Frank Worrell, stylish stroke player, captain par excellence and statesman of the game

Frank Worrell walking out with Gary Sobers to open the West Indies innings against England in 1957.
Frank Worrell walking out with Gary Sobers to open the West Indies innings against England in 1957.

There are no parallels in world cricket to the saga of the four Ws – Worrell, Weekes and Walcott of the West Indies. These great Barbados batsmen were born, remarkably, within a radius of three miles in a span of 18 months. They made their Test debut in the same series against England in 1947-48, which the West Indies won 2-0, and all three were knighted at various stages.

Frank Worrell was a calm, stylish stroke player, left-arm medium-pace swing bowler, and the first black captain of the West Indies. He was rated among the great leaders and was a true statesman of the game.

Of his highest Test score of 261 against England at Trent Bridge in 1950, 239 runs were scored in a day. England were handed a 3-1 drubbing on home turf in that game. Indeed, Worrell sculpted six of his nine Test hundreds off the English bowlers in five different series at home and away, once carrying his bat for an unbeaten 191.

Worrell is the only batsman to be involved in two first-class 500-run partnerships

He is till now the only batsman in first-class cricket to be involved in two partnerships of 500 or more, both unbroken for the fourth wicket representing Barbados against Trinidad.

In 1943-44, at 19 years the youngest to score a triple century, an unbeaten 308, he put up 502 with John Goddard. Two seasons later, he raised 574 with Clyde Walcott.

He was the odd man out among the three Ws in missing out on a Test average of 50. He came within touching distance, finishing at 49.48 for his 3860 runs in 51 Tests.

The 1960-61 series in Australia, when he took over the captaincy, was one of the most thrilling in history, not just for the first tied Test at Brisbane, but also for the competitiveness and wonderful spirit in which it was played.

The West Indies lost the series 1-2, but were accorded a memorable farewell in an open motorcade. From here on, all series between Australia and the West Indies came to be played for the Frank Worrell Trophy.

In 1963 his team gave a 3-1 thrashing to England, finally ending the hegemony of the two founder members of the Imperial Cricket Conference.

His untimely death in 1967, just after a memorable post-retirement tour to India, some of which comprised delightful moments in the commentary box, came as a rude shock to cricket lovers all over the world.

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Edited by S Chowdhury
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