On the day Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira was to broadcast his final cricket match in Saint Lucia before settling into retirement from broadcasting, we sat together at a popular Rodney Bay café while he reminisced about the several countries he had visited thanks to cricket. A tropical trough had dumped so much rain on the Daren Sammy Cricket Stadium, enough to abandon play. It was the fourth and final day of a regional match between Reds’ native Guyana and the Windward Islands. However, there had been sufficient play on the first two days to earn Guyana first innings lead while sinking Windwards into further despair. It turns out that as a child, Reds suffered severe stuttering. He loved cricket more than anything else in the world. Over coffee he recalled being glued to the radio during the England versus West Indies test matches in England in 1950. The ball-by-ball commentary was by the legendary John Arlott, Rex Alston and E.W. Stanton.
Theimpression they made on the young and impressionable Perreira would last a lifetime. The following year, when West Indies toured Australia, Reds stayed tuned to the broadcasts by Australian commentators Jonny Moyes, Michael Charlton and Allan Mc Gilvrey from 11pm to 4am. “I became even more fascinated by the theatre and imagery of the game,” he recalled for my benefit. “I could see in my mind’s eye the perfect green outfield, and the polished red sphere racing to the boundary from a perfectly timed cover drive—as clearly as I could hear the crowd’s applause.” Imagine the feeling when in 1973, 1978 and 1979 Reds found himself broadcasting test matches between Australia and the West Indies—with the great Allan Mc Gilvrey! He began watching inter-colonial matches in his teens—games between British Guiana, Barbados, Trinidad and Jamaica. The first he witnessed was between Barbados and BG, when the opening partnership of Leslie White and BG’s Glendon produced 390 runs (White 260, Gibbs 216)—a record lasting 50 years. “My father, was very strict,” Reds chuckled. “For recreation I had to choose between the movies and cricket. Of course I chose cricket.”
As much as young Reds loved being a spectator, for him the real stars were the broadcasters of the game. He had dabbled in second division cricket but soon he had decided his cricketing future lay not on how he performed with bat and ball but on how he described on radio the performances of other players. He used to lie in bed every day broadcasting imagined cricket events. His mother listened patiently, not once suggesting her son may be a little off kilter. “I remain ever grateful to her for her subtle encouragement and for helping me overcome my embarrassing stutter. I wish I could say the same about my school friends at St. Mary’s RC. Kind and supportive they were not. Their constant teasing forced me to abandon school in my teens.” For a short period after leaving St Mary’s Reds worked at odd jobs here and there, then left for the UK. He “knocked around” at the BBC, where Saint Lucian Alva Clarke was a broadcaster. He also “watched a lot of test and county cricket.” Five years later, toward the end of 1967, Reds returned home. But not before he had spent several months working in Denmark as a dishwasher, a job that allowed him enough time to read the English newspapers that he purchased from a railway station newsstand across the street from his place of work. For Reds pronouncing the letters r and s were especially challenging. But he persisted. By the time he returned to Guyana at the end of 1967 he had broken the back of his stammering handicap. In 1969 Hugh Cholmondely employed him at a radio station he managed.
Reds broadcast his first test at Bourda in 1971. When I asked him to name the two most memorable cricket matches he had broadcast, Reds paused for several seconds before responding: “There are so many, it’s difficult to choose just two.” Finally he settled on the quarter-final match between West Indies and Pakistan in the first ever cricket world cup, a sixty-over affair played at Edgbaston, England in 1975, and the January 1993 test between the West Indies and Australia at Adelaide. “West Indies won by just one run,” Reds smiled. “In that one-day quarter final,” he recalled, “Pakistan scored 276. With a strong betting line-up West Indies were struggling at 203 for nine. Few, if any, had given the West Indies any chance of winning that match. But in walked Andy Roberts to partner Derek Murray in the middle. The two began taking quick singles and twos whenever there was the opportunity. Slowly but surely they inched towards 276, which they eventually achieved and won for the West Indies the first ever one-day Cricket World Cup.” During that tense last wicket partnership, Reds recalled, no one left West Indies players’ dressing room. That day many players wept openly as victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat. At Adelaide in 1993, the last Australian pair of Craig Mc. Dermott and Tim May needed two runs to win, after they had added 40 runs for the last wicket. Walsh bowled a delivery outside the leg stump, which Mc. Dermott played for what seemed a certain boundary. Desmond Haynes dived full length at forward short leg and brilliantly stopped any runs. The last ball of the over was a bouncer which Mc. Dermott gloved into the hands of wicketkeeper Junior Murray. West Indies won that match by two runs. That victory tied the series at one game each.
West Indies then went to Perth where they demolished the Australians within three days of the five-day test. Ambrose took seven for seventy-six. Reds’ remembers with fondness his colleague and friend Tony Cozier (he passed away earlier this year). On his first tour of duty, Reds was sent with Cozier by the CBU to broadcast the 1975 series between England and the West Indies. They were joined by Jeffrey Charles of Dominica, who then worked for the BBC in London. The English commentators were Christopher Martin-Jenkins and John Arlott. Reds and Cozier went on to broadcast cricket for the next forty years together travelling the then known cricketing world. Asked to identify the person who had contributed most to his career, Reds replied: “I think there was some guiding hands which led me to the life and profession I eventually had. There was also very hard work and effort on my part. At no time did I allow myself to think I was not good enough to achieve my dream of becoming a cricket commentator.” It may very well be that that same guiding spirit led him to make his home in Saint Lucia, where he headed the OECS sports desk from 1984 to1996.
By popular account Reds has been a great asset to local sports in general, cricket in particular. Fans as well as regular Saint Lucians will doubtless welcome this opportunity to wish him continued good health and good luck. This week’s match—December 9-12 in Guyana—between that country and Barbados, will mark Joseph ‘Reds’ Perreira’s last performance from the broadcasters’ box!