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Of domino and cricket…not out!

By Herbert L Brown

Friday, December 28, 2018

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My earliest recollection of domino playing in rural Jamaica was among farmers after they had completed their day's work in the field and were now relaxing with their friends and farmer colleagues. They would be joined by the local public work's supervisor, the sanitary inspector, or tradesmen, quite visibly out in the public square — a space most often within the domain of a shop owner.

Having a drink was part of the fellowship; and, more often than not, in fact it seems the ritual, the loser had to pay!

I speak specifically of mid-to-late forties (World War II), when men of Hanover, in their rural communities, were men of substance and prided themselves in literally “feeding Kingston” via the Coronation Market, and other townships across Jamaica with truckloads of Lucea yam each week.

For men of Dias, of Askenish, of Maryland, of Patty Hill and Cascade domino was their pastime. One could say without equivocation that “depression” was not known among them. A few men of lesser calibre would gamble and the Church outlawed domino, especially with the advent of the Pentecostals.

But domino playing survived, especially in rural Jamaica where cricket was not a ready alternative, as adequate land space for playing cricket was always a challenge. And cricket itself was moreso a holiday sport than an evening's entertainment.

Domino playing and domino competitions received a healthy shot in the arm when, in the mid-nineties, the National Council for Senior Citizens, under the chairmanship of Professor Denise Eldermire-Shearer, instigated by council members Herbert L Brown and Lieutenant Colonel Desmond Clarke promoted domino competitions nationally as a healthy and most desirable engagement for senior citizens. Parish, regional and national competitions developed, and organisations outside of senior citizens embraced domino competitions as a legitimate, rewarding and mentally healthy and challenging engagement.

I have no knowledge whatsoever of how the Melbourne Cricket Club got hold of domino playing as a desirable and compulsory prerequisite for members of the club, and even moreso in initiating youngsters into domino playing as a “must” for cricket initiation.

It is that report on Television Jamaica (TVJ) on Monday, September 10, 2018 that youngsters were shown being actively engaged in domino playing at Melbourne which triggered my curiosity.

As a lifelong promoter of domino fellowship their action gave food for thought, and moreso especially as an ill-advised “professor” was most recently in our public media, aligning domino playing with rum bar depression.

But what virtues could domino playing have in enhancing cricket competence?

My first thought was that domino is a “partner game”. The success of the partnership depends firstly on the individual skill of each member, but more importantly on how each member supports the success of the other. Each member has to accept that one is the senior player. In other words, he/she is accepted as the better domino player, and the lesser plays toward his partner's lead.

Let me give an example: Player “A” on your right poses “double six”. Your partner views his hand (which seems to suggest that he has option(s)! And plays “trey”. His partner to your right plays “five” at the other end! You have a good supply of fives, including “five-trey”. To play “rounds of 5…thereby hitting out your partner's trey seems a very tempting game. But two things apply; your partner is ahead of you in the game.

Your partner played “trey” and may very well have no fives, you cannot afford to get him upset…

You play: two treys.

If, however, you are the senior player, you may opt to 'take over' the game and go “fives”, especially if you have no other treys. A very careful play, however, is to match double-five: or simply hit “five”. Do not touch your partner's trey! That is not to say you never hit what your partner plays. In another instance he had sent out four earlier: and now sends “trey”… he could be hunting his “four” feedback! Do you have “four trey”?

The partners in domino have to decide intuitively who is the lead player, and follow that lead!

Each member of the partnership is committed to prevent his (use “His” without prejudice) partner getting a pass, but also knows when to take over a hand completely. His partner supports the move automatically. There is absolutely no feeling of jealousy here! It's simply “us”, without any thought of how many games you win, as against your partner. It is “our” win: “Our” score! I help you to win and we both win.

In most social settings with domino, you have very little or no chance of choosing your partner. You simply give your best in support of your partner! It is always, “your win is my win”! And equally “your loss is my loss”. So we both play in support of each other.

The player over your partner's hand is very strong and since you cannot exchange places, you have to protect your partner: Unless, of course, the player under your hand is playing right into your hand.

The principle of togetherness and supportiveness is enshrined in domino! Is this the same for cricket?

Secondly, there is no “social order” in domino. We are all players, no matter who! And not too much of a 'respect” either. Each pair shows off on the other, that's it! Social order resumes after the match, not at the table, and yet proper order is maintained. Obscenity is grossly prohibited, while a good measure of taunting is allowed. You give an opponent a pass (hit a six!) and you tell him, “Take that!” After the game you call him “Sir”.

There is always a show of superiority to the opposing side without any modesty…behaviour is also psychological for overpowering. And you take yours when it comes.

An exciting display of human relationship!

And domino players do not go away publicising their victory, unless they were recent victims. The loser and the winner end up being friends. No grudge, no malice. Tomorrow will be my day! In fact, you end up admiring how the team plays and privately search for anything you can emulate.

The big day is when a tournament is on, and you are on the team. The captain decides “where”…at which table you play, and with whom. You have to give it your best shot to win. The aim of the game is to win. And who wins the most games is not a personal matter. The team is what counts. And you cannot let down your team!

Listen to your elders/seniors in the game, but also learn to discern the voice of wisdom. Never make the same mistake again!

Develop a special partner, but also give room for playing with others. Remember the game is for camaraderie. But in the process you study individuals. There is the player who is always seeking for himself. He will soon lose all partners. Nobody wants to play with him.

Is there anything like that in cricket?

Herbert L Brown is headmaster emeritus at deCarteret College, Mandeville, Manchester, and a believer in games for character development. Send comments to the Observer or herbertlbrown@live.com.


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