Sir Clyde Walcott

With Worrell and Weekes, one of the three heroic 'Ws' of post-war West Indies cricket


Clyde Leopold Walcott, cricketer: born Bridgetown, Barbados 17 January 1926; OBE 1966; President, Guyana Cricket Board of Control 1968-70; Chairman of Selection Committee 1973-88, West Indies Cricket Board of Control, President 1988-93; President, Barbados Employers' Confederation 1978-81; chief personnel officer, Barbados Shipping and Trading Co 1980-91; GCM 1991; Chairman, International Cricket Council 1993-97, Chairman of Cricket Committee 1997-2000; KA 1993; married 1951 Muriel Ashby (one son, and one son deceased); died Bridgetown 26 August 2006.

Clyde Walcott was 20 years old when he scored 314 not out for Barbados against Trinidad in 1945. A year later he was playing for West Indies and formed, with Frank Worrell and Everton Weekes, the three "Ws" of legend, possibly the greatest array of talent in the middle order of any batting eleven in history,

All three were Bajans; Worrell was tall, loose, slim, all elegance and charm and a leader who had to be woken up to go into bat; Weekes was a tiger, smaller, immensely powerful, who pounced on bowlers, whose square cut was a bullet; Walcott was a big man in every sense, 6ft 2in and 15 stones at his peak, strength personified, who could play the game the situation demanded, furious assault or invulnerable defence.

Anything overpitched would be dispatched, with thunder, through the covers, or at such speed as to threaten the bowler with decapitation. He straight-drove Brian Statham with such force once, at Sabina Park, that the ball rebounded so fast off the sight-screen concrete base that that Statham was able to pick it up as he walked back for his next ball. "Raw power was his trademark," wrote Ted Dexter.

Worrell would smile and chat, Weekes could always grin and joke. Walcott was more impassive; not less friendly, less extrovert. Batting was only one manifestation of his personality and skills; he could also keep wicket at Test level, was a high-class first slip and could bowl useful fast medium spells.

He and Worrell entered the first team together, at Combermere School, at the age of 12. "I'd had a bat in my hand for as long as I could remember." He was coached there and when he moved to Harrison College, the island's public school, he took up wicket-keeping, there being a vacancy in the college team.

Harrison College, in the 1940s, was renowned for the perfection of its turf pitches, batsmen learning to play with confidence, bowlers having to sustain length and direction. The young Walcott also began playing for the famous Spartan Club and made his début for Barbados - his elder brother Keith was already in the team - opening the innings at the age of 16.

When England arrived for the first post-war tour, Gubby Allen's team of 1947-48, Walcott made 120 for Barbados against MCC, as England were then styled when playing non-Test matches, but in four Tests his highest score in seven innings was 45. He had no regular place in the order and was seen as an all-rounder, a wicket-keeper batsman. In 1948-49 West Indies made their first tour of India and revealed, for the first time, the full panoply of their magnificent batting: six shared 11 centuries in five Tests, Walcott scoring two.

They then astonished England, in 1950, for, while the spinners Sonny Ramadhin and Alfie Valentine took the headlines, the batting was pulverising: 37 centuries were hit on that tour, Weekes and Walcott each recording seven. Walcott's 168 not out in the second innings of the Lord's Test, leading to their first victory in England, was ranked by E.W. Swanton as one of the most memorable of all his experience.

Against the speed and ferocity of Ray Lindwall and Keith Miller, in Australia in 1951, West Indies could win only one Test, an experience that seared the memory and led, no doubt, to the employment of four fast bowlers 20 years later. By then Walcott had abandoned wicket-keeping to become the regular number five and when England next toured the Caribbean, under Len Hutton, Walcott was imperial, hitting three centuries in five Tests and averaging 87.92.

He had, too, his revenge against Australia in 1955-56, hitting centuries in each innings of both the Port of Spain and Kingston Tests but despite his aggregate of 827 the Australians - with an attack that boasted Miller, Lindwall, Ron Archer, Richie Benaud, Ian Johnson and Bill Johnston - won the series. In a sequence of 12 Tests Walcott had hit 12 centuries.

Walcott's success in England had won him a contract as Enfield's professional in the Lancashire League and from 1951 to 1954 his name was entwined, in English cricket lore, with that of the little town, as was Weekes's with Bacup and Worrell's with Radcliffe, inspiring a love of West Indian cricket that survives in Lancashire today.

He later became a coach in Guyana and on retirement emerged as one of the world's leading administrators, managing several touring teams, chairing the West Indies Board and the ICC. He was appointed OBE for his services to cricket and knighted by Barbados.

He left the game at 34, an early departure prompted, it was reported, by the then continuing controversy over the captaincy of West Indies. He had a successful career in public relations both in Barbados and Guyana, playing for the latter country briefly after finishing his playing days in Bridgetown. His presence, on or off the field, was always impressive and influential. He was, as Michael Holding said on Saturday, "simply a legend".

After he had retired, averaging 56.58 in his 44 Tests, Alec Bedser described him as the heavyweight champion of great batsmen, adding:

I would rate Clyde as the hardest hitter of the three Ws. He drove with more strength off the back foot than some crack batsmen were able to do off the front foot, an asset which led him to go back and force the ball away more than most and to assault the overpitched half-volley with particular savagery.

Derek Hodgson

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