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Martin Williamson looks back at Andy Ganteaume, who made a hundred on his Test debut ... and never played again
December 31, 2005
Ganteaume, who had no formal coaching, made his first-class debut for Trinidad as a wicketkeeper-batsman a few weeks after his 20th birthday in 1941 and, batting at No. 8, cracked 87. He continued to play as often as his work in the Trinidad Civil Service would allow. He was also a regular member of Trinidad's soccer side.
By the time England toured in 1947-48 - West Indies' first cricket since they were in England in 1939 - Ganteaume had become an opener, much against his will. ""In those days West Indian cricket was obsessed with the idea of a keeper opening because his eye was in," he recalled. "Of course it was utter madness."
His first match of that summer came when England visited Trinidad, and he made 101 and 47 not out in a drawn game; but he was criticised for taking all day to score his hundred, one English reporter writing that he had "no praise for a batsman who in these beautiful conditions takes a whole day to make a hundred." In the second match against the tourists, which followed immediately after, he scored 5 and 90.
That innings was not enough to earn Ganteaume a call-up for the second Test - "I was not a privileged boy. I had to make a hundred even to get into the argument" - as the selectors sent for George Carew, a 37-year-old Barbadian whose only previous Test had been 13 years earlier. But in the second match against Trinidad, Jeff Stollmeyer, West Indies' regular opener, picked up an injury and Ganteaume was drafted in.
England won the toss and scored 362, built on a remarkable hundred from Billy Griffith, the reserve wicketkeeper who was pressed into action as a makeshift opener and who responded with a remarkable 140, his maiden first-class hundred.
West Indies got off to a brisk start thanks to Carew. Wisden reported that "wearing a chocolate-coloured felt hat and chewing gum the whole time" he established a complete mastery over the bowlers, and by the close of the second day, West Indies were 160 for 0, with Carew unbeaten on 101. While there were mumblings that Ganteaume had been slow, he disputed that, pointing out that he had deliberately given Carew the strike. "Any thinking batsman will keep his end up and push singles to give his partner the strike while he is running hot".
"Andy's innings in its later stages was not in keeping with the state of the game," recalled Stollmeyer. "His captain was forced to send a message out to him to 'get on with it'." Despite being team-mates, Stollmeyer and Ganteaume did not get on. "He opened with me for many years. If he wanted me in the West Indian team it would have happened." And Stollmeyer overlooked the fact that the message was addressed to both batsmen.
Almost immediately, Ganteaume lifted the ball to Jack Ikin at extra cover. He had made 112, including 13 fours, and West Indies were well on their way to a substantial first-innings lead. Worrell, whose run-rate was never mentioned, made 97 in three-and-a-quarter hours.
Ganteaume was quick to point out that England's bowlers adopted a policy of containment once the shine had gone off the ball. "Howarth operated for long spells with a 7-2 field placement and pitched well outside off stump."
Had West Indies won, then his possible slow play might have been overlooked, but crucially two hours were lost to rain on the fourth day, and West Indies were left with a target of 141 in 57 minutes. They closed on 72 for 3, with Ganteaume, the chosen opener, not getting a bat.
Even though Stollmeyer was still injured, Ganteaume was dropped for the third Test at Georgetown and John Goddard brought in. Under a complicated pre-series agreement, three captains were chosen for the four Tests, and so Goddard had to play, despite being in poor form. He made 1 and 3.
Ganteaume did tour England, but not until 1957 by which time he was 36. After missing out in 1950 he played little representative cricket, and ahead of his one tour he had played only one first-class match in three seasons. He had a moderate time in England - his 800 runs came at 27.58 - and he did not come close to adding to his solitary cap.
Ganteaume probably paid as much for his anti-establishment attitude as for slow scoring. He was certainly not someone who was going to bow and scrape to the white players who still dominated the region's cricket. Goddard later wrote that it would have been better for the team and his own career had Ganteaume made a brisk 60 rather than his slower hundred. As it is, he can take a tiny amount of solace in the knowledge that he boasts a higher Test average than even Don Bradman.
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Wisden Cricket Monthly - Various
Wisden Cricketers' Almanack - 1949
Sydney Morning Herald