Weekes in the life of Windies cricket

West Indian cricketers have the most fascinating of names Garfield St Aubrun Sobers, Isaac Vivian Alexander Richards and Anderson Montgomery Everton Roberts. All these got prefixed with the title Sir.

There’s another Sir whose cricketing qualities were equally commendable Everton de Courcy Weekes, the only surviving member of the famous three Ws (Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott and Weekes).

In a decade-long Test career, Weekes played 48 Test matches, scored 4455 runs at 58.61. He sits well in the pantheon of Caribbean batting greats although is sometimes unheralded, just like Rohan Kanhai, amidst the radiance of Sobers, Richards and Brian Lara.

Sir Everton de Courcy Weekes, who celebrates his 90th birthday in Barbados today, will be remembered in India for his four consecutive hundreds in the 1948-49 series for John Goddard’s West Indians. Pic/Getty Images
Sir Everton de Courcy Weekes, who celebrates his 90th birthday in Barbados today, will be remembered in India for his four consecutive hundreds in the 1948-49 series for John Goddard’s West Indians. Pic/Getty Images

Weekes, who celebrates his 90th birthday in Barbados today, will be remembered in India for his four consecutive hundreds in the 1948-49 series for John Goddard’s West Indians. In the fourth Test at Chennai (then Madras), the prolific batsman was run out 10 runs shy of what would have been his fifth hundred of the series and sixth consecutive overall, considering his century in the last Test of the previous series against England.

Rated as the best batsman among the three Ws, Weekes’ influence on West Indies cricket may have not been as profound as Worrell, the West Indies’ first full-time black captain, but he inspired a generation of players that included Sobers. It was Weekes who presented Sobers with his first bat when he first played for Barbados and there was a regular flow of bats after Weekes signed a contract with Herbert Sutcliffe’s bat company. But apart from willow acquisitions, Sobers benefitted from Weekes’ descriptions of the various tours he went on. “He would regale me with stories, not just of the cricket but of the people and culture as well. I especially loved to hear about India,” wrote Sobers in his autobiography. To Sir Don Bradman, Weekes was, “the best batsman ever to come out of the West Indies.”

Madhav Apte, one of the few survivors of India’s 1953 touring party to the West Indies, recalled “suffering” at the hands of Weekes on that tour. “He was a slaughterer of bowling attacks but had a strong defence too. His batting was a combination of strength, footwork and strokeplay. Above all, like the other two Ws, Everton was a nice chap,” said Apte, who watched Weekes in 1948-49 as well.

Weekes was born in a poor family at Pickwick Gap near Kensington Oval, the home of Pickwick Club which he couldn’t play for then because it admitted only whites. In his book Mastering the Craft, Weekes reveals a bit of his poverty: “My family was poor but we placed a lot of emphasis on dignity. This might seem a bit of a cliché, but in those days, poverty was devastating and crippling for grown folks.”

The hardships he endured in his youth made him stronger mentally and physically. Ditto, a stint in the Army. Fred Trueman, the late pace great recalled how Weekes battled on trying to save the 1957 Lord’s Test for West Indies. In Arlott and Trueman on Cricket, the great Yorkshireman wrote: “Weekes changed his gloves three or four times and one of those occasions I saw blood seeping through. He didn’t complain about anything and he didn’t go off and although West Indies lost, he scored 90 really wonderful runs out of their second innings score of 261.” Weekes, as Trueman learnt 19 years later, had batted with a broken finger.

That score of 90 may have reminded Weekes of the 90 he scored against India at Chennai in 1948. According to his teammate Jeff Stollmeyer, whose fascinating diary of that Indian tour was published only in the new millennium, Weekes was deprived of his fifth century in the series because, despite him slipping on the “glossy surface” pitch while trying to make his crease, “he had still been able to recover his ground on time. But the umpire’s decision is final. Out he said, and out ten short of the two world records he was on.” However, in Weekes’ book, he made no mention of this in the chapter relating to the India tour. But then, Weekes was never one to be tickled by landmarks. “I was too busy thinking, not counting,” he wrote.

Happy birthday, Sir!

Clayton Murzello is mid-day’s Group Sports Editor

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