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24 September 2014

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Everton Weekes
Everton Weekes: Leo's inspiration

Back to Barbados for the cricket

Leo Jones left Barbados for Reading in the 1950s hoping to improve his cricket. Half a century later, he's going back to watch the West Indies host the Cricket World Cup for the first time.

73-year-old Leo Jones came to Reading in the early 1950s from Barbados. The reason? Cricket. But now he's going back and again, cricket is behind it all.

"This is the first time the World Cup has been played in the West Indies," he told BBC Berkshire's Louise Chandler. "If they do get another one, I won't be around. So I can't miss this one. You have to be there."

Leo grew up in cricket-mad Barbados with the sport all around him.

"My uncles used to take me to cricket to watch them play and when I was about 12 or 13, I used to pray for one of the men not to turn up - if they were one short I'd get a chance.

Computer graphic of Kensington Oval, Barbados
How World Cup cricket in Barbados will look

"Cricket was a talent God gave to me. We had no training or anything like that, you'd learn by watching the strokes the players made and trying to imitate them."

Old school ties

Leo spent his childhood watching West Indian greats ply their trade on his doorstep.

"I remember watching Everton Weekes, he was your man for the square cut. Frank Worrell was an artist with the bat, and when Clyde Walcott hit the ball at you, he'd hit it again and again until you moved - you couldn't stop it.

"And you concentrate on these things - if you went to high school you used to get a day off to go and watch cricket, so I'd borrow my high school friend's tie so I could get in and watch them play."

"We'd go up to play in Oxford or Slough and take two or three coaches of supporters with us."
Leo Jones on the cricket club he founded in Reading

Leo moved to America in the early 1950s but then took a boat across the Atlantic, ending up in Reading, as he'd been told a life in England would improve his cricket.

"I started the Reading West Indies cricket club. A lot of the black community was involved. We'd go up to play in Oxford or Slough and take two or three coaches of supporters with us.

"There was no difference between playing in Barbados and playing here. We had a majority of Barbadians in our team."

'I've got two teams'

"A lot of people in England follow football or rugby instead," says Leo. "They can't understand that it's such a difficult game to play.

West Indies team
Today's West Indies team ahead of the World Cup

"You've got a split second to make up your mind how to play at the ball, that's coming down at 100mph. In other sports all the players have time."

Leo may be a Barbadian at heart but he's grown to love England in the half century he's spent living in Berkshire. Even though he's going back to Barbados for the 2007 Cricket World Cup, he insists he'll cheer England on.

"I've got two teams in the World Cup: the West Indies and England. If the two of them end up in the final, Leo Jones can't lose, because one of them has to win."

You can hear more from Leo and other members of Berkshire's Bajan community with Louise Chandler, every Sunday night from 9pm on BBC Radio Berkshire.

last updated: 25/02/07
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