Champ: Cup Matchs greatest star
There is something mighty synonymous about the names Cup Match and Champ Hunt.
Cup Match is Bermudas biggest, soul-stirring event and Champ is unquestionably Bermudas greatest cricketer, administrator, multi-facated coach iconic international sports ambassador, you name it, and Champ was it.
Note I have asserted unquestionably in contrast to the tendancy of some scribes and commentators to refer to Champ as arguably the greatest. If Champ wasnt, who was, and by what measuring rod?
I must cut a long story short because another landmark Cup Match is less than a week away. It is the 110th Annual since Somerset and St Georges began battling for the cricket supremacy of Bermuda and all that goes along with it.
However, I must highlight how with the advent of the 2012 Cup Match, Bermuda is on the brink of bouncing back to the peak, and conceivably going beyond that to which Champ Hunt took us during his sensational career. We have almost come full cycle again. But we must know from whence we came.
Premier Paula Cox and her Sports Minister, Glen Blakeney, made a sensational announcement over a week ago to the effect that Bermuda has been selected to host the ICC (International Cricket Conference) Division Three Tournament next spring. The great significance of that announcement I expect will sink in only when Bermuda realises the impact Champ had on the ICC.
When Champ returned home in 1947 to settle down, he involved himself fully on a wide variety of sporting, cultural and social fronts. He was the consumanate all-rounder. His main focus was on the Bermuda Cricket Board of Control (BCBC) and being its representative on the ICC from 1967 to 1982.
Champ deplored the fact there was so little constructive talk and action about national pride. In that regard he considred Bermuda to be retarded. If black leaders initiated something, there was no inclination of white Bermudians to support it. And likewise if it was initiated by whites.
I only had to go to Page 94 of my book CHAMP - The One and Only Alma Hunt, for the backgrount to Champs involvement with the ICC, to bring us, as I stated above, full circle. It reads as follows:
Once on the BCBC as a Somers Isle Cricket League (SICL) representative, Champ was pressured to become its secretary. He was elected overwhelmingly. The outgoing secretary was so piqued at being booted out of his long-held office, that he took with him all of the minutes and other documents he had accumulated over the years. That same individual was also at the time, secretary of the Bermuda Olympic Association.
Those were the days and times when the white saperatists ascribed tho themselves the name Bermuda to any national body they formed, leaving the excluded blacks to designate themselves Somers Isle this or that (Bermudas nickname). For instance here was the white-only Bermuda Lawn Tennis Association; the SILTA; Bermuda Athletic Association (BAA) that controlled the Olympics, and so on down the line.
Cynicism and bigotry were elements Alma was determined from the outset to wipe out. He had put Bermuda on the world map personally as a player, and now as Chairman of the Board he wanted the country as a whole to get higher status in its own right.
So he began lobbying for Associate Membership for Bermuda in the International Cricket Conference, capitalising on connections he had at the MCC, where he was personally known. He had the rare distinction of having Life Membership conferred on him.
The ICC was the controlling body of all cricket in the world. Its prime focus was the Test Match-playing countries, and non-Test playing countries like Gibraltar, Holland, Denmark, Fiji and Zimbabwe among others. In his application for membership, he outlined how Bermuda had first-class cricketers, having hosted England Test teams as well as County teams; and that we therefore were seeking an outlet for our players. Bermuda was admitted in 1966 to Associate Membership, with Champ becoming its representative.
Champ became a most influential member of the ICC. The Body had been in existence since 1902. Originally its name was the Imperial Cricket Conference, with four mighty nations, Britain, United States, Australia and South Africa as charter members. The U.S. later dropped out regarding the word Imperial repugnant. Subsequently the name was reverted to the International Cricket Conference and the US rejoined.
Feeling that more respect needed to be given to non-Test Playing countries, Champ with great foresight as a means to an end, proposed in 1967 a tournament among the minor ICC countries. The idea came to fruition in 1979 when the ICC Associate Membership Tournament was started in England. Bermuda participated with much distinction in the inaugural games, losing in the semi-final to Canada. In the next tournament in 1982, Bermuda reached the finals and was narrowly defeated for the trophy by Zimbabwe. It was that series that put Zimbabwe and Sri Lanka on the path that gained them Test playing status. The utter significance of his contribution in that regard earned him worldwide recognition when in 1986, The Man of the Series Trophy in the ICC Tournament was named after Hunt.
Also in the ICC, Alma took special interest in the South African issue and the impact apartheid was having on cricket in that nation. He was particularly sensitive to the undue influence in administrative circles the whites were asserting. It was a situation not unlike what existed in Bermuda years before, when he was a player and up until he took charge of the BCBC. In South Africa there were what amounted to four cricket boards of control, a Black, Indian, Asian and South African (white).
The ICC gave South Africa an ultimatum, which was to have a unified Board of Control or face sanctions. Within two years the desired integration at the top was effected. The ICC in 1979 dispatched a nine-man delegation led by its president Charlie Palmer for a first-hand investigation. Alma was a member of that delegation, and it would appear from media reports that he had the highest profile of all. His reputation as a first-class international cricketer and a perceptive ICC advocate had preceded him there.
Glowing editorial tributes were paid Champ personally, and colourful references to Bermuda, described variously as that opulent sunny land that wealthy modern tax haven from whence he came. In Durban the Sports Editor of the Natal Mercury, Dennis Done, confidently declared the Bermudian would do South Africa proud in his search for the right answers. In Johannesburg the Sports Editor of the Afrikaans daily Die Beld went to great lengths to explain why he believed Alma was the key figure among the nine-man mission.
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