The sport’s shorter version appeals to legendary West Indian cricketer Sir Everton Weekes. He relishes watching Twenty/20 cricket and would have enjoyed playing in that form of the game which emerged 39 years after his first-class career ended in 1964.
“I believe it would have suited my batting style as I scored runs fairly quickly,” the 89-year-old Weekes told Share while in Toronto recently as the guest of honour at the Barbados Ball Canada Aid fundraiser in Brampton. “I also like the excitement that comes with the fast paced game.”
While suggesting that ground fielding has improved significantly because of limited-overs cricket, Weekes believes the sport’s shorter variety has impacted on batsmen’s inability to occupy the crease for lengthy periods.
“I see a lot of good players who are not fulfilling the promise they have shown and batting longer, and I suspect the shorter version of the game has something to do with that,” he said. “On the other hand, it’s good to see players are making a good living taking part in this form of the sport.”
Though he was an attacking batsman, Weekes refrained from hitting the ball in the air and struck just one six in 48 Tests.
“I think that would have to do a lot with me being brought up in an alley where we played most of our cricket as boys,” he said. “If you hit the ball into a neighbouring yard, you were lucky if it was returned. So, if you wanted to play for a long period, you had to keep the ball on the ground. Also, you would not be caught if you don’t hit the ball in the air.”
Weekes’ only Test six was off a no-ball delivered by Australian medium pacer Bill Johnson in 1955 in Trinidad & Tobago. The first twin-island republic Test to be played on turf wicket, the match produced 1,255 runs and 23 wickets.
The ball was struck over mid-on off the backfoot which Weekes favoured to drive, cut and pull bowlers with disdain.
“Watching very good batsmen while growing up and the England team that toured the Caribbean in 1934, I thought that if you were on the backfoot, you had a little more time to see the ball,” said Weekes, who recorded 139 and an unbeaten 87 in the Test. “When I went to England in 1949, I realized the ball moved around a lot more and – depending on the bowler’s pace – you had to work out for yourself if you should go forward to someone who is swinging the ball quite a lot. That allowed you to cut down the amount of movement. With the faster bowlers like Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, I would say you should be on the backfoot because they didn’t swing the ball as much and that would give you a little more time to get yourself in the right position. You had to work out the pace of each bowler.”
While Weekes supported Pickwick Club, which was in the neighbourhood where he was born and raised, he was unable to play for the club because it catered to middle-class Whites in those days.
As a member of the Barbados Regiment after leaving St. Leonard Boys’ School in 1939, Weekes represented the Garrison Sports Club in the Barbados Cricket League before joining Empire in 1947.
Trinidad-born former West Indies fast bowler, Herman Griffith, co-founded the club after his application for membership at Spartan was turned down as he was deemed “socially undesirable”.
“Had it not been for Herman, the club might not have existed,” said Weekes, who also played soccer for Empire.
He remains a loyal member of the club, which is celebrating its centenary this year.
“I am still having a great time at Empire that I also captained for a few years,” said Weekes, the only surviving member of the Three W’s.
Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott passed away in 1967 and 2006, respectively. The trio – which consistently punished bowlers – was born within 17 months and a mile of each other close to Kensington Oval.
When asked which batsman he would have paid to watch, the response was prompt.
“Gary (Sir Garfield Sobers),” Weekes said without any hesitation. “He did everything very well.”
The scorer of five centuries in successive Test innings which remains a world record, Weekes said he would have batted with a helmet if they were available in his era.
“I was never struck in the head, but I was hit in the chest,” he said. “If the protection is there, why not use it.”
Weekes’ teammates in his first Test in 1948 against England at Kensington Oval included George Headley, who the Barbadian idolized. Headley captained the team in that match in the absence of Worrell, who was sidelined with a stomach ailment.
“George was the first great batsman talked about that I saw,” said Weekes whose son, David Murray, represented the West Indies in 19 Tests and grandson, Ricky Hoyte, played for several Toronto & District Cricket Association clubs. “I had seen him in Barbados before with the West Indies in 1933. When he got some runs (203 out of 356 and 57 without being dismissed in both innings) against us in Jamaica in 1947, I could see why he was rated as one of the world’s greatest batsmen. He had so much time to play his strokes even though it seemed his strokeplay was limited.
“He was not the most beautiful player to watch. He was a little side-on, like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, at the point of delivery. But he was effective and watching his approach to batting taught me that runs are not made in the pavilion. George was knowledgeable about the game and we became very good friends and spent a lot of time together.”
Weekes developed a passion for bridge during the seven seasons he spent with Bacup in the Lancashire League where he amassed 9,069 runs (av. 91.61) with 31 centuries and took 453 wickets (av. 15.20) bowling leg breaks.
“On the long train rides which sometimes took five and six hours, a couple of us got together and played cards, particularly bridge, to pass away the time,” he said.