No. 19 May 8, 2010

Worrell becomes captain

A cricketer and a gentleman who gave a sense of unity to West Indian cricket and championed the cause of player rights


Where Learie Constantine and George Headley had pioneered the acceptance of black cricketers in cricket, Frank Worrell took the issues to a more mature conclusion. As a cricketer, he was respected for his all-round elegance and his command of the intricacies of the game.

Worrell was the popular choice for West Indies captain in the 1950s, when he was in his prime, yet it took strident campaigning, notably by CLR James, for him to finally be appointed in 1960. (Save for the one Test of George Headley, West Indies captaincy had hitherto been the preserve of whites; after Worrell there has not been another white West Indies captain.)

Worrell led the team in what is still described as the greatest Test match ever: the famous tied Test against Australia. That match rebranded cricket as a spectacularly exciting game, and the Sir Frank Worrell Trophy would henceforth be the prize for matches between the two sides.

What Worrell did was take his collection of talented individuals and infuse them with a sense of belonging to a greater whole. It was a turning point in West Indies cricket, which had lacked unity among players. His commitment to the radical equality championed by Constantine and Headley went further, as he negotiated the way to better remuneration and terms for cricketers generally. The professional cricketer gained new respect and better conditions. Worrell could do it because world respect for him as a cricketer and as a gentleman was unsurpassed; and with his gracious persuasion it was easier to do the right thing.

Vaneisa Baksh is a journalist based in Trinidad. This article was first published in Wisden Asia Cricket magazine

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Richie on May 10, 2010, 7:52 GMT

    None of the 'Turning Points' articles are long or provide any in depth analysis; they do however highlight things that have happened in the game about which you can then find out more. This is not the best approach but it's a little unfair to criticise VB for his brief article which is written in the style of the whole series.

    @CricketisMyPassion: There's a perfectly good biography of Sir Frank Worrell by Ivo Tennant. It's over twenty years old but is still widely available second hand - try Amazon.

  • Luke on May 10, 2010, 2:21 GMT

    In Aus there's an ABC doco series which includes the series in which the tied test mentioned here. The comraderie and respect which Benaud and Worrell held for each other is heart warming and speaks volumes of how sport can cross racial lines positively. The WI team got a ticker-tape parade because of how much Australian cricket fans appreciated the way they conducted themselves. Any team would benefit at any time by having a captain like Worrell at the helm. The way Worrell brought together a bunch of islands to play as a team speaks volumes as to how this purpose and determination has dissipated under selfish boards and players since.

  • P Subramani on May 9, 2010, 12:48 GMT

    Yes, I agree that for those familiar with the legendary Sir Frank Worrell, this piece on the great man is bland. Considering that it is authored by a West Indian it is even more disappointing. Frank Worrel was more than just about cricket even if he was one of the greatest cricketers to have emerged from the Carribean Islands. He made his debut in the late 40s and was probably at his best in the early to mid 50s. I think he was past his prime in the early 60s when he was made the captain before that famous series in Australia where Richie Benaud was the Australian captain. He brought together as one force a team of brilliant individuals from disparate islands to play under what would later become the ultimate benchmark in Cricket. The West Indians.It was an immeasurable loss when he died of leukamia at the age of just 42. Just how popular he was in England where he spent much of his time,can be seen in the fact that they had a memorial service for him at the Westminister Abbey.

  • SRINI on May 9, 2010, 10:50 GMT

    Where can we find more about Frank Worrell that give us a sense of how he came to be regarded as the leader that united the West Indian cricketers and how he built his reputation?

  • Dummy4 on May 9, 2010, 9:43 GMT

    As an article this is rubbish. So shallow it is difficult to see why it was written on a cricket site. Poor stuff VB. the comments above are more interesting on the subject. I remember my grandfather listening to the tied test on radio. I remember it because of his excitement, and as the only time i recall my fater listen to cricket. I was only 6 and for years afterward Worrell was the only cricketers name i knew.....but I thought he was an Australian!!. I'm now approaching 60 and that fifth day was the beginning of my love of cricket. So treat your subjects with more respect Vb, or work elsewhere than a cricket site.

  • Vaidhyanarayanan on May 9, 2010, 8:24 GMT

    Cricinfo needs ppl like tomjs100 and Majr. got to watch a programme on espn-star on the the tied test. Even as the match was veering towards an australian victory, Sir Worrell seemed to be very well aware of the uncertainties of the game of cricket. His hunch nearly came good with the WI snatching a tie in an exciting finish.

  • Thomas on May 9, 2010, 6:03 GMT

    Poor article simply stating a number of assertions. Apparently no research beyond the cursory has been conducted. What and how did Worrell do things? Couldn't you find some quotes from players in the game?

  • shafeen on May 8, 2010, 22:59 GMT

    I hear he was a real artist with the bat, and damn good bat too. his average only just slipped below 50 when he continued playing on after the likes of Weekes and Walcott had called it a day. And he was always more successful than either of those two on tours of Australia and England - the acid test in those days.

  • P Subramani on May 8, 2010, 12:58 GMT

    I saw Frank Worrell playing for the Commonwealth at the Brabourne Stadium in 1954. He hit Vinoo Mankad for 3 sixes. Not to be outdone, Mankad repaid the compliment when his turn came playing for India in that unofficial Test.Worrell was a metaphor of elegance, not one of brute force. His late cuts were played so late and with the face of the bat pointing downwards --- or so it appeared to me from the distance watching him from the North Stand at the Brabourne--- that there was no chance of an edge. I have never understood why we do not have this exhibition any more.He was the one who showed the world that coloured cricketers were just as good if not better than white ones as leaders of men.I followed the famed tie drawn Test of 1961. I think Worrell scored 65 in the first innings. But more importantly he showed everyone watching and hearing the radio, what fairness in cricket was all about on the last day. The West Indies needs a Captain like him today.Maybe Darren Ganga.

  • Dummy4 on May 8, 2010, 11:22 GMT

    One of our great fathers ... I wish that I had seen him play and heard him speak, such is the respect that he commanded and the artistry that he presented.

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