The following statement is issued by Professor Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice-Chancellor of The University of the West Indies, on the passing of Sonny Ramadhin, renowned cricketer of the 1950s, and the first of phenotypic East Indian descent to represent the West Indies.
“The Caribbean world celebrates the life of Sonny Ramadhin whose contribution to its civilization and its emergence as an integrated sovereign nation is matched by few and therefore greater than most.
Plucked from rural ‘South’ Trinidad as a result of the eagle eye of national selectors who also solicited the opinion of Frank Worrell ‘The Wise’, the spin genius from a colonial village was unleashed in 1950 upon the imperial cricket centre.
There could have been no timelier an intervention in the West Indian search for dignity and self-determination, having been crushed by the military might of Britain during their revolt against colonialism in the 1930s.
The cricket tour to Britain was the first since West Indian blood was shed by imperial soldiers throughout the archipelago. The multi-ethnic cricketers infused with the common ideology of detachment from the oppressive scaffold were determined to use the red ball in the battle for social justice and racial respect.
A young boy, just 21, and not exceeding 5’2”, was summoned from ‘South’ to lead the charge and the secret weapon. It was the most dramatic entry upon a world stage by one with no prior experience but filled with courage, consciousness, and commitment.
The historic tour revolved around many performance pillars but none more dramatic and spectacular as the Trojan strategy of unleashing an Indian youth upon the English elders. In Christian parlance, it was a David and Goliath narrative in which the peasant devastated the prince and took the crown.
Sonny was the shining son of the Caribbean dawn. He provided a new and innovative bowling technology driven by a compelling performance philosophy that gave West Indies a considerable competitive advantage. The Indo-Trinidadian community had risen to its height in delivery for West Indies a special, superlative hero. Sonny, the diminutive debutant tore down the Bastille of Babylon with the maddening mysteries from his mind.
With his partner, Alf Valentine of Jamaica, Mr. Ramadhin led the charge that took down the ‘evil empire’ and gave West Indies a shot at the Aussies the following year for the world title. He symbolized the metaphor that spoke to West Indian demand for social justice as the unplayable bowler with a message from the masses. For the next five years, Sonny drove the upward journey of West Indies cricket and laid the foundations for the sustained excellence of the next decade.
The University of the West Indies salutes the life and contribution of the little giant from ‘South’, a genius of his generation, and celebrates him as a hero of the Caribbean intellectual tradition.”
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