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DateLine Sunday, 17 February 2008

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Worrell's strokes - all smooth and polished

CRICKET: Frank Maglire Worrell was the most completely stylish of all West Indies batsmen. He had not the dynamic, spectacular energy of Weekes or Walcott; he was never demonstrative or spectacularly aggressive, as Sobers sometimes was, in spite of his general show of easeful mastery.

Worrell's strokes were literally strokes, smooth and polished, sending the ball here and there at his sweet will and leisure, with the minimum of matter to be moved.

His cricket, in fact, expressed the man himself, engaging, companionable, lithe, effortless. Where his wrists come into play, his wrists were not iron but of finely tempered steel.

Late - cutting was one of his favourite strokes, he leaned over his late cuts with time enough to spare to enjoy, without offence to the bowler, his own delicacy of touch.

There was nothing in his play, as batsman, bowler or fieldsman of that hint of primitive impulse which has usually marked even the most civilised West Indian batsmen; never a rush of blood to his head.

During many seasons gone by, West Indies cricket has gained in a sophistication which has merged it with English and Australian cricket so much that it can now fairly be called non-racial and international.

Refined

Worrell was the first fine fruit of this harvesting of refinement and poise.

His method as batsman was orthodox - but he put a bloom on it. It can be said of him as it could be said of Hobbs that never a crude or ungrammatical stroke was hardly made.

Curiously, he began his career as a slow left-arm spin bowler. At the age of 18 he was sent in to act as 'night-watchman', near close of play, for Barbados vs Trinidad in 1943. He scored 64 not out and a month later, also against Trinidad, scored 188 and 68.

His cricket blossomed season by season until 1950, he was one of the great West Indies players in England with Weekes and Walcott.

Superb innings

One of his most superb innings was played against Australia at Melbourne in 1952, when he made 102 in three hours and three quarters facing Lindwall, Miller and Johnstone and going his tranquil way in spite of a severely bruised hand caused by a blow from Miller.

Cricket lovers must constantly bear in mind, as we try to get at the worth of batsmen, the quality of the attack to which they have been subjected.

It can safely be said that Worrell was seldom subjected to ANY bowler. At his best he gave everyone the impression that he could hypnotically, but in the most friendly way, draw the ball to his bat's middle.

Even when scoring quickly he never looked to be in a hurry. If he hooked a short rising ball, he did so without the air of undue arrogance. He made his debut against England in 1954 and led the West Indies to victory in his last series against England in 1963. Sir Frank handed over the West Indies captaincy to Gary Sobers for the Australian series in 1965. Australia and the West Indies have been playing for the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy since 1965 when Australia toured West Indies. Born at St. Michael, Barbados on August 1st 1924, Sir Frank Worrell played 51 Tests scoring 3,860 runs for the West Indies before he retired.

He died of Leukaemia at the age of 43 on March 13th 1967.

While batting was his forte, he was quite an useful bowler too. His bowling - from an easy weightless run, a loose swing of the left-arm, forward shoulder classically straight, he could swing either way. In Test matches, besides his batting, he captured 69 wickets for an average 38.73.

But he was much more than a cricketer of pedigree; he was the most inspiring captain of his time, inspiring not only his West Indies colleagues but opposition as well. All Melbourne turned out in royal procession to hail him after the wonderful West Indies tour in Australia in 1960-61.

Then in 1963, his best days over as a player, he was leader of the most triumphant and magnetic team ever to play Test matches, winning rubber in England three victories to one.

When Hall was about to bowl the famous last over in the drawn match at Lord's, England needed only eight to win with eight wickets down. Worrell ran out Shackleton from the fourth fall. The injured Cowdrey in last unfortunately hadn't to face the remaining two balls of the over; this was Allen's ordeal.

Before Hall began his last assault, six runs wanted, Worrell calmly walked up to him and said: "Be careful of no-ball." The advice of a statesman.

Worrell in fact was much more than a cricketer.

Shortly after his retirement from the game, he was knighted and became an active influence at the University of West Indies in Jamaica, and a worker in sociology with the Trinidad Government.


Test Record of 3 famous 'W's of West Indian cricket

CRICKET: Frank Worrell: 51 matches, 87 innings, 9 not outs, 3,860 runs, highest: 261, Av: 49, 48, 9 100s. Twenty two 50s, 43 Catches, 7,141 Balls, 2,672 runs, 69 wkts, Av: 38.72

***

Everton Weeks: 48 matches, 81 innings, 5 not outs, 4,455 runs, highest: 207, Av: 58.61, 15 100s, 19 fifties, 49 catches, 122 balls, 77 runs, 1 wkt, Av: 77.00

***

Clyde Walcott: 11 matches, 74 innings, 7 not outs, 3, 798 runs, highest: 220, Av: 56.68, 15 hundreds, 14 fifties, 53 catches, 11 stumpings, 1, 194 balls, 408 runs, 11 wickets, Av: 37.09

 

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