Saluting the 500 man

Stabroek News
March 25, 2001

Almost two decades ago, down in Australia, a slimly- built fast bowler trying to establish himself - in a team with a stellar cast - took his first steps in Test cricket.

Just 22 years old in November 1984, Courtney Andrew Walsh was definitely the baby of Clive Lloyd's successful West Indies cricket team. The was the newcomer in a pace quartet that boasted Joel Garner, the late Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding (one of Walsh's Melbourne Club colleagues in his native Jamaica) and quickly became the workhorse of the bowling attack while his illustrious peers operated in short, effective spells.

As with all "babies", the young Walsh was now exploring his new domain - Test cricket. It had been his goal to reach this level and his "first aim was to maintain a place in the team". As time progressed and the number of Tests in which he played increased, his modest ambition was to attain 200 Test wickets.

For all the magnificent and phenomenal achievements in the world of sports, this six-foot beanpole bowler, nor anyone else in cricket, could have imagined how big a name he would become in international cricket nor how many times he would rewrite history and, en route, surpass his original objective many times over.

The leading West Indies Test wicket-taker; the leading Test wicket-taker and, as of 2:20 p.m. on March 19, this year, the first and only bowler to have claimed 500 Test wickets - Courtney Walsh is all of these.

An Ambassador-At-Large for his country, he is one of the region's most distinguished sons and has certainly brought honour and glory to the entire Caribbean with his bowling prowess. Success on pitches across the world, coupled with his humble and personable attitude, have gained this legend countless fans throughout the cricketing arena.

Walsh has long since passed the adolescent and adulthood stages of his career and is now revered as the elder statesman in West Indies cricket. He is among the most highly respected players still in the game and is admired by team-mates and opponents alike. His conduct, both on and off the field, as well as his sporting values and commitment to excellence in his profession are a shining example for youngsters in our Caribbean society.

We in the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) laud yet another, and arguably the greatest, of Walsh's achievements - 500 Test wickets. He is the pride and joy of the West Indies and we urge the people of this region to show him their appreciation for his outstanding service to West Indies cricket as he continues his final Test tour in the Caribbean.

In tribute to Walsh, it is fitting that this column concludes with a segment of the remarks by the WICB's Chief Executive Officer, Gregory Shillingford, in praise of this bowler's 500th Test wicket:

"Courtney, your achievement of 500 Test wickets at a strike rate of 57.79, with an average of 24.71 in 129 Tests, in 4806.3 overs, with 21 five-wicket hauls and three 10-wicket hauls, with a best performance of seven for 37, is truly an inspiration to all of us in West Indies cricket, both on and off the field. Your unwavering spirit, your commitment to excellence and your durability have been admired by all of us who have enjoyed his many heroics for the West Indies over the past two decades.

We have come to associate your name with greatness as you have amassed milestone after milestone and today you have done it again - 500 Test wickets. You have gone where no-one has gone before.

Courtney, you have made all West Indians extremely proud today and what better occasion than the 50th Test match at Queen's Park Oval for you to have taken your 500th Test wicket. This is truly a golden celebration.

We salute you."