It’s Sir Charles
Five decades after being part of one of the world’s most devastating fast-bowling pairs, Charlie Griffith yesterday joined his pace partner Sir Wesley Hall in receiving a knighthood.
The fiery six-footer from Pie Corner in St Lucy was bestowed with the Knight Of St Andrew by the Barbados Government for his contribution to sports, especially cricket.
Just a fortnight away from his 79th birthday, Sir Charles was also honoured for his entrepreneurship, leadership and business development. He was previously awarded the Silver Crown Of Merit in 1992.
Griffith joins an elite list of Barbadian cricketers who have been knighted. They include Sir Garfield Sobers, the late Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Conrad Hunte, as well as Sir Everton Weekes.
He made his first-class debut for Barbados in 1959 against the touring MCC side and made his presence felt by dismissing some of England’s best batsmen, including Colin Cowdrey, Peter May, Ken Barrington and Mike Smith in the first innings.
Smith and Ted Dexter were his second innings victims and he was fast-tracked to the Test arena the next year, but after playing in the final Test against England, he was excluded from the West Indies’ squad that toured Australia for the famous 1960-61 series Down Under. He had to wait another three years for his next Test.
Sir Charles’ most successful Test series was the 1963 tour of England when the powerfully-built paceman captured a whopping 32 wickets at an outstanding average of 16.21. Overall, he captured 119 wickets in 20 matches during that tour at a remarkable average of 12.83.
He outshone his life-long friend, Sir Wesley, who still remembers their days playing together for the West Indies.
Sir Charles, whose name also adorns the Hall And Griffith Stand at Kensington Oval, said he and Sir Wesley were inseparable.
“We were like brothers. We roomed together and spent a lot of time discussing how to get different batsmen out. We learned by asking questions,” Sir Charles said in a previous interview.
He also lauded Sir Everton, who was captain of Barbados at the time, for the part he played.
“He was a tremendous source of strength to me,” Sir Charles said.
Known for his devilish bouncer and lethal yorker, Sir Charles captured 94 wickets in 28 Tests at an average of 28.54 between 1960 and 1969, with best figures of six for 36 against England.
Overall, Sir Charles took 332 wickets at an impressive average of 21.60 in 96 first-class matches between 1959 and 1969.
Chairman of Legends Barbados, Desmond Haynes, the long-serving West Indies opener, was among many cricketers congratulating Sir Charles.
“Heartiest congratulations to Sir Charles Griffith on his knighthood,” Haynes said as he posted a picture of Sir Charles and himself on his Facebook page.
Unfortunately, Sir Charles’ career was marred by controversy and he had to endure being called for throwing a couple of times, even though he was exonerated when his action was scrutinised on film.
“I don’t think any cricketer has been pushed so deep in to the freeze since Harold Larwood invented bodyline bowling,” Sir Garry said in his defence back after the 1966 tour of England.
He is remembered for delivering a bouncer which floored India’s captain Nari Contractor in a 1962 tour match at Kensington Oval. The batsman suffered a fractured skull and his life was saved, thanks to a substantial blood transfusion, with West Indies’ captain Frank Worrell among the donors.
After his retirement from first-class cricket, Sir Charles became a national coach and played an instrumental role in shaping the success of the Barbados Cricket League, where one of the divisions is named after him.
He also toured England in the early 1970s with the BCL side and was chairman of the Barbados senior selection panel, as well as a past president of Empire club. (EZS)