It was 1950 and the West Indies were in England on one of the most celebrated tours in the history of cricket.
I was 13 when it started, and was going to leave home at 7am to catch snippets of commentary on my way to Bay Street Boys’ School in Bridgetown.
My father had died in the war when I was five – he was a sailor and his ship was torpedoed – and my mother had no radio, so I stopped in front of people’s houses and pressed my ear to their doors or windows to listen to them. scare me away.
Frank Worrell (left) and Everton Weekes at Trent Bridge during the 1950 West Indies triumphal tour
I remember that victory at Lord’s – West Indies’ first in England – when Sonny Ramadhin and Alf Valentine were immortalized in calypso.
And I can still hear the voice of the English commentator describing the beating of my heroes, Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and Everton Weekes, as we won the series.
Worrell, the voice said, beat so subtly that when he stroked the ball towards the boundary, it got there just in front of the fielder, who was tired of chasing after him.
Walcott was hitting the Bully Beef of the West Indies because he hit the ball with such force that the fielder took his hands out of the way.
And Weekes was so quick and graceful, so neat and tidy, the fielders could only stand and admire his stroke play. That voice, I later discovered, belonged to John Arlott, and his words made a lasting impression.
Fast-footed and graceful Weekes was an important part of the great West Indian side of the 1950s
It was not long before I had the opportunity to tell him.
The Three W’s were all born in the parish of St Michael in southwestern Barbados. Me too, but I didn’t really get to know them until less than four years later I was selected to play for the West Indies. As a boy I always put the numbers on the scoreboard in Bay Pasture, the Wanderers site, so I had the perfect vantage point to keep an eye on them when they played for their clubs.
I first appeared for Barbados against the Indian tour team when I was sixteen. But just over a year later, I was still playing street cricket with my friends, as I did most evenings, when a message came home calling me to Jamaica. for the fifth test against England. I was impressed.
I came to Sabina Park, where the players were practicing, and saw Worrell, Walcott and Weekes in the locker room. I said to myself, “Oh boy, you really gained weight.”
Since Valentine was sick, I was selected as a left arm spinner batting at number 9, and picked up four wickets in England’s first innings. Len Hutton got a double hundred and they won easily.
But everyone was nice and complimentary, although I don’t think they realized I had any prowess as a batsman until I was asked to open in the third test against Australia the following year. Jeff Stollmeyer, the captain, had stepped on a ball and twisted his ankle.
I didn’t think I was much of a lead-off hitter, so I wasn’t going to play like that. I took the watch and looked around the field: no one in front of me except Keith Miller the bowler.
Powerful Clyde Walcott was the batter of the Bully Beef of the West Indies for its strength
I said to myself, “Don’t look back and if you see red just throw the bat.” I skipped him four fours in his first.
Ian Johnson came to bowl his off-breaks. I had a sweep and got caught at 43. But I never hit No. 9 again.
I saw Frank a lot when I went to England to play for Radcliffe in the Central Lancashire League.
I used to go to his house and ask for advice on fields I would play on and players I would be dealing with.
Frank also taught me how to supplement my income. I got £ 500 for the entire league season, and from that I had to pay for my digs and keep myself tidy. You could make extra money by scoring 50, at which point a collector’s box would go around the ground. The pennies, shillings, and sometimes pounds wouldn’t go in when you were gone, and Frank drummed it into me, “Don’t get out until the last penny falls.” He had a lasting influence on West Indian cricket when he became captain, and I was honored to succeed him.
I was lucky enough to have Clyde on the other side when I scored the 365 world record, not against Pakistan at Sabina Park in 1958. He said exactly what I wanted to hear: ‘You get the runs, and I’ll keep you going. He was as good as his word, finishing unbeaten at 88.
Everton became a lifelong friend. We’d played a little domino and bridge together before traveling the world, and we did that regularly back in Barbados. I enjoyed watching cricket with him on top of the pavilion in Kensington. He was always such a cheerful person.
They are all gone now: Frank from leukemia at the age of 42 in 1967, Clyde at the age of 80 in 2006 and Everton at 95 last year. Yet they will never be forgotten.
They were great players and great ambassadors for West Indian cricket. They were great people too.
Sir Garfield Sobers spoke to Pat Gibson