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Cricket news - Antigua Diaries: Drivin' around with a Gavaskar fan

'Buddha' is also a self-confessed 'non-fan' of Andy Roberts, the West Indies fast bowling enforcer of their golden era

"No, I don't like that Andy." I had to do a double take and actually check to make sure he meant the Andy Roberts. Sir Andy Roberts. One of the quickest ever to have bowled, by many accounts of his contemporaries.

I am, after all, in Antigua in a van being driven to Sir Vivan Richards Stadium for Day Two of the first Test match between India and West Indies. It was surprising that an Antiguan self-confessed cricket nut doesn't like Andy Roberts.

I never got a driver's license and so I am dependent on public transportation to get me around anywhere. With ride share services around these days, life is quite straightforward where I live in the U.S. and there is a bus and train system as well.

But in Antigua, there is no rideshare service and on this trip to Antigua, my third to the island, I thought I'll take up a place in St. John's rather than be close to the cricket ground like I had done in my other two visits in 2007 and 2012. I would have had to walk 20 minutes to the bus station and get packed into a van to get dropped off some distance away from the ground. Under the hot tropical sun. Thanks, but no thanks.

The lovely lady running the bed & breakfast place I was staying in, said she could set me up with a ride in the morning to the cricket and get picked up at the end of the day. "His name is Buddha and he'll be there at 8 AM to pick you up." Buddha pronounced in that western way with a Caribbean lilt, "Booda."

It's only a 20-minute ride to the stadium and we got into idle chatter about cricket, since that's where we were headed. "Ya, I watch a lot of it on SportsMax, I just leave the TV on when there is any cricket goin' on. I don't care who is playin' or what they be playin', T20, Tests or CPL or IPL, I like watchin' cricket."

And that's how we landed on Sir Andy, one of the famous cricketing sons of this island. "I don't like how Andy bowled," explained Buddha, his reason for not liking the bowler that was the enforcer amongst the famous West Indian quartet, "he hit a man, he just pick up the ball and walk back. Not even checkin' on him." It appeared that Sir Andy did not meet the moral expectations that Mr. Buddha had. "That player, he took his hat off throw it on the ground, took his gloves off and throw it on the ground. That man, who was it? He is no more." I reminded Buddha that it was David Hookes's jaw that Roberts had broken. "Oh yeah, David Hookes."

So who was your favourite West Indian cricketer? "Malcolm, I liked how he bowled." I said Marshall was my favourite bowler growing up in India too and pat came the response, "Oh yeah? We can be friends, then."

"Wesley Adolphus Wade, that's my name but everyone that know me call me Buddha" said the almost sixty-year old, short, pudgy Antiguan as he navigated through the traffic. "My aunt thought when I was born, my head was so hairless, round and shiny like the Buddha, she call me Buddha and the name stuck."

"All my friends and people from school that know me, call me Buddha and for others, I am Wesley, named after that West Indian cricketer Wes Hall, by my mother. She was a big cricket fan" said Buddha on the third day of the Test.

"My team is South Africa and I support anyone that plays Australia," said Buddha as the light towers of the ground came into view. "The Australians, they don't play cricket proper. They no walk when they know they hit da ball. Them just standin' there. That's no way to play cricket." This further explained his not liking of Roberts.

"Ya know, we used to lose to them, but once we got our fast bowlers in the 70's, we could beat them Aussies." He was a West Indies fan as a kid and once the decline happened, he just watched cricket for the sake of it and the 438 game made him a fan of South Africa. "That Herschelle Gibbs. He could bat. And Jacques Kallis. Didn't think South Africa would knock that up," but that improbable chase continues the fan in him of South Africa.

"If you are gonna be late, call me. I can pick up later too," as he understood that the evening pick up time isn't always going to be the same; close of play, press conference delays and so on. "If I don't pick up the call, it's because I can't hear it over the weedwacker, I'm in landscaping. That way I can listen to cricket all day long."

On the ride back, we went on a talk about fast bowlers since we shared the bond of Malcolm. And it began with Lillee and Thomson. "Thomson, if he can't get you out, he can cop you out boy!" And the obvious. "Them two boys from Pakistan, they would be my favorites after Malcolm. And there was Shoaib Akhtar, he could bowl real fast, ya know. Allan Donald... they came back with a back in 1992, didn't they South Africa?" and he drifted away. "Who was that man that was banned and then died? Jonty Rhodes?" I corrected him it was Hansie Cronje. "Boy, but Jonty could field" as Buddha talked over my correction.

On this ride, he had brought his nephew Devon who sat in the back of the beat up Toyota listening to the chat. I turned to him and asked whether he watches cricket. He nodded yes, quietly. "Play cricket?" He shook his head no. 'fraid of the hard ball". Hearing that, Buddha chimed in. "Me too. I used to bowl a lot, ya know, I had a mean yorker too, but I was always afraid of fast bowling."

On the morning of the fourth day - as it turned out the last day of the Test, Buddha seemed quite tired. "I was playing Dominoes till 11 at night." It smelled like he had been sipping on rum too, but he was in a good mood.

He broke out the calypso on Gavaskar. "Listened to it on the radio with my uncle, ya know, I was a tiny boy, I musta' been 10 or 11. We thought he was gonna make a thousand runs!" and he started singing.

Gavaskar

De real master

Just like a wall

We couldn't out Gavaskar at all, not at all

You know the West Indies couldn't out Gavaskar at all.

"Ya know, my mother, she knew the whole song but I only learned the chorus" and enquired about Sunil Gavaskar. "Is he still around?" I guess Buddha is at that age where things one saw, loved and remember from their childhood start disappearing. I told him that Gavaskar was very much alive and he is in fact in the West Indies commentating on this series. That brought a relieved laughter from Buddha. "He is here? In Antigua?" he asked incredulously, "boy, he must be 70-something now?"

The way back was a lot quieter as West Indies were wiped out in the fourth innings. There must still be a West Indies fan in Buddha somewhere. "Ya know, they shoulda' picked that local boy, Cornwall." He felt disappointed and hurt. He thought there was a bias in selection. "You play a few shots and you look good and you are from Barbados, they pick you right away, but this boy has been playing good but they don't pick him."

We drove past a group of kids, one of them having the same hairstyle as Shimron Hetmeyer, and I called out, "Hetmeyer." Buddha asked, "Who dat? I've heard the name." I refresh his memory about West Indies U-19 star, now in the senior squad and the IPL. "Oh yeah, I like the IPL. Boy, one day I'd like to watch a game of the IPL." He asked me whether I had a favourite IPL team and I said CSK. "Ya, Dohnee and Braaavo, but my team is Mumbaai."

As he dropped me off, he said to call him if I needed any more rides around the island now that the cricket is over. I told him I'll be sure to. I stayed in on what would've been the fifth day of the Test, catching up on some sleep and work.

As I got ready to leave Antigua, I called him to see if he would take me to the airport. The phone rang. No answer. I called six or seven times. Then he called me back an hour later. My friend Booda was working, using the weedwacker and did not hear the phone ring. He said, "I will be there, ya don't worry."

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