Brearley: Worrell had a great cricketing brain

Nicholas Clarke, writing for the Trinidad Guardian, looks at the significance of the career of Frank Worrell, arguably one of the best cricket players in the history of the West Indies.

Former England captain, Mike Brearley believes that former West Indies captain Sir Frank Worrell and the late T&T intellectual CLR James deserve a place in history, alongside Caribbean Nobel Laureates like economist Arthur Lewis and writers VS Naipaul and Derek Walcott. Brearley was speaking during the Sir Frank Worrell Memorial Committee’s 50th anniversary celebration of the legendary batsman’s appointment as West Indies captain at the Central Bank Auditorium in Port-of-Spain on Wednesday night. Worrell broke the colour barrier to become the first black man to ever lead the regional team for an entire Test series during its tour of Australia in 1960/61. Although the rubber was lost 2-1, the West Indies were hailed by the host country for their spirited approach to the game.

During his feature address, Brearley took an in-depth look into the history of racial discrimination in world cricket, highlighting the conditions against which Worrell was pitted throughout his career. “The British had many terms of abuse for disparagement of members of subject races or cultures. Military and administrative power was predicated on assumptions of cultural superiority,” he said. “Such attitudes allowed white people to represent black cricketers as all spontaneity and exuberance but lacking in resolution and solidity, technique and discipline. They were said to fall apart in panic more quickly than we whites did. “They were viewed as children in comparison with us the elder. This meant that for many years it was out of the question for a black man to captain the national team, for children cannot be adults and children need mature parental leaders.

“How much integrity, maturity and confidence would have been needed to succeed in such an unjust world? The achievement was to avoid the violence or stupidity that could have set back the cause of the very fair play so admired on the cricket field itself. What happened within the boundary would profoundly shake what happened beyond the boundary.” Brearley also highlighted Worrell’s relationship with James, who led an impassioned public campaign for the Bajan’s appointment as captain. “Worrell not only had wonderful skill as a cricketer. He had a great cricketing brain. In James’s words, Worrell was ‘one of the few who after a few hours of talk had left me as tired as if I’d been put through a ringer. His responses to difficult questions were so unhesitating and so precise that I felt that it was I who was undergoing examination.” Brearley ended his speech by reading James’s concluding note of the fateful tour down under.

“We’ve gone far beyond the game. Frank Worrell was proud to be honoured. I saw all the West Indian ease, humour and easy adaptation to environment. I could see his precise and uncompromising evaluations; those it seems are now second nature. Clearing their way with bat and ball, West Indians at that moment had made a public entry into the comity of nations.” Worrell led the team until his retirement in 1963, finishing with a record of nine wins, three losses, two draws and one tie in 15 Tests. He was knighted the following year. Before his premature death in 1967 at the age of 42, he entered the Jamaican Senate where he strongly supported a closer political union between the nations of the Caribbean. Among the event’s other guest speakers were cricket writer Vaneisa Baksh and the Ministry of Sport and Youth Affairs’ Stacy Roopnarine. Those in attendance included former West Indies players Gordon Greenidge, Deryck Murray and Rangy Nanan and First Vice President of the T&T Cricket Board Dudnath Ramkessoon

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