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Sir Everton rides luck to become batting legend

GERCINE CARTER, [email protected]

Sir Everton rides luck to become batting legend

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SIR EVERTON WEEKES confesses that he does not even know where to find his century-making cricket bats, and it does not even matter to the West Indies cricket legend.

The glory days of stellar performances on the cricket field are now just a treasured memory and days after his 91st birthday, he told the SUNDAY SUN that life after Test cricket had been “mostly brilliant”.

On his advancing years he confessed: “It would seem that I have all the aches and pains that one gets now when they are only past just 25 – arthritis.”

The dapperly turned-out nonagenarian was in a reflective mood last week as he looked back on his life and career. He was hilariously introspective while talking about the advancing years during an interview at The Cricket Legends in Fontabelle, St Michael.

At home in a place where his contribution to the game of cricket is graphically documented, Sir Everton began by asking the rhetorical question: “What is within?

“I would say good thoughts, certainly not malice . . . Being aggressive and all that is not good for your health, really. Malice can only accelerate your not being present in this wide world,” was his own reply, followed by a hearty chuckle.

He said he tends to remember only the good things in his life.

“In my particular case, bad things were not very bad,” he said, putting the bad things down to misunderstandings by others at times.

“Some people seem to put you in a little square and if you get away from that square, it bothers them. I think it is so easy to do the right thing. But it is unfortunate some people seem to think to do the right thing is wrong. Why? I don’t know.

“If I can move a stumbling block out of the way of people I would do it rather than tightening it.”

Sir Everton was speaking just a stone’s throw away from Pickwick Gap, the site of his boyhood home that was close to the mecca for cricket, Kensington Oval. Surrounded by cricket memorabilia, he cast his memory back to boyhood and schooldays at St Leonard’s Boys’ School on Baxters Road.

He finished school at age 14 and for the next three years the only thing he could find to do was fishing for fun with two friends who had access to a boat. The fish he sold provided the penny or four cents he paid to see a movie at the Olympic and Empire cinemas.

“Of course, I played my cricket at Kensington Oval since I was a boy from Pickwick Gap,” Sir Everton said.

Many times he got the opportunity to play as 12th man, which put him in a position to learn the game through which he went on to make an international reputation as a batsman among the legendary “Three Ws” (Weekes, Clyde Walcott and Frank Worrell) in West Indies cricket.

The early Kensington experience, he said, “served me in good stead later on in life, being around some senior people who, after practice on the evenings, would sit around the bar talking about cricket and life generally”.

The names Clifford Davis, Harold Jordan, L. G. Yearwood, and E. L. G. Hoad came to mind.

“Hoad had a big influence on me. He gave me my first cricket bat as a boy.” 

He credits such mentorship, his upbringing by a single mother and the discipline of the army, scouting and life in St Leonard’s Anglican Church for the man he became.

He believes that without some of those early influences in his life he could easily have followed boys of his age who “would do some ugly and strange things”.

 “At Christmas we would go out through the avenue and sing Christmas carols with the hope of receiving a piece of ham and a little sorrel. If that was not forthcoming one of the boys might be naughty enough to remove the doorstep, which was just a piece of stone and when the owner stepped out in the morning it would not be there.”

Sir Everton opted for a career in the military and in his typical witty fashion, he said: “There was nothing else to do unless you wanted to wear a different kind of uniform which was blue at that time [a prisoner’s uniform].”

When Sir Everton looks back on his cricketing career, luck factors heavily. 

“So many things strengthen my belief in luck; being in the right place at the right time sometimes,” he said.

“I played three Test matches for Barbados and I played three Test matches for the West Indies. I did not do very well and was left out of the team.

“George Headley, who was our greatest batsman, had a bit of a problem with his health and he was left out of the team and I was asked to join the team in Jamaica and I got 100 there and went on to get another four hundreds (in an India Test series) in India.”

 Today that world record still stands and he believes luck featured here.

“Had it not been for George Headley’s illness I might have been on the scene but not as early as I was.

“In that Test match in which I made 100, I was missed without scoring . . . but it was a chance. But if I had failed in that game I don’t know that I would have gone to India.”

On other occasions, he thinks he may have been “in the right position at the right time to be given a good record, a good statement made of me by some individuals who may have said good things to somebody else about me.” 

He walked carefully down the many steps of The Cricket Legends building to the gallery in which photographs of his cricketing feats and a life-size cut-out of the world-famous batsman are on display among the other legends of West Indies cricket.

Gazing at a photograph of himself, he mused: “Cricket did everything for me really.”

He went on to relate the experience of sailing from England to Australia in the 1950s on a ship with 960 passengers, mainly young people, some of them Australians returning home as doctors, lawyers, nurses, accountants.

He made friends for life on this trip, as he did on the trip to New Zealand in 1956 and throughout his international cricketing career.

There is no mistaking how much he enjoyed his life as a cricketer. Making the comparison between West Indies cricket then and now, he quipped: “They are two different things altogether.

“When we went to Australia in 1951, I think we only had three professionals at the time – Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott and me. We were then getting paid. I would not like to compare what we were getting then with what’s happening now. I think we got one thousand pounds for the five months.

“But that was a lot of money. The exchange was $4 800. Land in those days was eight cents a square foot and some of us, even though we had the eight cents, we could not buy land in certain areas.”

“I think that is a big change now. The players are well paid and looking at the performances, sometimes one wonders whether the quality of performance deserves what they are getting.”

Still, he argues the short-lived career of a sportsman merits proper remuneration.

“In my case, I would not say I worked for nothing but comparatively speaking what is happening now, it is like for nothing and if you live to 91 years old you still have to pay taxes, bills and things like that.”

But he is not complaining.

“I am only making the comparisons,” said.

Sir Everton stopped playing Test cricket in 1959, but it was only in 1965 that he took off his Barbados cricket cap for good.

“I had lots of fun,” he said, as he strolled away towards The Legends car park with a certain clip in his step.