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George Headley - A Brief Biography

by Chico Khan.

GEORGE ALPHONSO HEADLEY was born in Panama, where his Jamaican father went to work on the Panama Canal, on 30th May 1909. He moved to Jamaica in 1919 and first appeared for the St. Catherine's Cricket Club in 1927. While still a teenager, he recorded scores of 71, 211 and 71 playing for Jamaica against Lionel Tennyson's XI.

After being surprisingly ommitted from the first official West Indies touring party to England in 1928, he scored a century in his debut first class match outside of Jamaica against England in Bridgetown, Barbados. His innings of 114 and 112 in Georgetown, the first time a West Indian scored a century in each innings of a Test, was the highlight of the first West Indian victory in Test matches. He finished his debut series with magnificent 223 on his home ground to record a 4 Test aggregate of 703 runs.

On the 1930-31 tour of Australia, Headley encountered for the first of many times what became a familiar story. He was the lone West Indian to offer more than token resistance to the Aus- tralian attack and was forced to almost single-handedly shoulder the burden of the West Indies batting. After initial difficul- ties, especially against the leg-spin of Clarrie Grimmet, he modified his technique and finished the series with centuries in the third and fifth Tests.

Lord Tennyson toured the Caribbean again in 1931-32, and Headley once again was at the top of his form, recording scores of 344*, 84, 155* and 140, prompting Lord Tennyson to remark, "I cannot recollect such perfection of timing nor variey of shots...." In England in 1933, he scored 2320 runs, more than twice as much as the next best batsman. When England returned in 1935, he top scored with 44 out of a first innings total of 102 in the first Test on a wicket reportedly totally unfit for play. Wally Ham- mond described his two innings of 43 and 29* in that match as the most difficult he had ever played. He rounded out that series with a spectacular 270 in the final Test to give the West Indies their first series victory.

In 1939, he became the first player to score two centuries in a single Test at Lords and also the second person to accomplish that feat on two occasions. Unfortunately, like many cricketers of the period, the war deprived the cricketing world of what should have been the best years of Headley. He did not play in a Test match again until he was 39 years old. When he captained the West Indies in the first Test in Barbados in 1948, he was the first black man to be given the opportunity and because of inju- ry, his captaincy was limited to only one Test.

His career ended on a less than glorious note when, at the age of 45, he was recalled, as much by the public as by the selectors, to play in the final Test on his home ground and could only manage scores of 16 and 1. Until then, his value to the West Indian team cannot be overstated. Out of 35 Test innings, he top-scored in 15 and scored at least 35% of him team's runs on 11 occasions. In the 1930s, he scored a century in every other Test - the best the rest of his team mates could do was 5 centuries between them.

As over-powering as the statistics are, they are only half the story. As Sir Frank Worrell was to do later, Headley was an am- bassador for his region unlike any other. His composure and di- plomacy on and off the field, at times under extremely trying circumstances and against remarkable injustices, say as much about the man as his skill with a bat. He died on 30th November 1983.

First Class Record (* Test Matches): M Ings N.O Runs H.S Avg. Tennyson's XI '27-28 (W) 3 5 409 211 81.80 J. Cahn's XI '28-29 (W) 2 4 139 57 34.75 J. Cahn's XI '28-29 (W) 1 2 187 143 93.50 M.C.C '29-30 (W) 2 3 188 72 62.66 * England '29-30 (WI) 4 8 703 223 87.87 Australia Tour 30-31 (A) 8 15 730 131 48.66 * Australia '30-31 (A) 5 10 1 336 105 37.33 Tennyson's XI '31-32 (W) 3 4 2 723 344* 361.50 T&T/Bar XI '32-33 (W) 1 2 51 30 25.50 England Tour '33 (E) 20 32 2043 224* 68.10 * England '33 (E) 3 6 1 277 169* 55.40 M.C.C '34-35 (W) 2 3 152 127 50.66 * England '34-35 (WI) 4 6 1 485 270* 97.00 Leicestershire '35 (E) 1 2 152 134 76.00 Yorkshire '35-36 (W) 3 5 266 118 53.20 Trinidad '38-39 (W) 1 1 160 160 160.00 West Indies '38-39 (W) 1 1 103 103 103.00 England Tour '39 (E) 17 25 6 1411 234* 74.26 * England '39 (E) 3 5 334 107 66.80 Trinidad '45-46 (W) 3 4 1 170 99 56.66 Barbados '46-47 (W) 2 3 3 339 203* Guyana '47-48 (W) 2 2 1 40 36 40.00 M.C.C '47-48 (W) 2 2 1 101 65 101.00 * England '47-48 (WI) 1 2 1 36 29 36.00 India Tour '48-49 (I) 2 2 9 8 4.50 * India '48-49 (I) 1 1 2 2 2.00 Pakistan Tour '48-49 (P) 1 1 1 57 57* England '51 (E) 1 1 20 20 20.00 England '52 (E) 1 2 159 98 79.50 M.C.C '53-54 (W) 1 2 1 58 53* 58.00 * England '53-54 (WI) 1 2 17 16 8.50 England '54 (E) 1 1 64 64 64.00

M I NO Runs HiS Avg. 100 50 Ct. Test Total 22 40 4 2190 270* 60.83 10 5 14

Career Total 103 164 22 9921 344* 69.86 33 44 76

© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

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