Windies stars Walcott and Gomez changed course of cricket
CRICKET: The 1948-49 period saw the West Indies tour India for
the first time, everything that had to do with cricket was very
Most cricket followers in India did not know very clearly who, or,
even what the West Indies were. The more knowledgeable might have read
in their geography books that the West Indies were a large group of
islands off North America and they would conclude that West Indians were
inhabitants of those islands.
They would have had a vague impression that these were negroes whose
ancestors had been kidnapped from Africa in order to work in sugar
plantations if they were of a literary turn of mind, they would have
remembered the story of Conks Samba in “The Pickwick Papers” who, poor
man, bowled and bowled until he died.
If they had read their “wisdem”, they would have known that it’s
cricket abounded in fast bowlers and in phenomentally high scoring
batsmen. There was something bizarre, even comic, about West Indian
Sixteen of its representatives arrived in Bombay in October 1948. The
captain John Goddard, it was found, was a white man. So were John
Stollmeyer and Denis Atkinson. All the others were negroes, except
perhaps Fred Cameron, who seemed to be a mulatto.
Nobody talks about the racial composition of a touring cricket team
in India today, but in 1948 most people, were not sure who these West
Indians could be. There were 16 players in all, black, coloured and
white. They came from Barbados, Trinidad, Jamaica and British Guiana, as
Guyana then was.
Their names were: J. D. Goddard (captain - Barbados), J. B.
Stollmeyer (vice-captain, Trinidad), E. D. Weekes, C. L. Walcott and G.
Carew (all from Barbados), G. E. Gomez, P. Jones, W. Ferguson and D.
Atkinson (all from Trinidad), G. Headley, F. J. Cameron, A. F. Rae and
K. Rickard (all from Jamaica), B. J. Christiani, C. A. McWatt and J.
Trim (all from British Guiana); It was learnt that a character named F.
M. Worrell had declined to make the visit. Who he was! What he had done
on the cricket field, nobody in India knew.
. Amarnath leads India
To do battle against these worthies, India had assembled its forces
under Lala Amarnath. Indians, of course, knew of English cricketers and,
before Hitler’s war, they had seen a team of Australians in action, a
remarkable collections of ancients and fledglings.
It was not with much confidence that Indian followers of the game
contemplated the oncoming Test matches then with the West Indies.
Since one knew nothing whatever about these visitors from the other
side of the globe, the optimist could hope that they would be weak and
incompetent, but the pessimist might fear that they would prove all
Indian cricket was in no good case at the time. In the previous
season Don Bradman and his cohorts had devastated its bowling and almost
made mincemeat of its batsmanship. Generally speaking, it was not a very
good time for cricket or any other sport.
The country had been partitioned only a year previously, followed by
the holocast and by the murder of Mahatma Gandhi. But A. S. de Mello,
the President of the Indian Cricket Board, was above these
However, these might be, but the West Indian cricketers were in India
and the Indians had to watch the situation and what the events will turn
out to be.
The Windies were not very impressive before the first Test in New
Delhi. In a match in Bombay, the Combined Universities held their own.
Polly Umrigar scored an unbeaten century. There were three other players
who later appeared for India - P. G. Joshi, D. K. Gaekwad and G. S.
There is a little puzzle about the 11th batsman. He appears in the
records as “P. Roy.” Was he the future opening batsman? If he was, why
did he bat at No. 11? He did not bowl.
Though the Windies defeated Holkar by the massive margin of 10
wickets, they were not very impressive. They looked somewhat pathetic
when, batting first in the inaugural Test in New Delhi, they lost their
first three wickets for 27 runs. Rangachari had Rae caught behind,
Stollmeyer leg before, and above all, the great Headley clean bowled,
all within 27 runs.
No batsman in the World could have been more comprehensively bowled
than Headley was. One of the stumps was smashed and broken. The
splinters used to be preserved in the Kotla pavilion.
It was then that Gomez joined Walcott at the wicket. Their
partnership changed the course, not only of this Test, not only of India
- West Indies Tests in general, but of international cricket itself.
Before Hitler’s war, West Indies cricket had been something of a
joke. Immediately after the war it had overwhelmed an MCC team of
ancients. The boy named Worrell had, in one of the Tests, slept awhile
on a pavilion table and strodden forth to the wicket to score a century.
Nevertheless, the pundits would not take West Indian cricket very
Walcott and Gomez changed all that. Never was the partnership more
historic. They not only added 267, but paved the way for the latter
batsmen to make free with the panting and perspiring bowlers. From 27
for three the final total was 631. Apart from Walcott and Gomez, Weekes
and Christiani also scored centuries.
Weekes was a short stature, but with forearms like those of a
blacksmith. He positively chased after runs. He took the bowling by the
scruff of its neck and, as it were, shook down the runs from it. He went
on and on. Tireless, unresting, he amassed runs by the ten, by the
fifty, by the century. He had a ‘murderous’ square-cut and a positive
hook. But he could also make the other strokes. His century in New Delhi
was the first of four successive ones, in Bombay and twice in Calcutta.
Walcolt was as different from Weekes physically as one human being
can be from another. He was gigantic. When he stood at the wicket, he
seemed to blot out the heavers. When he crouched behind the wicket, for
he was then a wicketkeeper too, he seemed to overflow all over the
batsman in front of the stumps. In his hands the bat looked like a toy.
He was perpetually grinning, to the people in the stands.
Windies forge ahead
After that partnership the West Indians did not look back. They
flooded India with runs, with torrents of them. In 1947-48, the Indian
bowlers had been maltreated by Bradman, Barnes, Harvey and Miller. Here
were Weekes, Walcolt, Stollmeyer and Rae at the same job. It was no joke
being an Indian Test bowler around 1948.
If, however, the West Indians won the Test series only by the margin
of a single match, it was because their bowling was comparatively weak.
It is amusing when Jones and Trim were called “fast” bowlers.
At his best, the former was fast-medium, the latter distinctly
medium. The Indians were not to know that in the seasons that were to
follow they could see hurlers of thunderbolts from the West Indians -
Gilchrist, Griffith, Hall, Roberts.
Indian batsmen stood up well to Jones and trim, not to mention
Furguson, who was alleged to be a spin bowler. Time after time Hazare
and Modie scored runs. Between them these two scored three centuries and
took part in three century stands.
For all the wealth of their batsmanship, the West Indians could not
hope to defeat India often. It is true that Gomez was the finest swing
bowler the Indians have ever seen, except, perhaps, Davidson - the
Australian. But Jones and Trim inspired no fear. They did win the only
decisive Test, in Madras, but that was on a wearing pitch.
In fact, India should have won the final game in Bombay. But the
tourists continued to draw it by somewhat wasting time, and the umpire
was so frustrated that he lost count of the number of balls in the last
over. On the whole, it was a creditable achievement for India.
Brief scores of five tests played in 1948-49 between West Indies and
At New Delhi: West Indies 631 (Clyde Walcolt 152, Everton
Weekes 128, Christiani 107, Gomez 101, Rangachari 5 for 107) drew with
India 454 (Adikari 114 not out, Ibahim 85, Amarnath 62) following on,
India 220 for 6 wickets.
At Bombay: West Indies 629 for 6 wkts dec (Everton Weekes 194,
Rae 104, Cameron 75 not out, Christiani 74, Clyde Walcott 68, Stollmeyer
66) drew with India 273 (Phadkar 74, Ferguson 4 for 126) and following
on, 333 for 3 wkts (V. Hazare 134 not out, Modi 112).
At Calcutta: West Indies 366 (Everton Weekes 162, Clyde
Walcott 54, Ghulam Ahmed 4 for 94, Banerjee 4 for 120) and 336 for 9
wkts dec. (Everton Weekes 101, Clyde Walcott 108) drew with India: 272 (Modi
80, Hazare 59, Mushtaq ali 54) and 325 for 3 wkts (Mushtaq Ali 106, Modi
87, Hazare 58 not out).
At Madras: West Indies: 582 (Stollmeyer 160, Rae 109, Everton
Weekes 90, Phadkar 7 for 159) beat India 245 (Modi 56, Trim 4 for 48)
and following on 144 (Hazare 52, Jones 4 for 30) West Indies won by an
innings and 193 runs.
At Bombay: West Indies 286 (Stollmeyer 85, Everton Weekes 56,
Phadkar 4 for 74) and 267 (Rae 97, Bannarjee 4 for 54) drew with India
193 and 355 for 8 wkts (Hazare 122, Modi 86, Jones 5 for 85).