April 23, 2009 12:20:18 am
The photograph has been made available courtesy the White House,and you have to wonder what the American president is trying to prove. There is first,at the Port of Spain Hilton,Brian Lara,for whom the citys grandest boulevard is named. The bat he holds is invisible,but it takes little imagination to see the cricket ball skipping off to the boundary. Alongside,also in a suit,is Barack Obama,an actual bat held as if hes waiting to bludgeon a baseball,both black shoes firmly on the ground in contrast to Laras lightness of feet. The American president may yet get his cricket stance right but if sport had its civilisations,these two men would be strangers.
Obama used meetings at the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad to make conciliatory overtures to Venezuela and Cuba,and the Lara tutorial was of a piece with the cultural outreach thats defined his leadership. Indeed,with a Kenyan inheritance he only began to get a measure of in his later life,hed know the colonial context of cricket. Obama is also keenly aware how much can be learnt about a person by seeing how he plays a sport. He is a basketball man,and the greats have been watching him play to read his character. He sees the play before it develops, Magic Johnson told CNN recently,concluding,that is how he is running the country.
So what does that photograph tell us? Does that determined jaw betray impatience with the paces of a game that unfolds over five days? Or does it convey parallel thoughts about how to harness Americas soft power with its own sports? Perhaps its just as simple as Obama concentrating as hard as a person must in the presence of a master.
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