Sport is as much a national pastime as liming, and Trinbagonians are justifiably proud of their country’s sporting achievements, in cricket, track and field – and football, since the Soca Warriors competed in the 2006 World Cup.
Cricket is a national passion in T&T and the source of much debate; when the West Indies team is playing, radios everywhere are tuned in, regardless of the Windies’ uninspiring performances of recent years. As long as you’re not foolish enough to criticize legendary batsman Brian Lara, the “Prince of Port of Spain”, mentioning cricket to any Trinbagonian is pretty much guaranteed to break the ice.
Big matches, from Tests to One-Day events, take place at the Queen’s Park Oval in Port of Spain, and are great fun even if you’re not a cricket fan; soca blares in the intervals, plenty of cold Carib gets downed, and fans are animated to say the least. Tickets are available from the Queen’s Park Cricket Club, 94 Tragarete Rd, Port of Spain; those that like to party as they watch head for the all-inclusive “Trini Posse” stand (t622 2295, wqpcc.com). Match schedules are advertised in the media; for further information, contact the Trinidad and Tobago Cricket Board at Couva (t636 1577, wttcb.co.tt).
Football (soccer) is extremely popular in T&T, with fanatical support for the national team, the Soca Warriors (wsocawarriors.net) since the team’s spirited performance at the 2006 World Cup in Germany. Major matches take place at the National Stadium on Wrightson Road, Port of Spain; for more information, contact the T&T Football Federation (t 623 9500).
Basketball is also a major sport, with US games screened regularly on TV and several local teams that compete in the National Championships. Games are held at the National Stadium – check the website (wnbftt.net) or Facebook page of the National Basketball Federation of T&T for more info.
T&T boasts some lovely golf courses, most with in-house caddies and clubs and carts for rent. In Trinidad, the best is St Andrew’s in Moka, Maraval (t629 2314, wgolftrinidad.com). The only public course is the nine-hole Chaguaramas Golf Course, Bellerand Road, Chaguaramas (t634 4227, wchagdev.com). In Tobago, there’s the pristine 18-hole course operated by the Magdalena Grande hotel (t387 0288, wmagdalenagrand.com) on the wind-blown Atlantic coast; and the eighteen palm-dotted holes attached to the Mount Irvine hotel (t639 8871, wmtirvine.com). All but the Chaguaramas course host professional and amateur tournaments. For more information, contact the Trinidad and Tobago Golf Association (t629 7127, wttgolfassociation.org).
Cycling is very popular; for details email the Trinidad and Tobago Cycling Federation (firstname.lastname@example.org), or check their Facebook page. Major horse racing meets take place at the Santa Rosa Race Track, Arima (warimaraceclub.com). Highlights of the racing calendar include the Midsummer Classic, run on the first Saturday in July, and the Derby Stakes, run in August or September. Fitness freaks will find Trinidad well equipped with gyms (packed in the run-up to Carnival, so people look good in the skimpy costumes). Tennis courts are to be found at the Hilton, Cascadia and Crowne Plaza hotels in Port of Spain and the Mount Irvine, Turtle Beach, Crown Point Beach and Grafton hotels in Tobago; the latter has air-conditioned squash courts, as does the Cascadia in Port of Spain.
The basic rules of cricket are by no means as complex as the official twenty-page rule book suggests. There are two teams of eleven players. A team wins by scoring more runs than the other team and dismissing the opposition; a team could score many more runs than the opposition, but still not win if the last two enemy batsmen doggedly stay “in” (ensuring a draw). The match is divided into innings, when one team bats and the other team fields. One-day matches have one innings per team, Test matches have two.
The aim of the fielding side is to limit the runs scored and get the batsman “out”. Two players from the batting side are on the pitch at any one time. The fielding side has a bowler, a wicketkeeper and nine fielders. Two umpires adjudicate whether a batsman is out. Each innings is divided into overs, consisting of six deliveries, after which the wicketkeeper changes ends, the bowler is changed and the fielders move positions.
The batsmen score runs either by running up and down from wicket to wicket (one length = one run), or by hitting the ball over the boundary rope, scoring four runs if it crosses the boundary having touched the ground, and six runs if it flies over. A batsman can be dismissed by being “clean bowled”, where the bowler dislodges the bails of the wicket; by being “run out”, when one of the fielders dislodges the bails with the ball while the batsman is running; by being caught out, when one of the fielding side catches the ball after the batsman has hit it; or by “LBW” (leg before wicket), where the batsman blocks with his leg a delivery that would otherwise have hit the stumps.
These are the rudiments of a game whose beauty lies in its skills and tactics. The captain, for example, chooses which bowler (spin or fast) to play and where to position his fielders to counter the strengths of the batsman, the condition of the pitch and a dozen other variables. Cricket also has a poetry in its esoteric language, used to describe such things as fielding positions (“silly mid-off”, “cover point”, etc) and types of bowling delivery (“googly”, “yorker” and the like).