West Indies players always in demand


(FLASHBACK): Frank Worrell (left), Everton Weekes (second from left) and Clyde Walcott (right) attend a party at the West Indian club in London in 1957. Also in photo is Sonny Ramadhin. –


WEST INDIES cricketers have always been in demand as professionals. After acceptance as a serious cricket region in 1928, they toured England, by invitation, to challenge them at Test cricket. During that tour, the Caribbean men became popular in England. The spirited play and excitement these players from the sunshine colonies of the WI brought to the game awakened the staid Englishmen to the passion and thrill in the sport.

The officials of the Nelson Cricket Club started the ball rolling when they saw the great Sir Learie Constantine at play that year. They offered him a contract to play with their amateur club as a professional. Sir Learie accepted it willingly, thus becoming the first West Indian professional cricketer and the first from overseas.

That tournament in the Lancashire League took place only on Saturday afternoons. The amateur clubs in this league eventually followed the lead of Nelson and gradually introduced more Caribbean cricketers to their clubs.

After the Second World War saw the three Ws – Frank Worrell, Everton Weekes, Clyde Walcott – then Alf Valentine, Sonny Ramadhin, Garfield Sobers, Collie Smith, Rohan Kanhai, Basil Butcher etc, as some of those who accepted contracts.

Three-day county cricket was played twice a week and was designated first-class cricket. It was only for British citizens.

It was WI influence that again had a hand in directing the future of professional cricket. Sir Frank Worrell’s sensational teams of the early 1960s that toured Australia in 1960/61 and England in 1963 opened the eyes of the cricket world to what was then referred to as “bright cricket.”

However, the first-class game in England was losing money and the dwindling crowds at these matches were foreboding to the point that made the future dismal for the first-class game,and thus the development of cricketers.

Because of Worrell’s exciting players, the English hierarchy opened up county cricket to overseas professionals in 1968.

So that where before, a cricketer had to become a resident to participate in the County Championship, he could now be accepted. For the 17 counties that played first-class cricket, 13 West Indians were hired, more than any overseas country. County cricket was saved and the attractive cricketers of WI were the ones in demand.

After this venture, it must be remembered that Kerry Packer bought out the best West Indian cricketers to participate in a private tournament in which he invested.

Again, this was because of the popularity of the brand of cricket WI played. Not that they had to be taught this way, but because of a natural-born flair for the thrill of batting, bowling and winning matches. It is a West Indian trait that people love.

There’s always an air of excitement, a spectacle, if you wish, when they play: fast bowling and hard-hitting, from the dynamism of Sir Learie and Sir Garfield to the elegance of Jeff Stollmeyer and Sir Frank, the ferocity of Sir Everton and Sir Clyde, plus the combination of butchery and smoothness of Sir Vivian Richards and Brian Lara to the brilliant stroke play of Rohan Kanhai and Sir Gordon Greenidge, plus the silkiness and beauty of Larry Gomes and Lawrence Rowe. The pace bowling of the fearsome Wes Hall, the subtlety of Andy Roberts, the lethal Joel Garner, the always dangerous Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall. So many stars, top-of-the-line cricketers I wish I could mention them all.

The main point is that West Indian cricket led the way to exciting cricket throughout the world, where the warmth, passion and thrill they bring to a cricket game because their innate culture produces an elated adventure to every moment. Therefore, they’re in great demand to perform for the multitudes.

In the IPL for 2022, the West Indian cricketer has proven once more to be the ever-popular star on the horizon that all cricket fans love. Seventeen cricketers being paid over US$10 million, chosen from a small cricket region of seven million-odd people, is certainly something of which the archipelago’s citizens could be proud. The cricketers of these small islands, sandwiched between North and South America, have been in demand by investors over the past 93 years.

The only matter for us to figure out now is, how could IPL scouts identify our talented players so readily while WI are languishing at the bottom of the rankings in the T20 format? Of all these wonderful cricketers, can’t we select a winning combination?

Something’s wrong.

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