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Winston Davis is paralysed, but not in spirit

Updated on: 08 August,2011 07:40 AM IST  | 
Clayton Murzello | clayton@mid-day.com

Former West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis, paralysed after a freak accident, tells Sunday MiD DAY how spiritual awakening has given him a new lease of life

Winston Davis is paralysed, but not in spirit

Former West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis, paralysed after a freak accident, tells Sunday MiD DAY how spiritual awakening has given him a new lease of life

Winston Davis cannot do the things he used to 14 years ago. We are not referring to bowling fast, which he did for the West Indies and several other first-class teams. We merely mean walking, lifting a cup of tea, or even a glass of water. The man who resides at Bewdley in Worcester spends most of his day in a tilting wheelchair.

Running and bowling fast for the West Indies seems so very long ago. We are welcomed at the door by Anna, who resembles tennis player Monica Seles. She is personal assistant to quite a star, not so much for his cricketing deeds, but for how he is facing up to life after suffering a fall in 1997 that paralysed him neck down.

In March 1997, Davis (now 53) decided to become a Christian. After answering God's call, he got involved in religious work and went with a group of Christians to build a church at St Vincent where he grew up. The land had to be cleared. While cutting a tree, he was knocked down by a branch that hit him on the back of the head.

His critical condition forced doctors to transfer him to a hospital in Florida where he spent several months before they sent him to Bewdley in England for further treatment. Davis just didn't make a complete

Winston Davis' personal assistant Anna helps him drink a cup
of tea at his home in Bewdley, Worcester. PIC/Clayton Murzello

He doesn't like the word 'coping'. "People come to me and say how you coping and I say I am not coping, I am living. You go from crying to living," he says. He recalls the early days after the accident: "I cried everyday. I used to bawl like a cow. I believe God used my tears to wash away my sorrows. Can I test that scientifically? No, but I believe that."

Inspirational words adorn the walls of his modest, small rented home: "ONE DAY AT A TIME. SHOW ME THE STAIRWAY I HAVE TO CLIMB. LORD, FOR MY SAKE, TEACH ME TO TAKE ONE DAY AT A TIME."

He is well reminded of his playing days and family through photographs of his former teammates on the walls.
Since he played most of his Tests against India, it is apt that the photographs were shot in Indiau00a0-- the West Indies team to India in 1987-88 and a photograph of the fast bowlers on the 1983-84 touru00a0u00a0-- Davis himself, Andy Roberts, Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding, Wayne Daniel and Eldine Baptiste.

Davis married an English lady, who he met in Australia in 1984. She lived in Bewdley. Now she has moved to a nearby town. Through his stint at Northamptonshire, Davis settled down in England. "I do all the things I can do. What I can't do, I have people to help me for," he says. The tilting wheelchair works on a car battery.

When Davis wants to move around, he pushes the golf ball knob from his right hand forward. When he wants to sit back, he pushes the ball to another direction. He won't call the wheelchair his best friend. "It is a useful tool. It helps me.

Winston Davis on his wheelchair at his home in Bewdley,
Worcester. PIC/Clayton Murzello

Things like this give you a certain amount of independence," he says. "If I was sitting in a normal chair and if I wanted to move, someone would have to come and move me. With this chair, I can go up and down. I go for my 'walks' in the wheelchair. I have a manual wheelchair too, as a back up. I have been on a tilting wheelchair since 2004. This is my fourth chair.

"I have a busy life. I am involved with the Worcester County Council, working with groups of people with disability. I am on various committees to ensure affected people are looked after." Handling the financial front is confronting, but Davis doesn't make a big deal about it. Getting money for his treatment was a big worry when he suffered the body blow.

He had retired from the county circuit and in those days, there was no cricketers' association like there is in England now. Also, it is never easy when one is not an England player. Cricket writer Matthew Engel wrote a piece in The Guardian about Davis' plight, and readers were encouraged to donate money for his treatment.
Around 34,000 pounds were raised and the Winston Davis Trust got formed.

"To live with a disability in the UK is not cheap. It is very challenging. But there are government schemes set up so people like me can apply and receive help," he says. His attitude towards money is: "Money is a tool to be used to get the things you use in life." Ask him about which of his former teammates come to Bewdley to visit him and Davis cannot come up with a name.

"When I went home, I saw the guys I played with. England is a different society. I am not always here," he says without a trace of complaint or regret. When I ask him how much he has improved since 1997, he says. "I don't think I got anything back. But I have gotten stronger, both physically and mentally.

Let's put it like this - you can do a lot of things with a computer, you can discover new use of it and that is what happens with me. I have met people similar to me and they are still carrying their burden. They have no peace. Within a short span of time, God has given me peace. I don't lie on my bed thinking what I have lost ufffd I never did that. When I wake up, I cannot wait to get out of bed. Some people stay in bed. I want to be able to do things. God has given me the chance to do that."

"The day will come when God will pull me out of this wheelchair and I will walk again," he says as we say goodbye. The world knows Davis for his seven for 51 against Australia in the 1983 World Cup. He was hammered by David Hookes and Kim Hughes in the first five overs of his 10-over spell. He said he didn't like bowling down the slope at Leeds. Skipper Clive Lloyd changed his end and Davis claimed seven in five overs.
Winston Walter Davis needs a change of ends again.

How I got paralysed
In November, 1997, I went up a mango tree to cut a branch but I was struck at the back of my hand by another branch which was entangled with this branch. The blow I received at the back of the head was au00a0 tremendous one. My neck was broken there and I got paralysed neck down.
We were clearing the land to erect a church which is yet to be erected.

My fast bowling mates...
Andy Roberts: He was unpredictable and feared. He could generate pace seemingly without trying.

Joel Garner: He was not express pace but Joel could hit a spot. Given his height and accuracy, he was difficult to negotiate. He didn't swing the ball a lot but he hit a length.

Malcolm Marshall: On his day, Malcolm could do anything with the ballu00a0-- swing, cut. He was a dangerous bowler. We developed technique - when we bounced the ball, it stays around your neck line and didn't balloon over your head.

Sylvester Clarke: Another one who was very feared. Clarkey was a nasty piece of work.

Colin Croft: It was his angleu00a0-- wide of the crease and if you were a right handed batsman the ball appears to be angled into you. Sometimes it straightened and sometimes he was able to bowl a

Michael Holding:u00a0 He was clocked as the fastest West Indies bowler. But at that time there were more feared fast bowlers around than Mikey. He had a predictable action.

That 1983 WC final
It was a match we should have won after our bowlers did so well. Our batsmen should have got the runs. Except for Viv Richards no showed any fight. Captain Clive Lloyd took some bad decisions. He reshuffled the batting order and that may have communicated a wrong spirit. I saw growing me crying after we lost and I am not going to tell you who. It was a difficult time.

West Indies, no more the force they were
It saddens me that West Indies are not the force they used to be. It's not that they don't have talented players, but, the attitude's changed. Poor management at the Board level and the players' attitude have contributed to the disintegration. Money can corrupt you. We always had the grouses and grunts but the team I played in there was an unspoken camaraderie. We will not be an economic power like USA. We were a porting power. We were known for our sporting prowess. When we came into town, people knew we were
in town.

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