Caribbean heads the field for knights in white

 

The West Indies have so many cricketing knights, they could almost form their own order of the garter – or perhaps the thigh-pad. With the creation of three more, Curtly Ambrose, Richie Richardson and Andy Roberts, at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua yesterday, they could put out a full team.

And a fearsome side it would be. In batting order: Conrad Hunte, Richardson, Richards, Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell, Garry Sobers, Clyde Walcott, Learie Constantine, Curtly Ambrose, Wes Hall, Andy Roberts. In typical Windies fashion, the only thing lacking is a spinner but during the 1970s and 1980s they didn’t need any.

The problem with yesterday’s trio is that they might not deserve the honour. They will never be spoken of in the same breath as, say, Bradman, Hobbs, Hutton and Sobers for purely cricketing reasons, nor have they offered much to the world at large apart from their talent on the field, unlike most of the Caribbean knights.

Ambrose’s mother, Hillie, might be more entitled, having run out into the street in the village of Sweetes to ring a bell every time her son took a Test wicket – that’s 405 times, day or night. Her neighbours deserve an award even more.

Richards and Sobers can be included in the pantheon of legends, but for the rest it has often been about their contribution to the political and social climate of the far-flung Caribbean states and the importance of cricket in providing a unifying force.

In Beyond A Boundary – the title sums it up – the great West Indian writer C L R James paraphrased a Kipling poem and asked: “What do they know of cricket who only cricket know?” Among the players he lionised was Sir Learie Constantine, the Caribbean’s first cricketing knight (invested in 1962). Though a fine all-rounder and superb fielder, he was honoured for his work in law and politics.

Constantine came to Britain in the 1920s and was respected on the northern league circuit and in the industrial towns of Lancashire at a time of deeply ingrained discrimination. He was appointed High Commissioner of Trinidad and oversaw its independence a year later.

It was Constantine who wrote of Frank Worrell: “He ended the cliques and rivalries between the players of various islands to weld together a team which in the space of five years became the champions of the world.” Worrell was the first black captain of the West Indies, and later became a Jamaican senator.

The batsman Conrad Hunte worked as national development coach in South Africa, enhancing the chances of black players under apartheid; wicketkeeper-batsman Clyde Walcott became the first black chairman of the International Cricket Council; the other of the “three Ws”, Everton Weekes, was a Justice of the Peace and served on the police commission in Barbados. Fast bowler Wes Hall was to be a minister in both the Barbados government and the church.

Casting a long shadow over Antigua is Allen Stanford, the Texan billionaire who adopted the island as an investment centre and set up lucrative Twenty20 tournaments before his financial empire crumbled. Antigua gave him a knighthood in 2006, then stripped him of it four years later. The dishonourable financier has left the island benighted.

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