Colin E. H. Croft
If you were at Kingston’s Jamaica Pegasus Hotel last week, as were the seven surviving West Indies cricketing “Sirs” when they attended the awards ceremony hosted by West Indies Cricket Board and West Indies Players Association, then you ought to have been inspired!
That room had to be dripping with cricket greatness. What a night it must have been!
Realistically, it will not be often again in the future that Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Wesley Hall, Sir Andy Roberts, Sir Vivian Richards, Sir Curtly Ambrose, Sir Garfield Sobers and Sir Richard Richardson, tremendous cricketers for their respective countries and past WI teams, could be in the same place again. What a wonderful opportunity to reminisce on WI cricketing style!
These seven knights have an astonishing 541 Tests; 644 ODI’s; 43,834 international runs and 1,499 international wickets between them.
On paper, all they need to have an unbeatable but imaginary proper team, for any format, would be a real wicket-keeper, two real opening batsmen and perhaps another front-line spinner.
That timely opportunity last week afforded a chance of a lifetime for present WI cricketing underlings to rub shoulders with greats, hoping that something could “rub off” from them, especially with that word “great” having been so badly diluted over the past few decades.
If you are a present WI cricketer, or aspirant, and you were there, you ought to have taken every chance, with risks too, I expect, to enquire from these stalwarts as to what was it that they did over their careers to make them not only special to WI cricket but revered world-wide.
Denesh Ramdin, present WI captain, and the rest of his squad for Test No. 2 v Australia; even the Australians too; must have taken that opportunity to admire those knights with awe. Unfortunately, I had to be elsewhere, attending to more important personal situations. Pity!
1950’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, cricket’s “time of romance,” and 1990’s and 2000’s, were very different times cricket-wise, even if Sir Curtly and Sir Richie played during international cricket’s “time of transition.” Sir Richie’s career ended in 1995 while Sir Curtly played until 2000!
The greatest, Sir Gary, is like boxer Muhammed Ali. They cannot be duplicated. Truth be told, I doubt, even after so much elapsed time, that Sir Gary knew, or even now realizes, how massive a cricketer he was!
Having seen him play for the first time in 1971 v India; and as a Guyana Under-19 player even actually bowling to him at WI practice then; with achievements on cricket arenas, might it have been UK, India, Australia or Caribbean, that man is the last of cricket’s all-around geniuses.
Sir Everton, third of “Three W’s”, following Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell, is still my personal favorite WI cricketer of all time, and not only because I am similarly named, as Sir Andy probably was too, after Sir Everton’s big exploits around the time we were born; early 1950’s.
Like Brian Lara, Sir Richie and Sir Viv, Sir Everton is a batting luminary, but unlike Sir Everton and Lara, Sir Viv was more openly destructive, like his name-sake, “Smoking” Joe Frazier of boxing fame. Sir Richie was not far behind Sir Viv either in batting aggression.
Sir Everton was somewhat more classical, as smooth and effective as perhaps another boxer, Floyd Patterson. If Lara was a boxer, he might have been Sugar Ray Leonard!
Lara, Sir Everton, Sir Viv and Sir Gary are always included in “All-time WI XI’s’, regardless of whom the selectors are. That alone confirms their own cricketing immortality.
With modern cricket, so many avenues to endure, so many shorter competitions to manipulate, so many political and other obstacles to overcome, it is conceivable that these seven cricketing knights could be some of the very last that we might ever know here.
Barbados could still maybe suggest Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes and Joel Garner for knighthoods, while Jamaica might even think about giving similar acknowledgements to Chris Gayle, Michael Holding and Courtney Walsh, but few other ex-players deserve such accolades.
Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago are both republics, so if Clive Lloyd and Rohan Kanhai are to be knighted, then they will have to get those gongs through their adopted domicile England.
Guyana’s Shiv Chanderpaul and Lancelot Gibbs, and T&T’s Deryck Murray and Lara, all for tremendous services rendered sometimes beyond duty for President or Prime Minister, will simply have to miss out due to each respective country’s political foundations.
Darren Sammy could be knighted by St. Lucia too, as were Sir Viv, Sir Andy, Sir Richie and Sir Curtly honored by Antigua & Barbuda, but that barrel of knighthoods is becoming empty!
Sir Curtly and Sir Andy have been headliners for recent successful WI fast bowling culture, but if one is to nominate “The real father of modern WI fast bowling”, then that additional accolade must go to Sir Wes, the only man ever described as “pace like fire”, always leading from the front!
We may never see such justifiably honored cricketing knights again in our history. Enjoy!
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