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

1960

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

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