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Michael Holding, Colin Croft, Gordon Greenidge and Joel Garner talk cricket

Fire in Babylon
19 May 2011

There was something quite special about attending the press conference for upcoming documentary Fire in Babylon. Usually when meeting and interviewing stars of the screen, they are simply actors portraying other characters, However, in this instance, your actually meeting the characters themselves, who actually lived through the actions depicted in the feature.

And as far as meeting members of the great West Indies team go, the Fan Carpet were treated to hearing from a host of some of the greatest cricketers who ever took part in the sport. Fast bowler, otherwise known as ‘Whispering Death’, for his quiet approach and then ferocious bowl, Michael Holding was in attendance. Alongside fellow fast and vicious bowlers Joel Garner and Colin Croft. Batsman Gordon Greenidge, who tore England to shreds in a test series in 1984 was also in attendance – at the very same venue the infamous test series concluded, the Oval. 

With the film set for release on May 20, the stars of the great West Indian side who achieved so much despite the fascism they had to come up against, spoke of the film’s influence on a younger crowd and the period of time itself.


Michael, let’s start with you. Tell us about the film.

Michael Holding: Yeah I really enjoyed it – I think it’s telling a particular story and it tells it well. Telling the story of what happened on the cricket field and how much it influenced what happened off the cricket field for West Indians, particularly here in England. I think it told the story very well.


Do you think it’s a film that gets to the heart of a matter that has long grated with Caribbean people?

Colin Croft: I think the film is political, but I don’t think that any of us played political cricket, and I think there is a very big distinction between the two. We played cricket to win and we happened to be Black, but none of us played because we were playing against Whites, or Indian’s or Asian’s. We played to win – but the film has a political stance, yes.



Gordon – having grown up initially in Barbados, before coming to England when quite young, when over here, was there a sense that West Indian cricket was likely to become such an emerging force?

Gordon Greenidge: Never would I have thought that, for such a small territory, to produce a bunch of guys so talented. Especially as we only had around 25 players during that whole time, which is remarkable really as the team had 15 years of success and only about 25 players, which is just remarkable. So, no – I don’t think any of us could have envisaged that happening. But I think that what transpired before from the players who played for the West Indies, it was always likely to happen.


The West Indies team was a round-up of all the Caribbean islands – to play the game as one united team. Could you sense that unity as Clive Lloyd (former West Indies captain) and all of you developed this team?

Gordon Greenidge: Of course. Great players in the past set the tone for West Indies cricket, the standard. But yes, that team factor wasn’t really there and it needed to gel as a unit, and we say that perhaps the one unifying force in the Caribbean is cricket, which brings the islands together. And it wasn’t surprising, but unique, to find that the differences in the territories and the different players coming together forming this unified force was something special and spectacular, so yeah, I’m not sure that this is something that you can just manufacture, it had to be in the players and it happened very well and I think that’s what helped gain the success.


I think that comes over in the film, but can the film, because of that, be as inspirational as perhaps we would like it to be?

Colin Croft: I would hope so! The film depicts somewhere between 1974 and 1984 – and we were flashy. We didn’t beat anybody – everybody looked like a good loser. As soon as we started winning the whole tune changed that we weren’t nice and ‘Calypso Cricketers’ anymore, we became ‘terrorists’. We became all sorts of things, but not cricketers. In the meantime, I don’t want to inspire anybody to be a terrorist but I hope that, especially as we’ve been losing now since 1995, literally, that for those graduating from high school, who don’t know what it feels like to see a West Indies cricket team win, for that matter, this film could become a literature piece. I mean we all learn Shakespeare growing up, so this should be required viewing for all young West Indians, male and female, to see what is achievable without having anything spectacular. All of us came from poor backgrounds, yet we were the best cricket team to have ever played, so it couldn’t have had anything to do with money. Its determination and achievement, it’s as simple as that.

Michael Holding: Colin is right. When we had the premiere for the film in Jamaica, Chris Gayle (current West Indies cricketer) came to see it, at the end of the film, he came to me and said, “Mickey, I’m flabbergasted”.  Not quite the same words he used, but that was pretty much his feelings. He was unaware of what had taken place in West Indies cricket in the years gone by and that’s not something that should happen, because as I have said to so many people, every English or Australian cricketer, present or past, will know or have known about the history of the Ashes and West Indian cricketers don’t know about the history of West Indian cricket because we don’t record enough, we don’t read enough and we are unaware. Chris Gayle was unaware. And something like this film, shown around the entire Caribbean and constantly being put in people’s brains, will make things a lot different.


Talking of inspiration to a younger crowd – it happens that your vehicles to another life was the game of cricket, therefore, can the film teach people that there is a way to another life?

Joel Garner: Yes it can, and what is also interesting is that, if you look at it, we enjoyed what we did, we had fun. We did a very good job of what we were doing. The other part of it was that we were also representing six or seven million people, not just the team that was there, so a sense of being part of that was not only being in the team but you knew that you had a lot of people supporting you. So the thing is, for the youngsters to see Fire in Babylon, they will see a part of cricket that they have not seen and never known anything about, which brings the historical part to it. So, to use it as an inspiration? Yes. Because we want players coming in the next 10 years to do even better than we did over the 20 year period that we were playing cricket.



When initially approached about making the film, did you have any reservations about how the film would depict, or do justice, to such a significant period of cricketing history?

Colin Croft: Well the film is a documentary, and you can’t lie in a documentary – you tell the story, end of story. It may be a little bit political, but that’s only right, as we were entering independence, so I guess the political aspects are interesting.

Joel Garner: I think the fellows making the film did a great job, because they got a host of information that they needed, and they knew where they wanted to go and what they wanted to get out of it. So yeah, I think the film has done some justice to what we did.Gordon Greenidge: I saw the film for the first time recently and I thought it was excellent. I think that some of the individuals who featured in the film could have elaborated more, as I think there were a few things missing. But it did capture a great deal of what happened in West Indian cricket in the 70’s and 80’s.

Colin Croft: But I don’t think that any one of us thought about the impact while we were playing. After we stopped playing we recognised it. Michael Holding: We appreciated it more after we stopped. When you are playing, you are playing cricket and although you meet people after the game and you know you have made a difference to them, at the same time, you aren’t thinking about that, the political ramifications aren’t going through your mind. But afterwards you get a little bit more mature and you understand what life is all about and what people are going through in their lives and you then see how great an impact you might have had on their life.

Joel Garner: Even though we would have played with different people over different periods of time, the beauty of it is that all of us have remained very good friends over the years.

Gordon Greenidge: That’s not true.


What is it about the film that allows for it to appeal to those who aren’t fans of the sport?

Colin Croft: For people who are not involved in cricket, I think that they can take out of the film a situation of understanding that it was a very difficult thing to be a West Indian cricketer, and it’s still the only thing in the Caribbean that works.

Fire in Babylon Film Page