Calypso meets klezmer – the Jewish connection with West Indies cricket

Event at Lord’s celebrates one of cricket’s lesser known stories


West Indies skipper Kraigg Brathwaite, who is in youth was beneficiary of an award sponsored by the cricket-loving Lord Gavron (Getty Images)

There is just one Jewish cricketer who has hit a century in a Test Match — and he was West Indian.

Ivan Barrow’s feat was celebrated at a reception at the home of cricket, Lord’s, earlier this week to mark the Jewish contribution to the Caribbean game, ahead of the start of next week’s England v West Indies series.

Ivanhoe Mordecai Barrow, to give him his full name, made 105 at Old Trafford when the West Indies toured England in 1933 — not only the first and only Jewish centurion but the first cricketer to reach three figures for the West Indies overseas.

“He was a faithful Jew, through not a very observant one,” recalled  his daughter Gayle, who came to the event with some of his grandchildren and great-granchildren from the USA and Australia. “He may not have attended Temple very regularly, he did however refuse to play on Yom Kippur.”

His international sweater has been newly added to the exhibition on Jewish cricket which opened in the community gallery of the Lord’s Museum last year and will run to next summer.

Zaki Cooper, who together with fellow cricket-lover Daniel Lightman spurred the MCC to create the display, told the reception: “We have refreshed the exhibit to give it a West Indian flavour, bringing together some fabulous stories and Jewish West Indian cricketers, and the contribution of the Jewish community to West Indies cricket. You could consider it calypso meets klezmer.”

Also on show is the cap of Reg Scarlett, a spin bowler who played three Tests for the West Indies in 1959-60 before coming to the UK and founding the Haringey Cricket College, where he nurtured youthful talent, particularly from the Afro-Caribbean community.

One of the West Indies’ greatest batsman, Sir Gordon Greenidge, paid tribute to Scarlett’s example. “It wasn’t just cricket that was promoted while Reg was there — it was how he mentored those youngsters.”

Sir Gordon also spoke affectionately of one of his own mentors when he played cricket for Hampshire: Mike Barnard, one of the few British Jews to play at county level. Barnard and his family regularly invited him to dinner and insisted he stay overnight rather than go back to his digs at the YMCA.

They were “grand nights,” he said. “I can’t be more indebted to them for the time they gave me, the various help they were always ready to give me.”

There is a Jewish link too to the current West Indian captain Kraigg Brathwaite — he was a recipient of an award given to young cricketers from Barbados established by the late Anglo-Jewish philanthropist Lord Gavron.

As his widow, Lady Kate Gavron, recalled, she and her husband spent several weeks on the island every year — “Barbados and cricket were both close to his heart”. She revealed that when he died in 2015 after a game of tennis, “he was actually wearing his Barbados Cricket Association tracksuit”.

New to the gallery is a video, made by the MCC’s head of heritage and collections, Neil Robinson, about Camp Gibraltar in Kingston, Jamaica, which was home to 1,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Europe during the War. It was run by Ernest Rae, who represented the West Indies before they achieved Test status.

New too is a ball presented to Lord Dalmeny, who played for Surrey in the early 20th century, after he took his first wickets, who was the son of Hannah Rothschild.

And also showcased is Reggie Schwarz, who represented South Africa against England and was the son of a Jewish father. He was an early exponent of the googly, the batsman-fooling ball that spins the opposite way to expectation, which he learned first-hand from its inventor, Bernard Bosanquet. He also played rugby for England.

Among the guests at the event was Maurice Manasseh, born in Kolkata, who hit a century for Oxford in the Varsity Match in 1964 and Charity Commission chair Orlando Fraser, who revealed that his stepfather Sir Harold Pinter “largely spent hs Nobel Prize money on a box here at Lord’s for the last few years of his life, which he shared and watched cricket with other great Jewish playwrights like Sir Tom Stoppard and Sir Ronnie Harwood.”

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