Stranded Batsman: A Review

No internet and no power leads you to find ways to keep entertained.

I took the time while we were waiting for power to return after Hurricane Maria to read Stranded Batsman by Edwin L. Martin.

It is the story of Martin’s favorite cricketer Jim Allen, who he believes did not reach his full potential due to indiscipline, a freak injury and unattainable expectations.

Growing up, I can remember waking up to my dad sucking his teeth or cheering depending on whether West Indies was winning or losing. It could either be midnight or early morning depending on where in the world Test cricket was being played.  I never understood what was so great about the game and I confess to still not being excited about it in its long form or shorter Twenty20 version.

While I was expecting to learn about Jim Allen in Stranded Batsman, I did not expect that it would present such an entertaining and insider view of the game of cricket. I got a crash course in West Indies cricket as well as learned about the Leeward Island teams. Another Montserratian who I never knew about until reading this book was Alford Corriette, who was Allen’s competition if you want to call him that.

Martin calls the book a cautionary tale of stardom, regret and unfulfilled promise. You get that through the pages as you see Allen be his own worst enemy although given the same opportunities as Viv Richards and other athletes, who went on to play for West Indies, through the initiative of members of the Montserrat business community.

We see the arm chair coaches and managers, which is still a major part of how things function on Montserrat today, become the people Allen listens to, over the professionals and people who were genuinely interested in him reaching his full potential.

His drinking did not help. His inability to make the most of the opportunities given was a consistent theme throughout.  His unwillingness to change destroyed any chances of his elevation. Allen’s belief that Montserrat owed him aggravated his chances for being honoured and revered put the nail in the coffin.

I enjoyed Martin’s writing style and his love for cricket shines through. He did extensive research about the important figures in Montserrat cricket and the Leewards. You come to understand the role that English clubs played in helping early players  advance to professional cricket. Martin’s descriptions of sneaking away to watch matches at Sturge Park, give glimpses into life on Montserrat pre-volcano.

The book isn’t only for cricket lovers but for people who want to understand the inner workings of Montserrat and life then and now. You learn about family and community dynamics and I believe many will identify with the Montserrat seen in the pages.

Stranded Batsman should be required reading for social studies and sports education students in the secondary and community colleges in the Eastern Caribbean.