Excitement and anticipation filled the air as Bajans made their way to Kensington Oval on Feb. 17th for the official re-opening of the ground ahead of the World Cup of cricket.
Many chose the 'Park and Ride' option offered by the public transport service while others drove as close as they could to the Oval and completed the journey on foot. The event featured an exhibition match with a West Indies XI taking on an international team led by former English great Alec Stewart and including Waqar Younis, Devon Malcolm, and the Flower brothers.
While the day featured musical performances by top local artistes, the real stars of the day were the West Indies greats and Kensington itself.
Animated chatter filled the new stands as fans admired the new ground and reminisced about the 'good old days' of West Indies cricket. The exploits of Sir Viv, Ambrose and Walsh, Greenidge and Haynes and even the much criticized Richie Richardson were fondly recalled as these players took the field. Many remembered the fierce on-field battles of Sir Viv and Devon Malcolm, others spoke of the 200+ run partnership of Greenidge and Haynes. Older members of the crowd recalled the WI teams that lifted the first two World Cups and reminded us younger ones of the exploits of the teams of the 60's.
Indeed history was all around in a venue that, at least physically, was very new indeed.
Those who were concerned that a revamped Kensington Oval would lose it's character need not worry. Yes the Greenidge & Haynes stand moved from east to west, the media centre was renamed and the 3W's Stand expanded. True the Kensington Stand may be gone in name, but never in memory.
It was a day of nostalgia - a standing ovation to national hero Sir Gary Sobers, saluting Wes Hall, Charlie Griffith and many others, and singing with The Merrymen. But it was also a day for looking forward to a brighter future for West Indies cricket.
Sitting in my new seat in a just completed stand admiring a fresh pitch and outfield I imagined the West Indies winning the World Cup right here on April 28th and in the midst of the memories of the past the idea seemed very possible indeed.
From the looks on other fans faces I think some were thinking the very same thing.
Tomorrow - photos and video from the re-opening.
See the Old Kensington Oval Kensington On Google Maps
Barbados World Cup schedule