Cricket goes way beyond the boundary
Sean Devers travels back in time to report on 75 years of West Indies cricket history
Stabroek News
June 21, 2003

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When Jamaican Robert Nunes led the West Indies onto the field on June 23rd 1928 to face England at Lords, it marked the birth of one of the most colorful and exciting teams to play test cricket and provided a major opening for West Indians to gain international acclaim.

In a region dominated by the `whites’ in the days of slavery and indentureship, cricket has played an important role in the social, economic, cultural and political development of Caribbean people.

Since slavery was abolished in 1883, cricket has played the biggest role in uniting West Indians from different islands, giving them a sense of pride and self worth.

Cricket for West Indians goes way beyond the boundary in a region populated by over ninety percent non- whites. It was the only opportunity for most people in the British West Indies and British Guiana to gain recognition and respect.

In the early days, cricket in the West Indies was a tool to gain respect and equality for a people desperately trying to emancipate themselves from the mental slavery that engulfed their daily lives.

Cricket is the ethos around which West Indian society revolves and the 1950 victory over England at Lords still remains the single greatest moment in the history of West Indies cricket.

It was the first victory over their former colonial masters on English soil and signaled the coming of age of the `calypso cricketers.’

So great was the triumph by John Goddard’ team for all West Indians that Lord Beginner wrote a calypso to celebrate.

“cricket, lovely cricket
At Lords where I saw it
Yardley did his best
But Goddard won the test
With those little pals of mine
Ramadhin and Valentine.”

The song said it all as two 20-year-olds, Trinidadian Sonny Ramadhin (26 wickets) and Jamaican Alf Valentine (33 wickets) destroyed England.

The highs and lows, those who excelled during the glory years when the regional team was not beaten in a single series for 15 years, and those who did not, the Calypso cricketers evolving into professionals under the leadership of Sir Frank Worrell and later Clive Lloyd, the tied test against Australia when Guyanese Joe Solomon ran out the last man, the Kerry Paker affair in 1978, the rebel tour to apartheid ruled South Africa in 1983, the fall from grace in 1995 and the new breed of West Indies players who seem to know very little, and care even less about the significance of wearing the Maroon cap, are all a part of the rich and exciting history of West Indies cricket.

As we struggle to hold our heads high at the international level today, let us hope that we can be inspired and motivated by what began 75 years ago on a cold English day in London and the blood, sweat and tears that has flowed to keep the national game of the West Indies alive sine 1928.

When Jamaican Jerome Taylor made his debut against Sri Lanka on Friday June 20 (yesterday) in St Lucia he became the 252nd West Indian test player on a ground hosting its first test match.

Since 1928, West Indies have played 397 test matches, won 144, lost 115, drawn 136 and tied one with a 36.27% victory rate.

Part 1.


Robert Nunes became the first of 26 West Indies test captains when his team toured England in 1928 and lost all three of their matches as the Caribbean side was admitted to test cricket 63 years after they played their first first class match in the West Indies in 1865.

West Indies won their first test in 1930 at Bourda in British Guyana beating England by 289 runs in the third test.

Guyanese Maurice Fernandes became the first captain to win a test match but even though he had played the year before in the inaugural test, this was to be his only test as skipper and his two test career was soon over.

In those days a captain was appointed from each territory the game was played in during a home series and four captains were used in the first home series in 1930, including Trinidadian Nelson Betancourt who made his debut at the ripe old age of 42 years, 242 days and still holds the record as the oldest West Indian (fifth oldest player overall) to make his debut. Barbadian Derek Sealy made his debut at 17 years, 122 days in the first test and is still the youngest West Indian to play test cricket.

That 1930 series marked the first test hundred by a West Indian when Trinidadian Clifford Roach hit 122 in the first test in Barbados. He also became the first West Indian to score a double century with 209 at Bourda while the great George Headley followed up his 179 in Barbados by becoming the first West Indian to score two hundreds in the same game (114&112) at Bourda.

Headley, who was born in Panama in 1909 but moved to Jamaica, finished a fine series with a splendid 223 in the final test on home soil. He was called the `Black Bradman’ and `Atlas’ because he carried the West Indies batting on his shoulders in the early days.

Although his career was put on hold for nine years between 1939 and 1948 due to the Second World War, he scored 10 centuries from 22 tests at an average of 60.83 and is among the greatest batsmen ever to play by the West Indies. He captained the West Indies in one test in 1948 to become the first black man to lead the side and became the youngest West Indian to score a test century.

In 1931, Trinidadian George Grant led the West Indies on their first tour to Australia and despite two tons from Headley, the West Indies lost the five test series 4-1.

After losing 2-0 in the 1933 series in England, the West Indies won their first test series in 1935 at home when, under the leadership of Grant, they beat England 2-1 in the four test series with Headley making 270 not out in the final test.

After the 1939 series to England war broke out and the West Indies did not play again until 1948 when Headley, now past his prime, made his exit from the test arena.

In the Third test of the 1948 home series Goddard took over from Gerry Gomez as captain to become the first long term West Indies skipper, leading the team in 22 matches including the memorable 1950 series in England.

On that tour, which the Windies won 3-1, Jeffery Stollmeyer and Goddard insisted that Ramadhin and Valentine, with virtually no first class experience, be selected for the tour.

The spin twins mesmerized the English batsmen while Alan Rae and Stollmeyer, rated only behind Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes as outstanding West Indian opening pairs, gave their team solid starts for the three W’s-Weeks, Worrell and Walcott- to build on as the West Indies enjoyed their finest hour, winning their first series in England.

West Indies played New Zealand for the first time in the 1952 two test series in New Zealand and won 1-nil under Goddard after they had lost 4-1 to Australia in 1951.

West Indies, under Stollmeyer, celebrated their first 25 years in test cricket with a 1-0 win over India in the five test series at home before Bajan Dennis Atkinson took over the captaincy and lost the 1955 home series to Australia 3-nil.

In 1958 Pakistan played the West Indies for the first time and Gerry Alexander led the West Indies to a 3-1 victory in the five test series.

The third test in Jamaica saw two records being set. Garfield Sobers, later knighted `Sir’ scored a record 365 and got support from Conrad Hunte (260) as the West Indies made their highest total ever-790-3 declared. While Sobers’ record was broken 36 years later by Brian Lara, the 790 still remains West Indies’ highest total. To be continued.

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