Time called on `unofficial Test matches’ on the beach – Elroy Stephney reminisces

Time called on `unofficial Test matches’ on the beach – Elroy Stephney reminisces

Former Essequibo cricketer Elroy Stephney.

NOTHING was more pleasurable to me than spending hours of enthralling rivalry on the ragged Henrietta Beach on the Essequibo Coast.

The primitively constructed waterfront was laid out with a vast expanse of solid brown sand, strewn with small rocks, whispering flowers and complete with various, busy insects.

The waves usually washed ashore gently; but as the minutes ticked away, they rose angrily, accompanied by roaring sounds, signalling us to retreat. Splashes of water would forcibly spill over in some sections and at that moment, you knew it was time to leave the natural forces alone.

Coincidentally, the venue was where the unofficial Test matches were hosted, many of which resulted in disputes. Triumphs were celebrated with lemonade drink for the rookies and Vodka/rum for the veterans, whose consumption level would rise simultaneously with the waves. Historically too it was where I learnt to swim and I could boast of mastering the art.

In contrast, modern venues now have the luxury of impressive, swimming pools. It is quite sad indeed that these delightful times no longer exist due to environmental transformation relating to climate change.

Mangrove trees are now being grown on the beach as a means of combatting the threatening high seas. Mosquitoes, crabs and undesirable insects have replaced the robust hitting and searing pace-bowling on the water’s edge.

The unpopular intervention has left us still counting our losses of the number of balls that disappeared with the waves beyond the horizon.

Yet, I still remember timing a solid supreme ball in the old Rohan Kanhai-like fashion and as it beats the diving fielder the ball will travel with Usain Bolt- like speed along the thinly compact stretch of sand without an end in sight. The game would momentarily cease for the retriever whose energy level was often tested.

On other occasions, a cycle was substituted to minimise time.  There was never a dull moment and scores of seasoned players from the villages would assemble every Sunday for our Mini World Cup.

Sometimes the intense and gripping encounters would create the monsters in us, as though unfazed by the gentleman’s mantra; yet minutes after, orderliness would be restored though not by the umpire who, in rare cases, would portray judge-like qualities. More often than not his decisions would cause chaos.

Had there been a tribunal though, many of the seemingly noble men would have been implicated for conspiracy. It was a habitual, if not acceptable way, however, of preserving the elites’ supremacy when they were on the losing end on an often hostile turf.

Upon reflection and as I stood momentarily with a great sense of cherished memories; Henrietta Beach will remain an indelible feature of my childhood recreational foundation.

In fact, the monumental space will also be remembered for the rare sights of whales, sea cows, manatees and numerous unknown fishes.

A new chapter has now emerged and I reckon that the kids will now have to seek other open areas to explore. This environmental dispensation is occurring throughout the length of the seabed along the Essequibo Coast.

Time therefore has been promptly called on our ‘unofficial’ Test matches there.

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