Across the Board: 400 and that's Walsh (14 March 1999)

14 March 1999

Across the Board: 400 and that's Walsh

Hilary Beckles

On April 13, this year in Grenada, the Vice Chancellor of the UWI, in the annual match organised under his auspices, will honor the four great retired fast bowlers of the Lloyd-Richards regime - an era with no parallel in the Test history of the game.

In this pantheon of heroes are to be found the living spirits of Andy Roberts, Michael Holding, Malcolm Marshall, and Joel Garner. Between them they are responsible for the lawful appropriation of 1086 Test wickets - an average of 271.5 each.

But as we speak, Courtney Walsh, first in line for entry into this Valley of Kings, has as carry-on luggage some 400 bags, with prospects of another 50 in future journeys, making him the most overweight traveller in the history of the game.

We, the public, however, stand as sentinels guarding entry to the claim to greatness. Fully conscious of the responsibility, and mindful of the prevalence of false prophets and possible imposters, our judgement are comparable only to that of St. John of scriptural Revelations. We have placed Mr. Walsh within the scales, and we are satisfied that his rights of passage are incontrovertible. And so, we open the doors to enable the facts to speak and to settle the matter.

But Mr. Walsh's claim to greatness has its own special features that must notgo without explicit articulation. He stands before us today as a colossus, the last standing hero of a once invincible empire, reminding us of a glorious past yet leading and urging us on, at a time of decline and despair, to take up the challenge of reconstruction and revitalisation

Double responsibility

In this regard Walsh has taken up a double responsibility which sets him apart. While all around him seems to be crashing into ruin, the messages emanating from his mind remain as focused as any missile can ever be, and knowing this we feel comforted that out pride - if nothing else - is being sustained. The journey to achievement and excellence, he seems to be telling us, and the world, is not for the sprinter but the long distance runner. The test is in the time, not just the timing of achievement since visions by necessity, must be situated beyond the horizon within the imaginations.

Greatness in the Caribbean, furthermore, must not only be respected; it must be celebrated because it is the fine fruit of a turbulent civilisation whose history, we are told, speaks more to destruction than creativity.

This is why, as a Caribbean people, we emphasise in response the indispensable importance of style and grace. Here, Mr. Walsh has shown that the statistics alone are never sufficient, for they cannot be used in the judgement of a cricketer's humanity and inherent character. In his public profile, (the private soul belongs to a greater judge) he has demonstrated a disarming dignity, a sense of caring, and a calmness, the test of which is that many a Caribbean mother wishes instinctively to invite him to rest his tortured head upon their breast. And so it should be.

Such an embrace tells us as much about Courtney's moments as Caribbean mothering. His journey to the 400 mark has been a turbulent and tortured one. Like many other ardent followers of this great game, I witnessed his early temporary abandonments from the Test side, his resurrections, and triumphs. I celebrated as he was elevated to the captaincy and shed tears when it was taken away. Now, again, I celebrate his ascendancy to something equally precious recognition of another kind of leadership of West Indies cricket and his unswerving commitment, dedication and durability.

Therein, we have found a way to honour a great mind, and in so doing bring dignity to our own dealings. Once again, cricket emerges the champion, for to watch Walsh is to gaze upon the goodness that is the guardian of this great game.

Professor Hilary Beckles is UWI Pro-Vice Chancellor, chairman of the board for undergraduates as well as a noted cricket historian

Source :: The Barbados Nation (