One cannot fully grasp the culture of Antigua without considering the island’s fierce devotion to cricket. The sport is played everywhere and at any time, though official matches tend to be held on Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. The cricket season lasts from January to July and is interspersed during most seasons with regional and international matches. The Antigua Recreation Ground, which became in 1980-81 the 52nd international test venue, is one of the most exciting places in the world to observe a match. The local crowd is extremely devoted to the game, and the facilities themselves are outstanding.
Although Antigua’s pool of players is small it has proven to be among the world’s richest in talent, having produced four of the West Indies’ best players. The first was Andy Roberts, who emerged as an international star during the mid-Seventies. Roberts’ outstanding career as a fast bowler during the heyday of West Indian cricket in the early 80’s was followed by his tenure as the coach of the West Indies team. Another great Antiguan player is Richie Richardson, the former captain of the West Indies, who developed into one of the game’s most punishing batsmen in the decade following his 1983 debut.
Another great player is Curtley Ambrose. Starting in 1998, Ambrose soared to bowling supremacy knocking down the most feared batsmen all over the world. Ambrose has to his credit 369 Test Wickets and 221 one day international wickets. This is no mean feat for a career that spans 13 years. In 1992 he was selected at the Wisden Cricketer of the Year. At 36 years old Ambrose still has the ability to make every batsman struggle. Cricket critic, Colin Croft describes him as “easily the ‘meanest’ fast bowler in the world”. Ambrose’s utility on the cricket pitch goes beyond his bowling. He is a useful fielder in the deep and has shared partnerships which have led to major victories for the Windies.
The most celebrated of Antigua’s sports legends, however, is Viv Richards, who ranks among the very greatest cricketers of all time. Richards’ international career lasted from 1974 to 1991, and during the middle years of that career the “Master Blaster” led a West Indian team that dominated world cricket. Richards is deservedly adulated on his home island today: his bat has been placed in the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, and Richards himself remains involved in the Antiguan, West Indian, and International cricket scene. Spinnakers Beach Bar and Restaurant in Dickenson Bay is the home of the Vivian Richards Cricketeer Club and a good place to catch a glimpse of the man himself.