Some meetings are truly memorable. Mine with Sir Everton Weekes was in Bridgetown, Barbados at a Test match in ‘99. A gentle, softly spoken man with a genuine handshake and a ready smile, he was working alongside broadcaster Donna Symmonds, describing what was to become one of the most exciting West Indian Tests of all.
Fifty years earlier he’d been among the most devastating batsmen in the world with a penchant for hammering even the best bowling.
In Tony Cozier’s final work, a wonderfully illuminating study of one of the golden greats of Caribbean cricket, Weekes says the boys at Pickwick Gap in inner Bridgetown just 300 yards from Kensington Oval, had no choice but to learn to hit the ball along the ground. Any ball lifted into the wrong backyard ran the risk of being confiscated, ending play prematurely.
From the age of nine, Weekes would sneak into the Test arena at 5 a.m. on match mornings and assist with ground duties and stay all day. He witnessed his first Test in 1935 and still watches all the play on tv.
In time he was to become one of the celebrated three Ws, along with fellow Bajans Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott. They were all born within a year or two of each other and all lived within a two-mile (3.2 km) radius.
In 1950 when the young West Indians stunned England 3-1, four of their touring team were accorded Wisden Cricketer of the Year status. Weekes was described as having had the most auspicious maiden tour of England since Don Bradman in 1930. His mountain of runs included five centuries: 232, 304 not out, 246 not out, 200 not out and 139 in the Trent Bridge Test.
Weekes reveled in English conditions and in seven seasons of Lancashire League cricket with Bacup made almost 10,000 runs at an average of 90.
The first to make five Test centuries in consecutive Tests, Weekes at his blazing best was unstoppable. Cozier quotes the champion Australian Neil Harvey who says: ‘I would pay good money to see Everton Weekes bat any day of the week, anywhere anytime.’
Injuries in 1951-52 precluded Weekes from playing with his normal fluency in Australia, the Australians Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller bouncing him unmercifully. He extracted some revenge on home wickets in 1955, averaging almost 60. Included was 139 in the first ever Test match played on turf in Port-of-Spain.
Later his son David Murray, a wicketkeeper, also represented the West Indies.
A slim volume of just 50 pages, this appreciation is Tony Cozier’s final published work. He died in May 2016. In the book’s introduction he is described as the ‘voice and soul of West Indian cricket’. — KP