Remembering Everton Weekes and a prayer for WI batsmen in England


Remembering Everton Weekes and a prayer for WI batsmen in England

Watching Cricket

with Garfield Myers

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

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JUST once, a long time ago, I met the legendary Everton Weekes, who died recently at age 95.

What struck me at the time was how approachable he was and the easy way he laughed and engaged with those around him.

It was from Weekes, in that short meeting, I first heard the story of how Jamaica and West Indies wicketkeeper Jackie Hendriks cheered him on during a century (107) at Kensington Oval in 1964 — his final first class season.

According to Weekes, every time he found the boundary he would hear Hendriks exclaiming from behind the stumps, “Great shot, Sir!”

Hendriks remains convinced that as a batsman, Weekes was the best of the Three Ws (Frank Worrell, Weekes and Clyde Walcott) and in global terms, second only to 'massa god' himself, Garfield Sobers. That's among the batsmen that he (Hendriks) has seen.

The late Allan Rae, an opening batsman in the West Indies team with the Three Ws in the late 40s and early 50s, was also extremely admiring of the short, stocky, right-handed Weekes, and so is Hendriks's contemporary, Easton McMorris, like Rae a former West Indies opener.

My other powerful and personal recollection of the great Weekes was as expert analyst, back when radio commentary was absolutely central to Caribbean cricket.

It was early 1986 and Patrick Patterson had set tongues wagging with his extreme pace against Guyana and Leeward Islands while picking up 14 wickets over those two games at Sabina Park. At Queen's Park Oval, Patterson managed just three wickets against Trinidad and Tobago.

So, now to the much-anticipated clash of pace at the Kensington Oval: Michael Holding, Courtney Walsh, Patterson and Aaron Daley versus Bajan might in the form of Malcolm Marshal, Joel Garner, Roderick Estwick, and Tyrone Greenidge.

According to the radio commentators, Patterson in his opening overs on the first morning was up and down and all over the place, against the legendary opening pair of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. Still, it was noted that after an over or two, Haynes sent for chest protection.

So then, time came for Weekes to give his expert opinion.

Someone asked the great man in relation to Patterson: “He is a bit wild, isn't he?” To which Weekes replied “Yes”. Then after a long pause: “But he is very fast!”

Argument done!

We expect pace, some of it extreme, to be very much to the fore as the strangest of all Test matches opens tomorrow between West Indies and England at Southampton in a COVID-19-induced biosecure environment.

England could choose two of the fastest bowlers around, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, in an attack that will definitely include temporary Captain Ben Stokes. They also possess the famous veterans James Anderson and Stuart Broad as well as the all-rounder Chris Woakes.

Choosing from among those won't be easy. I expect the young off-spinner, Dominic Bess, will be called on to support the pace attack.

West Indian cricket watchers are relieved at the seeming full recovery from ankle surgery of pace spearhead Shannon Gabriel. At his best, Gabriel is as intimidating as any bowler in cricket and reports suggest that the 32- year-old looked good in the two warm-up games.

He is likely to be supported by the classy veteran Kemar Roach, the youthful Alzarri Joseph and Captain Jason Holder.

Roston Chase, likely to bat at number six in the order, will join the bowling attack with his off breaks. England won't forget that he was a match winner against them in the Caribbean last year.

Despite his exploits against Afghanistan in late 2019, I expect the tall, bulky off-spinner Rahkeem Cornwall to watch from the sidelines – unless the tour selectors decide that the conditions in Southampton are such that an extra spinner is preferable to Joseph.

It's old news that batting is being seen as the West Indies' weak link. Last year, in the Caribbean, wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich and Jason Holder, batting at numbers seven and eight, were the most reliable with the bat.

The specialists must now take responsibility. My assumption is that Jermaine Blackwood, who has a good record against England, will fit in at number five in the order, behind Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks and Shai Hope.

Very encouraging has been the continuing improvement of the 22-year-old Trinidadian, Joshua Da Silva, who remained undefeated while scoring a century and a half-century in the second warm-up game. He made the reserves, as part of this 25-man West Indies squad in England, after scoring 507 runs for an average of 50.70 in eight matches during the 4-day regional season, prior to the onset of COVID-19. Da Silva, who also keeps wicket, is obviously one to watch.

Finally, the West Indies would do well to be wary of all the talk about the absence of England captain and champion batsman Joe Root for the opening Test. Let's remember that a number of young England batsmen, including Ollie Pope, Dominic Sibley and Zak Crawley, have so far looked the part in their short careers.

Can this West Indies team beat England in that country after their heroics in the Caribbean early last year? The batting must come good for that to happen, I think.

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