Can we have a true marker for Sir Everton?Saturday, July 04, 2020
For Caribbean descendants of African slaves yearning for a better life for their children, Mr George Headley — the great Jamaican batsman of the 1930s — was a standard-bearer, representing achievement and possibilities in a hostile world.
Let's imagine the amazement of the white, British establishment seated at Lord's, the headquarters of cricket, as Mr Headley in 1939 became the first to score centuries in both innings of a Test match at that iconic venue.
Apart from physical coordination, successful batting has always been cerebral, requiring focused concentration and strategic thinking. Here was a black man, a visitor at the preserve of the white establishment, showing to the highest degree, all the attributes that many considered alien to people of African descent.
World War II robbed Mr Headley of arguably his best years as a cricketer.
How and from whence was his successor to come? Incredibly, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Frank Worrell, and Sir Clyde Walcott (Three Ws) showed up in the West Indies' first Test series after the war — against England in the Caribbean in early 1948. They were born within a year and a half of each other, within a mile of each other, in the Bridgetown area of Barbados.
For the last survivor of the Three Ws, Sir Everton, who died earlier this week at age 95 in Barbados, that début series is among the more talked about. After modest scores in his first three Tests, the young batsman was dropped for the final Test in Jamaica.
But then word came that he would come to Jamaica to replace an injured Mr Headley. Sir Everton arrived at Sabina Park after lunch on the first day to a hostile reception, booed by the crowd as he replaced substitute fielder Mr JK Holt, who happened to be the local favourite.
Sir Everton's response was to compile a magnificent 141 in the West Indies' turn at the wicket — his maiden first-class century, a master class in mental strength.
He would follow up with four centuries in succession against India in that country — an unprecedented five in a row. He was on his way to a sixth century when he was dubiously run out for 90 in the fourth Test.
Short, stocky, with ferocious back-foot strokes and glorious front-foot drives, Sir Everton was statistically the most successful of the Three Ws. He scored 4,455 runs in 48 Tests with an average of 58.61. Among West Indian batsmen with more than 2,000 Test runs, only Mr Headley averaged higher.
The Three Ws dominated West Indian batting in the late 1940s and '50s and crucially were instrumental in the West Indies beating England on English soil in 1950 — coming from behind to win the series 3-1. It was the first time a West Indies team was winning a Test match, far more a Test series in England.
For many, Sir Everton was the most complete batsman of the Three Ws, and the true heir of Mr George Headley. It's not for nothing that so many born in that era were christened 'Everton'.
What a marker it would be if the West Indies team now in England for a three-Test series in the strangest of circumstances brought on by COVID-19, were to honour the memory of Sir Everton and the Three Ws, by beating their hosts!
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