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Visiting the ghosts at Bourda

Martin Gough | 16:03 UK time, Monday, 9 April 2007

Martin GoughGuyana - It has become a sporting cliché to claim you can feel the history seeping from the pores of an old arena but if I am going to use it once on this trip it will be on Georgetown’s Bourda ground.

This venerable, timber-built venue just east of the city centre has hosted cricket since 1884, when British Guiana called it home.

Its first Test in 1930 saw Learie Constantine’s nine wickets and a century from George Headley shepherd West India to victory over an England side captained by Hon FS Calthorpe (uncle of Test Match Special's Henry Blofeld).

Surveying Bourda in this photo taken by Richard Sydenham

Calthorpe’s successor Michael Atherton hit a seven-hour 144 in the second Test of 1994, only to see his side beaten by an innings and 44 runs after Brian Lara bettered his total.

Hometown hero Lance Gibbs took a second innings 6-60 in 1960 but could not claim the vital final scalp as Alan Knott’s dogged 73 not out saw England clinch a draw and preserve a 1-0 series lead.

Rohan Kanai, who was born just down the east coast in Berbice, hit 150 in that match and his face peers down in flaking paint from the stand that bears his name.

Georgetown Cricket Club still operates from Bourda, which has been used as a training venue by several teams preparing for World Cup matches at the brand new Guyana National Stadium in Providence, 20 minutes’ drive to the south.

The pavilion at fine leg, where Australian and West Indian players from Kerry Packer’s World Series Cricket cowered during a riot in 1977, still opens its bar to members most days.

On Easter Sunday, the place was locked but it meant the cricketing ghosts had the place to themselves before I convinced the solitary gateman this would be my only chance to pay them a visit.

The claustrophobic, wooden, double-decker stands were empty but it was easy to picture them packed to over-flowing with singing, dancing, shouting, drinking, conch-blowing, passionate fans.

I have spent the last fortnight trekking on an almost-daily basis to Providence, where the $30m stadium has been a fine host without demonstrating the soul that has always defined the game in the West Indies.

The new Providence stadium has been fine but has yet to develop any soul

For reasons that have affected the entire tournament – high ticket prices, restrictive rules on fans, the failure of India and Pakistan and a focus on international visitors among them – the new place has never been full to its 15,000 bursting point.

It has generally gained good reviews for its facilities, although there have been teething troubles such as a lack of shelter from the sun in the stands.

The local fans who used to gather on the grass bank at Bourda will probably be on the new one at Providence to watch either Sri Lanka or Australia play in the ground’s first Test in 2008.

This isn’t like Antigua, where a trip back to the Recreation Ground prompted Mike Selvey of the Guardian to write last week: “I shut my eyes once more, feel the vibes and want to weep.”

Colin Croft, fast bowler from the West Indies golden era who grew up just down the road but only played one of his 27 Tests at his home ground, smiles and says: “It’s progress.

“The places that have done best are Sabina Park in Jamaica, Queens Park Oval in Trinidad and probably Kensington Oval in Barbados, where they have rebuilt the old grounds.

“But I don’t know if they could have expanded Bourda because of where it’s situated.”

The old place is ringed on three sides by a drainage canal and public roads, making it far easier to build a new venue in the flat expanse of cane fields on the edge of town.

Bourda was infamous for falling prey to bad weather. Rain stopped play for two hours during South Africa's game against Ireland in Providence last week. The Bourda outfield was still waterlogged the following morning.

The sort of health and safety officials who police global sporting occasions would have a field day with Bourda’s current stands, just as they would with English soccer grounds that were judged perfectly adequate less than a decade ago.

It has been promised first-class games but financial imperatives may still intervene.

“It’s like a new car – at first everything feels new but eventually it’s just like the old car,” says Croft.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t still pine occasionally for the old jalopy.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 06:31 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Mohamed (Breado) wrote:

Bourda we used to say was 2nd to none. It's like stepping back in time.

Remember when my dad 1st took me there in 70's. He reached for his wallet in his back pocket just before he was about to enter...wallet not there thanks to a pickpocket. Remember the stories, exaggerated of course, of the old timers going on about the players before my time. I saw my childhood hero, R.B. Kanhai, in his last (test match vs Eng) match at Bourda. Saw Majid Khan and Zaheer Abass destroy WI in Pak 2nd innings. Remember our local heroes, Keith Glasgow, Milton Pydana, Adjoda Persaud, Faoud Bacchus, Sew Shivnarine, Stephen Camacho, Roy Fredericks, Clive lloyd, and many many more. Remember the goosebumps when we were about to see Jeff Thompson bowl for the first time, surely he was going to bowl at least 100 mph! So many fond memories of beautiful Bourda. It was great getting half day off school to go see Shell Shield or Test matches.

Most of all though, my best memory was of my late dad (may God grant him Jannah) taking me to see cricket at the old Bourda cricket ground.


  • 2.
  • At 07:01 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • John Kozlich wrote:

New Zealand, now that you have blown out Ireland I hope you are proud and satisfied with yourselves. I wouldn't whip a dog the way you did Ireland, Shame on you, you are soooo superior did you have to shame Ireland that badly.

  • 3.
  • At 07:08 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Martin Gough wrote:

John, Have you been watching this game at all? Were it not for the last four overs of New Zealand's innings, when they hit 53 runs, Ireland would be in with a good chance.

  • 4.
  • At 08:17 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • David wrote:

Life must continue to evolve. We cherish Bourda and its history , but in time the new ground at Providence will build its legacy. Bourda is no longer adequate.

One strong memory was watching Roy Fredricks pulverise the Jamaican attack featuring Courtney Walsh for 217 in 1983. He was 43 at the time, and it was an honor to see such a performance. Freddo came out of retirement to play for Guyana that year. What a batsman! That same match I saw Rohan Khanai the first time, but he was coach of the Jamaican team.

Another fond memory was watching Allan Border bat against Guyana in a practice match. He sent Roger Harper for 6 over Regent Street. It was an effortless stroke.

One year, Guyana was reeling against some other team in the Shell Shield. Alvin Kallicharan was still at the crease. All of a sudden a helicopter lands near Bourda. Out steps Clive Lloyd to save the day and match with Kallicharan.

Who could forget boys climbing the trees outside the ground to watch cricket. My first time at Bourda was when a kind gentleman from the neighborhood took me along with him.

The names that graced the ground is a tribute to the history of test and regional cricket. There are obvious names such as Clive Lloyd, but there were other great players who could have played for most other other international teams but just had the "bad luck" of being West Indian. Milton Pydanna was my favorite keeper, even though Deryck Murray and Jeff Dujon was ahead of him in the WI pecking order. The power of an Andrew Lyght cover drive. Watching Clyde Butts, Roger Harper, and Deryck Kallicharran bowling spin. Wondering if Leslaine Lambert could make the WI team as a fast bowler. Feeling proud of a fellow student Garfield Charles bowling his medium pacers. Hooper and Chanderpaul doing it for Guyana and WI in more recent years.

As a youngster, I knew best to listen to the old timers at the ground speak of players before my time. I would marvel at the turnout of Indo-Guyanese coming from Berbice to watch India or Pakistan.

  • 5.
  • At 08:33 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Gavin O'Neill wrote:

Here's a quiz Q- there is only 1 word in the English language that finishes with the letters AMT. What is it?

This is a general whine, really. I am in the US and can see no commercial reason whatsoever why I should be prevented from listening to to TMS, or any other cricket commentary. I appreciate that if the owners of the TV broadcast think there may be a market here and can get money for the satlink,... but sound for god's sake!! I cannot afford to buy picture, and feel massively deprived of live voice. It is v frustrating to get about ten minutes and then told the commentary is available on line only for listeners in the UK.

  • 7.
  • At 09:40 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Neil Kanhai-Saunders wrote:

I trust the ghosts of Bourda who have blessed us all and brought a smile to our faces on many a day in the past and made our everyday lives happier with so many memories of Yesterday be able in the True spirit of Cricket to carry the good work on and spurn on the ghosts of the future who will roam around the new stadium for sure.
I have been inspired by so many ghosts
it is almost frightening, what a wonderful feeling it has been.

  • 8.
  • At 10:27 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Mohamed (Breado) wrote:

Answer to Gavin O'Neill:
Are you sure that this is not one of those urban myths.

To Marty... don't want to put you on the hot seat again, but don't you think that as good as the new stadium at providence looks inside, something ios missing. I have not seen it yet, but from the pictures that I have seen, it looks like there is no pavilion. maybe I am too traditional and sentimental, but I like to see the Umpires, fielding team and two bats men emerging from the pavilion.

Some of my othet not expert observations:

1 Mistake not to put in seats that folds up.
2.Mistake not to put in electronic scoreboard.
3.Mistake not to put in floodlights.

Okay, so money is short, but adding later would cost more.
Besides, if the players are going to play in coloured clothing, why not day-night matches under floodlights. More fun and more people in the stands...oops, I forgot, the ICC don't want that.

Bt the way Marty, whereever you ae off to next, I hope you have fun. I'll try to keep up with your blogs.


  • 9.
  • At 10:45 PM on 09 Apr 2007,
  • Mohamed (Breado) wrote:

I tried posting earlier, but I am not sure if it went thru. Sorry if I repeat myself.

Answer to Gavin O'Neill: DREAMT (are you sure that this is not a myth?)

Marty, don't mean to put you on the hot seat, but don't you think that the new stadium is missing a real pavilion, or am I being too sentimental and traditional? I confess that I am no expert and I am only going by what I see in pictures so please correct me if I am mistaken.
Also observed several mistakes as follows:
1. Inadequate cover for hot tropical sunshine
2. No electronic scoreboard (nice touch if you buy Pres. Jagdeo's line about retaining the flavor of Bourda)
3. No Floodlights (maybe too many fans would want to see a day-night match and that would upset the ICC)

Hope you have as much fun at your next stop Marty, but you know that Guyana would be hard to beat.


  • 10.
  • At 01:26 AM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • James wrote:

Posted Eralier bur it did not go through.
I grew up 100 yeards from the GCC; my dad played for BG in the 30's before WW2 ended his cricketing career; he was still voted top UK player in Stalag 44 in a series bteween UK, Au and RoW.

I started watching test cricket in the GCC in late 50's ans saw Gibbs getting the 6 wickets and Knott and Cowdrey saving the game for England.

As a teenager I played there with Clyde Walcott and Steve Comacho and even remember Basil Butcher on the opposing team. Not that I was any good but at 17 was a good fielder.

I will alwyas cherich a great ground especially as the walk to it was 2 minutes, throurh Fatima RC Church.

I now live in Antigua, and expect the WARG will still host test cricket and the new stadium (although large and impressive) will become a mauloleum. It is too large to have an atmosphere and if WI vs Au and Eng vs Au could only half fill it, it has to be back to the ARG for normal games.

What can I say; PROGRESS at a teriobble price

James de F

  • 11.
  • At 01:45 AM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • HG wrote:

Thank you for the brief moment of reminiscence of Bourda. I was taken back to this place of such great memories and wonder though your reflection. I attended any number of matches there as a young person, including the match which you cite (1968 I think and not 1960 as you mention). I sneaked through the adjacent fence of the football field only to see Basil Butcher run out while batting with Kanhai in that test. Sobers joined Kanhai and they proceeded to create an extraordinary partnership, with Kanhai 150 and Sobers 150+. I recall Kanhai sweeping paceman IJ Jones flat on his back. I was in Guyana for a couple of the Super 8 matches and the Providence stadium is splendid---but Bourda will always hold an enduring place in the hearts of the cricketing world.

Many thanks

Hemchand Gossai

  • 12.
  • At 04:21 AM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • Mohamed (Breado) wrote:

Marty, this should have been your first blog upon arrival. Then it would have been all love for you in Guyana.

I will always be prejuduced where Bourda is concerned, because it's in my homeland. It's where me and a school friend from QC, whom I bumped into at the Eng/WI test match that was to be Kanhai's last test at Bourda, took the customary first stroll around the ground at lunch break. I guess because we were 2 tiny kids, no one stopped us.

I've been to Lords (1983 Prudential WC final) and many other cricket grounds and they are all special, but the intimacy of a Bourda could never be replaced.

One could only hope that they don't price the kids out of the new stadiums. They deserve to have their own memories.

  • 13.
  • At 02:12 PM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • Courtney Barrow wrote:

My memories of bourda as a young man growing up in georgetown are very fond. The " birdmen" who atayed up in the trees surrounding the ground, the laughable arguments they had with the mauby and roti vendors. the men in the trees tied a basket to a rope and let it down for the vendors to put the food in. ( sometimes they refused to pay ) I have memories of Garry Sobers making a dramatic catch of Brian Booth of Australia off the bowling of Lance Gibbs. I also saw Butcher hit a century plus not out against australia.. Last but not least the exciting Rohan Kanhai who made cricket a joy to watch. Bourda will live in my memory forever

  • 14.
  • At 03:27 PM on 10 Apr 2007,
  • Jabez Grant wrote:

Old timers who visited England "back in the day" would use the phrase 'cricket lovely cricket at Lords where I saw it' but for me 'popeing' from the GFC ground next to Bourda was best. My late Father taking my brother and I to a game after mom packed a food basket, the oneness of Guyana's six races. Clive Lloyd being brought back by Prime Minister Forbes Burnham to play against New Zeland and legendary fielder Bevan Congdon. Watching Lance Gibbs spin with those long fingers, Basil Butcher with the part in his hair, Gary Sobers with his shirt collar up, gray haired Rohan 'Babulal' Kanhai, Roy Fredericks hooking bouncers overhead I can fill a text-book. One thing I can attest to and I'm sure we all would agree, you would never go hungry or thirsty at Bourda. Hip! Hip! to the old ground.

  • 15.
  • At 04:12 PM on 11 Apr 2007,
  • Peter Borland wrote:

Enjoyed the article. Of all the West Indies grounds that I have visited, unfortunately Bourda was not one of them. Hopefully in the future, I will get there to Guyana a Test match.

(Minor point - The Alan Knott Test was in 1968, and Jeff Jones played out the final over to save the game)

I was In Port of Spain to see the group matches there, and the ICC/LOC ruined the Carib atmosphere with the sterile stadium which was 90% full for the India/Sri Lanka game, but the others were not very well attended. For the Bermuda v Bangladesh game, I tried to purchase a US$15 ticket at the local ticket office, only to be told that the cheapest ticket was US$30 (TT$200). In the ground there was less than 2000 people... someone was telling porkies.

Has anyone at the ICC ever been to a test or ODI in the West Indies before?

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