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Centenary of the man who changed cricket and society

Centenary of the man who changed cricket and society
Centenary of the man who changed cricket and society


Frank Worrell. | Photo credit: THE HINDOU ARCHIVES

Who is the most important cricketer to have played the game? The question, asked by a cricket enthusiast (as opposed to just a fan), caught my attention for a moment. A list started to form in my head: WG Grace, Victor Trumper, Don Bradman, Ranjitsinhji, Jack Hobbs, CB Fry, Garry Sobers, Imran Khan, Mike Brearley and I finally settled on the answer: Sir Frank Worrell, who would have been 100 years old. August 1.

Grace established the grammar of the game and was one of its great all-rounders, Trumper and Sobers were geniuses, Hobbs scored more first-class runs than anyone, Bradman's average is more than 35 points ahead of the next best, Imran became Prime. Minister and was for a time the most important man in his country. Brearley is the game's greatest captain, a philosopher and psychoanalyst with degrees in the humanities.

Yet Worrell, who enters this group as a top player and whose innings does not know dawn, wrote Neville Cardus, that he starts at noon was the ideal cricketer. His career was the answer to the game's most famous question, CLR James, what do they know about cricket that only cricket knows? She was wealthy, her influence vast and lasting. He was dean of students at the University of the West Indies, a senator in Jamaica, a born diplomat and a leader of men.


By uniting disparate island nations and building a world-class team, he ensured that the West Indies became a unique entity in the sport. As Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, has written, West Indies societies and the wider world of cricket were irreparably changed by him. Neither before nor since has a cricketer had such a profound and lasting impact on the values ​​of the game.

James, then editor of The Nation, led the campaign for Worrell to be made captain. When Worrell, the first black man to captain a series, took the team to Australia in 1960-61, he found an ally in rival Richie Benaud. Teams played attractive cricket to breathe life into the sport after it became too defensive in the previous decade. Brisbane saw the first Test tied. Thousands of fans lined the streets of Melbourne to bid Worrell and his team farewell.

I want us to play as a team on the field and live as a family off it, he told his players. When he asked his dangerous fast bowler Roy Gilchrist (who was completely lacking in awareness, according to one writer) not to bowl to a bouncer, he obeyed. In fact, the bowler would sometimes visit his captain's residence to get advice on what shirts to buy.

Give back

When Worrell received an honorary doctorate from the University of the Punjab in 1967, among those he spoke to was Bishan Bedi. The Worrell philosophy of captaincy was probably discussed, because as Bedi's colleague Madan Lal told me, Bedi was not just the captain, he was a total guide telling us what to eat, what to read and how to behave. During the ceremony, Worrell spoke about the concept of giving back.

During this speaking tour, Worrell played a crucial role in getting the West Indies and India to resume a Test which had been delayed by a riot (tickets beyond capacity were sold and there were ongoing battles between police and spectators). . West Indies had decided to abandon the match and return home. Worrell asked to speak to the team. He told them how embarrassing it would be for the people of India if they did this.

By then, Worrell knew about his leukemia. He died a few weeks later. He was 42 years old.

Worrell finished with an average of just under 50 from 51 Tests, batting with an elegance and grace that made him special. He further took 69 wickets with his left-arm medium pace.

Impressive for its time, but the more significant contribution was that, in James's words, he was possessed of an almost unbridled passion for social equality. His discreet talent, his reserve and his dignity made him a great favorite which he had shown to the West Indians. mastery of what Western civilization had to teach




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