'Chief banterer' brings life to Lord's

Mon, May 21, '07


Michelle McDonald from MICHELLE McDONALD at Lord's

"Watching cricket at Lord's could be boring sah. No music and no vibes," stated a Jamaican spectator in the Upper Compton Stand. He's right. During the lunch interval on the first day of the first Test match between England and the West Indies, I said to myself "where's the music?????"

Then I remembered where I was -- cocooned in that uninspiring press box high above the ground, far removed from any noise except the hushed tones of voices. It took me back to my post-graduate UK university days spent in the Library. Dull and dreary.

Back then, I had to endure it, as one of my professors said if we were to succeed we had to learn to love the library. Thankfully, I didn't have to learn to love the Lord's Investec Media Centre and for a few hours from Days 2 - 4, I wandered over to where the majority of West Indian supporters were, to get my daily dose of banter, as only West Indians can do it.

Meet Bobby, Chief Banterer. The Jamaican thirty-something year old had everyone in stitches, and that included the non-West Indians sitting in the surrounding stands who all turned their attention to Bobby's Banter. From running commentary and heckling to choir directing, Bobby livened up an otherwise boring atmosphere at Lord's.

Those seated around him included Nevisians, Jamaicans, Trinidadians, Barbadians, Haitians, and Guyanese. Allegiance to the West Indies team had to be pledged by anyone wanting to sit in that area, who did not appear to be West Indian. There were two England supporters of Asian descent seated in the front row. They were "allowed" to stay because they said they were enjoying the banter. They were also "allowed" to cheer, without harassment, when wicket after wicket fell for Monty Panesar.

When the England players were fielding, Bobby had words for Panesar, who was positioned right in front of that stand on the boundary. When he was doing well, Bobby shouted "don't trust them Monty, don't trust them," suggesting that he was not to feel like a surety on the team. "What? You're showing me your finger? Don't show me your finger!" said Bobby, when Panesar then put his hands behind his back.

The umpires were not spared either, with Asad Rauf being the villain for being the standing umpire when Panesar got each of his LBW decisions. "Rudi, we like you," Bobby declared, then asked "can I be your agent?" Roars of laughter from the crowd, many of whom were debating various aspects of the game. When was England going to declare their second innings; that the West Indian batsmen should have run three instead of two; which bowler Sarwan should turn to, to get a wicket.

When it seemed like Kevin Pietersen and England were trundling along merrily to an unreachable total, Bobby turned to song composition and instruction. "Come on man, we need to make them hear us," as Bravo, Gayle, Taylor and Collymore were bowling. First there was a cover to Bob Marley's 'Three Little Birds' which went like this…
West Indies don't worry, 'bout a thing
Cause every little thing, gonna be alright
Rise up this morning, smiled with the rising sun
Look on the scoreboard, see England make plenty runs
They think we couldn't make 500 runs
But this is a message to you, and you, and you
West Indies had made 437 which was close enough! This was really a song for the team's first innings though.

Buffalo Soldier also got re-worded to include the lines 'If you know your history, then you will know where you're coming from. Do you remember our pace attack? Courtney and Ambi used to hold them back."

Then enters the 'Big Man' himself, Ambassador Courtney Walsh. It was Bobby's chance to show off that one so great had come especially to see his group. Turning to the England supporters, Bobby quipped "You see? Michael Vaughan not coming up here to talk to you guys you know!" Of course, Walsh was bombarded by autograph seekers from neighbouring sections. Bobby facilitated the process until he felt that Walsh had signed enough. "I'm his agent. Sign off," then acquiesced to allow only females to get autographs.

While everyone was in stitches from Bobby's humorous banter, the Lord's officials remembered that there were rules (thankfully not as many as in the ICC's World Cup!), and that they had a job to do. On one occasion when Bobby was standing holding court, a Steward came to ask him to sit down. Poor thing. He was greeted with boos.

When it didn't look like West Indies could buy a wicket, Bobby turned to gospel. "I'm a pastor's son you know!" he said, explaining his choice. So at 200 for 3, Bobby started with 'Into my heart, into my heart Lord Jesus,' then moved into 'I'm a new born man.' The rationale for that second song was explained. "Is a new born team you know," he said. Lara was in a suit at Lord's instead of whites, after his much publicized retirement from International cricket.

The gospel renditions did the trick-- or perhaps it was just coincidence. The dangerous Alistair Cook's wicket came soon after, then horrors for the West Indian supporters as Daren Powell dropped a simple catch which would have seen off Paul Collingwood. Fortunately, Collingwood was out a few overs later thanks to Runako Morton.

His repertoire exhausted, Bobby shouted to Corey Collymore "Collymore, give us a gospel song to sing." Collymore threw open his hands signalling that he had none. Bobby retorted with "ah bet you know a Sizzla!" Collymore nodded leading Bobby to render "Thank you mama for the nine months you carried me."

Maybe this gospel focus really did work. Bobby ended with "Bring down the rain" and today on the final day, with West Indies needing an improbable 401 for victory, rain drove the players off the field after about 30 minutes.

As I look over to the Upper Compton stand from my cocoon, I see that the rain has also driven away Bobby and the rest of the West Indian supporters and all that came with it. This included wine, women and song.