Lasting image of golden days

BOOK REVIEW 60 YEARS ON THE BACK FOOT
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The Independent Online
AFTER MCC they are probably the most famous three letters in cricket, the three Ws - Worrell, Weekes, Walcott. They may not necessarily be so familiar to the modern generation, which is a shame, because their exploits with bat and ball held the post-war cricket world in thrall.

They are proof that the West Indies were producing world-class players in the middle of the 20th century as well as at the end of it. It is refreshing therefore to rediscover the trio and more besides in Sir Clyde Walcott's autobiography, Sixty Years On The Back Foot (Victor Gollancz, pounds 18.99).

They were inseparably linked from birth, all being born within a mile of the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados. They arrived within 17 months of each other between 1 August 1924 (Sir Frank Worrell), and 17 January 1926 (Sir Clyde Walcott), with the third man, as it were, Sir Everton Weekes arriving on 26 February 1925. Oddly, they were all knighted. Sir Frank Worrell died of leukaemia more than 30 years ago, but at least the other two are still around and indeed Weekes has written a generous foreword to what is a fascinating book, and not merely for the recounting of the exploits of these three musketeers.

The author has done just about everything in the game from playing - despite one teacher telling him "you can't make a living out of cricket" - to managing teams, serving on numerous cricket boards before rising to become chairman of the International Cricket Council, the world governing body of the game to which he devoted his life.

There is a gentle feel to this book, it has the reader smiling as Walcott reminisces and even dares to compare the three of them. His conclusion is as diplomatic as one might expect: "I think I can say that Everton was the best batsman, Frank was the best all-rounder, and I was the best wicketkeeper-batsman."

They all played football for Barbados as well and were inseparable throughout their teens. It is all the more poignant then to learn that although Weekes was one of the pall bearers at Worrell's funeral, Walcott was not. "I was not asked," he writes. Those are four words which embrace a lot of pain.

There are some delightful anecdotes, and one in particular which strikes an odd note, given that it was said a long time before there was any real evidence of analysis of opponents. After Worrell had watched Weekes smashing an unbeaten double hundred off Leicestershire in 1950 he admonished the batsman thus: "You must not hit the ball so hard. You give the fielders no chance so they don't chase the ball. Hit a little less hard and they will have to run for it. Watch how quickly they tire." There is something almost sinister in this advice, but apparently Weekes ignored it anyway.

Walcott has thoughts on many cricketing issues, including Brian Lara, the player-power "strike" of last year, the whitewash against South Africa. Events are described with great clarity and succinctness, no surprise since the co-author is the respected Daily Mail journalist Brian Scovell. It makes a change too to read an autobiography of someone with a great deal more to say than the average 30-year-old sports star who merely wants to turn a fast buck. An index would have helped, but this book sets a high standard and should not be missed.

DAVID LLEWELLYN

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