Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket

Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket
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Updated 11 July 2024
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Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket

Frank Worrell’s central role in the transformation of West Indian cricket
  • Two recent biographies, ‘Son of Grace’ by Vaneisa Baksh and ‘Worrell’ by Simon Lister, have sought to establish the essence of the man on and off the cricket field

On July 10, England’s men’s Test team opened play against the West Indies at Lords in the first of a three-match series.

There is a perception that England is the stronger side, largely because so many senior West Indian players are not in the squad. A number have chosen to play lucrative franchise cricket in North America in July and August.

In terms of Test cricket, there is a callowness about the West Indian squad. Only four have played more than 20 Tests, whilst the squad’s aggregate number of Tests is 237, only 60 more than that notched up by England’s James Anderson, for whom the Lords Test is scheduled to be his last.

The aggregate number of Tests played by England’s squad is 606, so it is well ahead on experience. In addition to Anderson, Joe Root has played 140 Tests and Ben Stokes 102, whilst four others exceed 20.

This imbalance is a far cry from the mid to late 1970s to the early 1990s when the West Indies dominated world cricket. The West Indian team won the inaugural ODI World Cup in 1975 and retained the title in 1979, before relinquishing it to India in 1983.

Since then, the West Indies have failed to reach an ODI final. During the 1980s the West Indies were imperious in Test cricket, setting a then record of 11 consecutive victories in 1984 and twice drubbing England 5-0. The success was based on a fearsome four-man fast bowling attack and four of the best batters in the world.

Seeds for this era of dominance had been laid during the 1960s, something that the captain of the 1980s dominant team, Clive Lloyd, has always been quick to point out and acknowledge. Two men, the previous captains, stand out, Sir Garfield (Gary) Sobers and Sir Frank Worrell.

Sobers, for me, is the finest all-round cricketer of all time, certainly the finest I ever had the privilege of watching. Worrell, by all accounts, was a fine player, batting in a languid, yet classical style. However, it was his role in the transformation of West Indian cricket that is his legacy.

In his autobiography, “Cricket Punch,” published in 1959, before he became captain of the West Indies, Worrell revealed little of himself. A biography in 1963 by a Guyanese broadcaster, Ernest Eytle, with commentary by Worrell, was a cricket book.

A slim biography appeared in 1969 by Undine Guiseppe, followed by one by English writer Ivo Tennant in 1987 that revealed much more about Worrell, the person. After a pictorial biography was published in 1992 by Torrey Pilgrim, interest in Worrell seemed to fade.

West Indian cricket also hit difficult times. Although high-class international cricketers emerged to replace those who retired, there was not enough strength in depth nor funding to counter the alternative attractions of basketball, athletics and football for young athletes.

Therefore, it is a surprise — a pleasant one — to discover that two new biographies of Worrell have been published recently. The first of these is “Son of Grace” by Vaneisa Baksh in 2023, a book in preparation for at least a decade.

The second is “Worrell” by Simon Lister, launched on June 6, 2024. Both have sought to establish the essence of the man within and beyond the cricket field. Both had to engage in prolonged research because many of the sources of information about their subject had been destroyed or lost.

Worrell died of leukemia in 1967, aged only 42. His wife, Velda, died in 1991, aged 69, whilst their daughter Lana, died shortly afterwards, aged 42. Two close, key sources of insights were not available.

Fortunately, Everton Weekes, one of the famous three “Ws” — Worrell, Weekes and (Clyde) Walcott — lived until 2020, aged 95, willingly providing insights into Worrell’s life. Other former playing colleagues also did, along with children of those with whom Worrell grew up and played alongside.

Etched in many, if not most of the minds of cricket aficionados of a certain age, is the iconic photograph which captures the moment when the first Test of the 1960-1961 series between Australia and the West Indies ends in a tie off the very last ball of the match.

Worrell, as captain, is credited with keeping his players relaxed but alert by virtue of his serene leadership. In 1963, he led the team to a 3-1 series victory over England, before retiring from cricket.

After that, he became warden of Irvine Hall at the Jamaican campus of the University of the West Indies and was appointed to the Jamaican senate in 1962. This exemplifies his sense of public duty, although he did say that he was not suited to politics.

It should be noted that these positions were in Jamaica, not his native island of Barbados, which he had left in 1947. It seems that he preferred the bigger island, which offered more job opportunities and represented an escape from the cloying color bar in Barbados that, according to the British colonial secretary in 1942, “divides the races more effectively than a mountain chain.”

Worrell was a federalist and nowhere was this more evident than in his captaincy. The West Indies is not one cricketing nation, but a collection of players from 13 independent island countries of different histories, cultures, religions and social mores.

Prior to Worrell becoming captain in 1960, the previous six captains had all been white, their positions reflecting ongoing systemic racial bias. But by 1960, a wind of change was blowing. Worrell’s appointment shut the door forever on the process by which a West Indian captain would be chosen based on race and color.

Worrell showed that it was possible to be black and successful. He knew that his players were all individually good and sought, successfully, to weld them into a cohesive force, with clarity of purpose. No longer were they to be treated as subordinates.

His passion for social equality extended beyond cricket. We will never know what he may have achieved in broader society had he lived longer. What is apparent is that the dominating Test teams for which he sowed the seeds no longer exist.

In their place are T20 players who have earned riches far beyond those which Worrell could ever have envisaged when advocating for social justice.


James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies

James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies
Updated 10 July 2024
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James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies

James Anderson to bowl on 1st day of his last ever test after England wins toss against West Indies
  • He is due to bowl the first over at the Pavilion End under what looked like being gray skies and a slight breeze at the home of cricket
  • England gave test debuts to pacer Gus Atkinson and wicketkeeper Jamie Smith

LONDON: James Anderson will get to bowl on the first day of his 188th and final test after England won the toss and chose to field first against the West Indies in the series opener at Lord’s on Wednesday.
Anderson, the most prolific fast bowler in test history with 700 wickets, was due to bowl the first over at the Pavilion End under what looked like being a morning of gray skies and a slight breeze at the home of cricket.
Both teams were announced ahead of the match.
England gave test debuts to pacer Gus Atkinson and wicketkeeper Jamie Smith.
For the West Indies, allrounder and former captain Jason Holder was recalled along with fellow fast bowler Jayden Seales. Opening batter Mikyle Louis will become the first man from St. Kitts and Nevis to play a test.
There will be plenty of focus on another fast bowler in Shamar Joseph, who starred against Australia in his first ever test series earlier this year.
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Lineups:
England: ⁠Zak Crawley,⁠ ⁠Ben Duckett, ⁠Ollie Pope, ⁠Joe Root, ⁠Harry Brook,⁠ ⁠Ben Stokes (captain), ⁠Jamie Smith, ⁠Chris Woakes, ⁠Gus Atkinson, ⁠Shoaib Bashir, ⁠James Anderson.
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Mikyle Louis, Kirk McKenzie, Alick Athanaze, Kavem Hodge, Jason Holder, Joshua da Silva, Gudakesh Motie, Alzarri Joseph, Shamar Joseph, Jayden Seales.


Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage

Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage
Updated 04 July 2024
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Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage

Italy’s ambition to be on cricket’s world stage
  • The Italian team are rising up the rankings, with players drawn from several leading cricket-playing nations

“They play cricket there, really?” This is a common refrain when certain countries are mentioned in the same breath as cricket.

Actually, the list of such countries is long. The International Cricket Council has 12 full members who qualify to play official Test matches, whereas there are 96 associate members.

This is roughly half the number of countries which are members of the UN and leaves plenty of scope for the quizzical response: “They play cricket there, do they?” Saudi Arabia is one such country, Thailand is another, along with Greece.

In the last week, I have been met with incredulity when I have dropped into conversations that Italy’s men’s cricket team have been doing well recently. This at a time when its football team was knocked out of Euro 2024 at an early stage.

Between June 9 and 16, the Italian men’s cricket team participated in the 2026 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup Sub Regional Europe Group A Qualifier tournament, involving 10 teams. They were undefeated and handsomely beat Romania by 160 runs in the final. The team will progress to the final stage of European qualification to be held in 2025. Currently, they are ranked 29th in the ICC T20I rankings. Saudi Arabia is 32nd.

Italian cricket looks to be ascendant. It has not always been that way. This has been chronicled in two books authored by Simone Gambino, a past chairman of the Italian Cricket Federation and now its honorary president. He has penned a fascinating story which he has graciously summarized for me in English, and that has informed much of this article.

It is thought that British merchants and sailors introduced cricket to Italian ports in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. There is even mention of Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson organizing a match in Naples in 1793.

Cricket became popular amongst the elite in Italy and flourished throughout the 19th century. In September 1893 the Genoa Cricket and Athletic Club was formed by a group of British emigrants, football being a secondary concern.

In 1899, another group of emigrants led by Herbert Kilpin of Nottingham founded the Milan Foot-ball and Cricket Club, AC Milan, to remind them of home.

This apparent focus on cricket was soon eclipsed by the rise of football, and later by the rise of fascism. Its refusal of all that was English, excluding football, meant that cricket disappeared, not to be reborn until after 1945.

This was driven by cricket-loving staff of embassies and international organizations. When these suffered staff cutbacks in the late 1970s, Gambino became involved in running Italian cricket, having developed a passion for the game through his London-based American grandfather.

On Nov. 26, 1980, he founded the Associazione Italiana Cricket. In 1984 the ICC created the affiliate status, Italy becoming the first beneficiary. Between then and 1987 four summer tours to London were undertaken by the Italian national team, mostly composing indigenous players like Gambino. Three more summer tours took place between 1990 and 1992 featuring an all-indigenous Italian youth team.

A tour of Italy in 1993 by the Marylebone Cricket Club enhanced the profile of Italian cricket. This was followed by an application for Italy to be elevated to ICC associate membership, achieved in July 1995. According to Gambino, “it was the beginning of the end of clandestinity.” He uses this designation because cricket had not been officially recognized.

The Comitato Olimpico Nazionale Italiano had ignored the AIC since 1980 but was preparing a bid for the Olympics to be held in Rome in 2004. Since ICC associate status brings financial support, suddenly the value of officially recognizing cricket to gain English-speaking votes at the International Olympic Committee conference became apparent.

Gambino was summoned by CONI and official recognition ensued on Feb. 28, 1997. The AIC was transformed into the current Federazione Cricket Italiana.

Accession to associate status unlocked requests by Italian citizens living abroad, mainly from Australia and South Africa, wishing to represent Italy at cricket. Under ICC rules of the time, they were not eligible. Only birth in the country and residency counted, not citizenship.

Tension grew between the FCI and the ICC on the issue, culminating in the 2001 ICC qualifying event for the 2003 Cricket World Cup. The ICC ruled that four Italian citizens were ineligible due to their non-residency in Italy.

Gambino withdrew the team from the tournament, officially readdressing the matter to an independent sports tribunal in Lausanne. Initially, the ICC accepted but then tried to divert the arbitration to London. Gambino refused to accept.

He was aware that the ICC had a much bigger problem. It wanted to join the Olympic committee. This would require adaptation of its eligibility rules to include citizenship. A compromise prevailed by which Italy was allowed to withdraw without sanction and the ICC undertook to fully revise its eligibility rules, which it did.

Having been the catalyst for change, Italy needed to take advantage. At that time, children of parents from the Indian subcontinent who had emigrated to Italy were barred from playing cricket for the country because they did not possess citizenship.

On Dec. 7, 2002, the FCI passed a rule that all minors who wished to play cricket should be recognized as if they were Italian citizens. CONI originally opposed the decision but withdrew after Gambino pointed out that playing cricket “is a civil liberty just as going to the theater and, furthermore, the parents of these youths are all taxpayers.” It has proved to be a controversial topic.  

In the last 20 years, Italy’s men’s and women’s teams have climbed the ICC rankings and the game has spread all over the country, exposing a lack of proper playing facilities. Its current men’s national team is a mix of those with subcontinental backgrounds and those with citizenship acquired by descent.

The addition of several high-quality players in the second category has transformed results. This includes Wayne Madsen, born in South Africa, who has played almost 15 years in the English county championship, scoring over 15,000 runs. And Joe Burns who has played 23 times for Australia and is an opening batsman.

There is a fierce battle between ICC associate members to qualify for world cups. Italy is making a bold statement with its current strategy. Whether it can join the ranks of countries known for their cricketing prowess remains to be seen.

What it does possess is a rich, largely unknown and fascinating history on which to draw.


Jubilant Indian cricketers return home after winning the Twenty20 World Cup

Jubilant Indian cricketers return home after winning the Twenty20 World Cup
Updated 04 July 2024
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Jubilant Indian cricketers return home after winning the Twenty20 World Cup

Jubilant Indian cricketers return home after winning the Twenty20 World Cup
  • India pulled off a sensational seven-run win against South Africa in a gripping final last weekend

NEW DELHI: Jubilant India cricketers have received a rousing welcome home from fans after winning the Twenty20 World Cup final in Barbados.
India skipper Rohit Sharma held up the World Cup trophy after arriving at New Delhi International Airport early Thursday morning.
Hundreds of supporters were gathered at the airport, many waving the national flag and chanting “India, India.”
There were thousands more waiting to continue the celebrations, which started Saturday and were about to ramp up. Some of the players danced to drum beats when they reached their hotel.
India pulled off a sensational seven-run win against South Africa in a gripping final last weekend, ending a drought in global International Cricket Council limited-overs competitions.
The team’s return from the Caribbean was delayed because of a shutdown forced by Hurricane Beryl in Barbados.
“It’s a lifetime experience,” cricket official Arun Dhumal said.
The T20 triumph was India’s first World Cup title since it won the 50-over version in 2011.
Over the last 12 months, India lost the World Test Championship final to Australia in England and the 50-over World Cup final at home, also to the Australians.
After meeting India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, the cricketers were due to fly to Mumbai and participate in an open bus roadshow, followed by a celebration ceremony later Thursday at the Wankhede Stadium.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India has announced a cash bonus of $15 million for the winning squad.
Soon after winning the title, Rohit Sharma, star batter Virat Kohli and Ravindra Jadeja announced their retirement from international T20 matches.


James Anderson set to mentor England’s quicks after Test exit

James Anderson set to mentor England’s quicks after Test exit
Updated 01 July 2024
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James Anderson set to mentor England’s quicks after Test exit

James Anderson set to mentor England’s quicks after Test exit
  • The 41-year-old is the first seamer and only third bowler to have taken 700 Test wickets
  • English great set to retire from Test cricket following next week’s series opener against the West Indies

LONDON: England great James Anderson will join the team’s backroom staff as a fast-bowling mentor when he retires from Test cricket following next week’s series opener against the West Indies at Lord’s.
The 41-year-old is the first seamer and only third bowler to have taken 700 Test wickets after spinners Shane Warne and Muttiah Muralitharan.
Anderson, however, has decided to end his Test career after England made it clear they wanted to move on ahead of the 2025/26 Ashes.
But England managing director Rob Key told reporters on Monday: “After the Lord’s Test, Jimmy will continue in our set-up, and he’ll help a bit more as a mentor.”
Key added: “He has got so much to offer English cricket. We don’t want to see that go.
“When we asked him, he was keen. He is going to have a lot of options. English cricket would be very lucky if he chooses to stay in the game.”
Anderson is currently playing for Lancashire against Nottinghamshire in the County Championship at Southport, but his first-class future remains uncertain.
“What he does with Lancashire will probably work out after the Lord’s Test,” said Key.
England have included three uncapped players in their squad for the first two matches of a three-Test series against the West Indies, with Jamie Smith selected to keep wicket ahead of both Jonny Bairstow and Ben Foakes.
The 23-year-old Smith averages over 50 in the County Championship this season and celebrated his Test call-up by making exactly 100 for Surrey against Essex on Sunday.
He usually plays as a specialist batsman for Surrey with Foakes keeping wicket for the reigning county champions.
“Sometimes you’re selecting people for what they’re going to be as well, and where you think they can progress to,” said Key.
“It’s very much the start for Jamie Smith. We feel he’s going to be a fantastic international cricketer.”
Key, asked how Smith would cope with the demands of keeping wicket for 90 overs a day in a Test match when he is not a regular behind the stumps, said he had consulted several former England wicketkeepers in Chris Read, James Foster and Alec Stewart — Smith’s boss at Surrey.
“Some of the guys have been the best keepers in the country... We use them a lot really and we trust a lot of their opinions,” Key explained.
Key added Bairstow, 34, “needs to get back to what he was a couple of years ago,” when the Yorkshireman hit six Test centuries in 2022.
Bairstow, however, has struggled lately after nearly a year out of the game following a horrifying leg break in a freak accident on a golf course.
“Generally his form, in all formats, has just been going slightly in the wrong direction,” said 45-year-old former England batsman Key.
“It’s an arduous task being a keeper and you want someone who can back up series after series. We weren’t convinced that Jonny would be able to do that, especially at the stage of his career that he’s at.”
Key was speaking for the first time since defending champions England’s defeat by India in the semifinals of the T20 World Cup.
England won just one of their four matches against fellow Test sides during a tournament in the Caribbean and the United States following a woeful defense of their 50-over World Cup title in India last year.
Those reverses have called into question the positions of England white-ball captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott.
But Key said he would take his time regarding their future ahead of England’s next white-ball series against Australia in September.
“I’m not going to rush anything on that,” he said.
“At times I thought we showed how good we were and at times we were inconsistent. We’ll let the dust settle on the World Cup and then move forward from there.”


End of an era as India faces T20 future without Kohli, Rohit

End of an era as India faces T20 future without Kohli, Rohit
Updated 30 June 2024
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End of an era as India faces T20 future without Kohli, Rohit

End of an era as India faces T20 future without Kohli, Rohit
  • Both Rohit and Kohli called time on their T20 careers for India after its second T20 World Cup title

NEW DELHI: Indian cricket on Sunday savoured World Cup victory while also coming to terms with the T20 retirements of modern-day greats, Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli.
Both Rohit and Kohli called time on their T20 careers for India after the cricketing powerhouse edged South Africa to clinch its second T20 World Cup title in Barbados on Saturday.
The two batting stalwarts have carried the dreams of a cricket-crazy nation for over 15 years and ended the shortest format at their peak.
Kohli’s match-winning 76 earned him the player of the final award, and Rohit led the team from the front with three half-centuries in the tournament, in which India remained unbeaten.
“It has been so amazing playing with them for so many years. We all will miss them but... this is the best farewell we can give them,” Hardik Pandya, Rohit’s deputy in the tournament, said after the win.
Roger Binny, who was part of the 1983 World Cup-winning team and is now president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI), termed the two stalwarts’ exit a “great loss.”
He said it would be tough to replace them immediately, despite India’s good pool of T20 players in the Indian Premier League.
Kohli, 35, won his second World Cup crown after the 2011 ODI win under M.S. Dhoni, who also led India to title victory in T20’s showpiece event in 2007 at the inaugural edition.
A rookie Rohit, now 37, was part of the first T20 triumph when India beat arch-rivals Pakistan in the final in Johannesburg.
The two stalwarts, who have 45,961 runs between them across three international formats, will stay on in Test and ODI cricket.


The title clash with South Africa was also the last match for outgoing coach Rahul Dravid, a former captain who left the international stage as a player without a World Cup win.
Dravid, 51, said he will miss Rohit as a person more than just as a captain and player who amassed runs and records.
Former India batsman Gautam Gambhir is widely reported to succeed Dravid as coach of the high-profile Indian team.
Gambhir, who remained a key part of India’s 2011 ODI World Cup win at home, coached IPL team Kolkata Knight Riders to their third title this year.
“There was speculation that some senior players will be sent off after Gambhir comes in (as coach), but both Rohit and Kohli ended on a high note,” former Pakistan speedster Shoaib Akhtar said on his YouTube channel.
“It was a good decision by both. Before anybody sacks them, or creates a doubt about their selection, a big player should decide their own fate.”
The T20 triumph has been redemption for Rohit, who was stripped of his IPL captaincy from Mumbai Indians this year.
Pandya was handed the leadership role, much to the disappointment of many fans.
Kohli proved his big-match credentials, with his 59-ball 76 in the final clash — after he managed just 75 runs in seven innings during the competition until the finale.
All-rounder Pandya will be Rohit’s likely replacement as leader in the T20 format, but batsman Suryakumar Yadav also remains in the fray for the role.
Rohit succeeded Kohli as white-ball skipper in 2021 and became all-format captain months later with BCCI and fans getting uneasy over India’s global title drought since their Champions Trophy win in 2013.
But Pandya said there was “a lot of time” before the next T20 World Cup in 2026 for India to prepare.
“I am very happy for both Rohit and Virat, two giants and legends of Indian cricket, (they) thoroughly deserved this,” he said.