Rowe holds a 40-year-old cricket record after scoring a triple century — 302 runs — in his first Test Match.
“Jamaica got independence on Aug. 6, and Trinidad on Aug. 31. In the English-speaking Caribbean, we were the first,” said Rowe, who is expected to captain the Jamaica Consul General team as it plays “a friendly” match against the Trinidad and Tobago Consul General team before the national teams debut on the field.
“That is what we are celebrating,” said Rowe. “It’s not about the competitiveness of the two islands.”
Sandra Grant Griffiths, Jamaica’s consul general in Miami, is already calling the winner.
“We’re sure we are going to win, and they are sure they’re going to win,” she joked.
The friendly challenge on U.S. soil in Broward, considered the seat of the English-speaking Caribbean in Florida, is just one of many activities planned to celebrate both islands’ 50th anniversary of independence from Britain.
• Miami’s Jamaican Consulate General has designated Monday Flag Day in celebration of Jamaica’s being the first and largest of the Caribbean nations to end British rule, on Aug. 6, 1962.
The country’s easily recognizable black-gold-and-green flag will be on display throughout South Florida, including at the Miramar Town Center.
• The iconic Miami Towers at Southeast Second Street and First Avenue in downtown Miami also will be lit in the island’s colors.
• Additional events for Jamaica50 include church services, cultural celebrations and an Aug. 18 anniversary gala in Miami featuring Jamaica’s Governor General, Sir Patrick Allen.
“What we want to say is that we are a nation of achievers and achievements,” Grant Griffiths said of Jamaica, whose strong sense of identity is lauded in its music, culture and reputation as a track-and-field powerhouse. “We have accepted our challenges the world has thrown at us, and responded accordingly. And we are prepared to use all of our experiences to move forward.”
• Like Jamaica, the local Trinidad and Tobago’s Consulate General will also host a gala to highlight the nation’s achievements and nationals who have made worthy contributions in academia, art, culture, music, business, community service, health and sports. The invitation-only, black-tie event will take place Aug. 12 at the Broward County Convention Center.
“Fifty years is a very young state in the development and governance of any country,” said Ramnanan, the consul general. “By no means, is it a very long time. But we would like to learn from some of the lessons coming out of that 50 years and celebrate the successes.”
• The Twenty/20 Cricket Match takes place at 6 p.m. Friday and 2 p.m. Saturday at the Central Broward Regional Park, 3700 NW 11th Pl., Lauderhill. Tickets start at $12 for covered stands, $75 for VIP. For additional information visit www.CricketGuardian.com or call 561-376-7251