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Well spent, not only because the proceeds went to Walsh, not only because it was a good way of saying thanks to a great cricketer, to the man who has taken the most wickets in the long history of Test cricket, to a man who had represented Jamaica and the West Indies with dignity and to a Jamaican who had achieved, but also because of the occasion.
A SPLENDID OCCASION
It was a splendid occasion not only because there were some 600 people present - including some of the top names in government, business and sports, not only because the decor was so breathtaking and the atmosphere so magnificent, but also because of the wonderful presentations.
Paul Keens Douglas was great, Ricky Ponting, who brought down the house when, after reciting some of the great fast bowler's achievements with the ball, said the Australians had come to the dinner to ensure that Courtney had really retired and that he wanted to say something about his batting but the stats were not available.
So too Brian Lara, who eloquently talked about his friendship with Walsh, the good advice he received from him on many occasions and Clive Lloyd, who reminded the guests of the fast bowler's courage and team spirit.
On a night when Prime Minister P. J. Patterson announced the Courtney Walsh Award of Excellence, heaping praise on the great Jamaican, on a night when the PM presented another great Jamaican, Michael Holding, with the instruments as an Ambassador at Large and Special Envoy, the outstanding performer, however, was the man himself.
For many years, people from all over the world have showered praise on Walsh for his outstanding achievements, his grace and humility and in another demonstration of his class on Thursday night, on one of the biggest nights in his life, a night when people came to praise him, the 'big man in cricket' took time out to thank all those who, from his childhood days, helped him to become what he has become - one of the greatest cricketers of all-time and one of the finest gentlemen in the history of the sport.
After thanking the sponsors, the members of the banquet committee - chairman Laurie Sharpe, Pat Rousseau, O.K. Melhado, Keith Binns, Jason Sharpe, Paul Campbell - for their efforts and asking each one to stand, the members of the West Indies and Australia teams for attending, Walsh went through a long list of those who, in one way or another and apart from his mother and his family, had contributed to his success.
He started with thanks to the Almighty who blessed him with the talent and then he went on to Ruddy Marzouca of Melbourne, whom he described as the father figure in his life, Monica Williams and Mickey Hosue also of Melbourne and Courtney Walsh Sports, Barrington Saunders, a Melbourne pace bowler, who was his training partner and who Walsh said used to encourage him to run laps, Wilton Scott, one of his young colleagues in the Melbourne team and to Kingsley Goodison, who he said always had words of encouragement.
Among those from whom there were constant words of encouragement were fellow players Robert Samuels and Robert Haynes, former players Jackie Hendriks, Allan Rae and Gerry Alexander, also there for him were coach Rohan Kanhai, administrators George Sterling and George Prescod and among those who played with him were Jimmy Adams and most of all, Curtly Ambrose, the man who, he said to a backdrop of applause, will always be his friend.
Walsh also thanked Exed, Melbourne and Gloucestershire, including Jack Russell and the Gibson family for their contribution and support, and Lloyd for instilling in him discipline and pride during his early days in the West Indies team.
Each and every name was greeted with a ringing round of applause. The house came down, however, when he thanked the Prime Minister for his recognition of Holding's contribution to the game and when he said: "My big brother, Ambassador Michael Anthony Holding, welcome. You guided me at Melbourne, you guided me in the Jamaica team and you guided and protected me in the West Indies team. Thank you very, very much."
In 10 minutes or so, Courtney Walsh demonstrated once again why he is so loved, not only by Jamaicans but also by cricketers and cricket fans around the world. It probably also demonstrated why he was so successful. (Jamaica Gleaner)