Film | Fire in Babylon (2010)

It might not be part of the Olympics, but Cricket has long been a world sport that is followed by millions and its players treated as sporting Gods.

Imagine what football is to most of Europe or South America, Cricket holds that kind of magnetism in the Indian Sub-Continent, Australia, England (to an extent) and of course the Caribbean.

Fire in Babylon looks at the rise of cricket in the Caribbean as the West Indians catapult themselves from being called “calypso cricketers” – a term referring to the team as one who puts up a great entertaining show but never wins – to world champions.

The West Indians believe that cricket is in their blood. From the time they gained independence from the “empire” – early 1960s to late 1970s – cricket has been a “God given gift” for the locals. It has been the perfect tool to “defeat racism by defeating it on the field of play, by truly making the cricket field a level playing field”. Cricket has also helped unify the different island nations and has proved to be a strong and passionate bond between them.

Up until 1975, the West Indies cricket team was never taken seriously. They lacked a true leader and motivation to move up in the cricketing world. Their defeat by Australia in 1975 was the spark that set in motion a change that would make them world champions for almost two decades.

Under the leadership of Clive Lloyd the team came together and utilized their physical strengths to perfect a bowling attack, which comprised mainly of bouncers that sent shivers down the spines of most batsmen. Just like Lillee and Thompson had dominated the Australian fast-bowling attack in 1975, West Indies produced their own champion fast bowlers that were supported by batsmen like Lloyd and Vivian Richards.

While the documentary only presents the viewpoint of the West Indians, it does bring to light the racism that took place at the time and how cricket was used by most West Indian players as a way to release the anger against the racial tension that followed them.

Fire in Babylon is a colorful and lively documentary encapsulating interviews with players in their natural settings, and using regional music, like Reggae, to showcase the obsession the islands have with two of their most famous exports – music and cricket. In fact, the bond between cricket and music for West Indies is so strong that players like Vivian Richards claim to have been greatly influenced by musicians like Bob Marley.

Furthermore, the documentary also focuses on the impact that racism had on the world at the same time that West Indian cricket was starting to dominate, and how sports and the success of the team had an effect on the fight against apartheid half way across the world in South Africa.

Fire in Babylon is about sports and sportsmanship. It is about the individuals who went against the establishment to fight for their rights – to get the salary they rightly deserved. It is about courage and loyalty and most importantly about standing up for your beliefs.

Fire in Babylon is a beautiful reminder that not all battles are won by war, instead an equally powerful impact can be made through sports and determination and the will to make a change. This is a sporting legacy of the Caribbean region, one that should never be forgotten.


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