Clyde Walcott, 1926-2006

Clyde Walcott dies aged 80

Martin Williamson

August 26, 2006

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Clyde Walcott in typical attacking mode against England in 1957 © The Cricketer
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Sir Clyde Walcott, the legendary West Indian captain and batsman, has died in a Barbados hospital. He was 80.

Standing 6'2" with a broadness to match, Walcott was one of the three Ws - Everton Weekes and Sir Frank Worrell were the others - who did so much to make West Indies a real force in world cricket in the decade after the Second World War.

Despite his size he was agile enough to stand in as wicketkeeper when the occasion demanded. He was a powerful batsman with a crouching stance, a savage driver and cutter, and merciless on anything pitched short which he invariably pulled with real savagery through midwicket. But he also possessed a solid defence when the need demanded. He was also a useful fast-medium change bowler too.

He first played for Barbados while a 16-year-old schoolboy, and in 1946-47 he added 574 for the fourth wicket with his schoolmate, Frank Worrell, for Barbados against Trinidad. Walcott's share was 314. It remains the record West Indian stand for any wicket and stamped both their marks on the game.

He made his international debut against England in 1947-48 where only his wicketkeeping kept him in the side, but he really came of age in India in 1948-49 where he made 452 runs in the Tests. He continued that form on the historic 1950 tour of England, hitting seven hundreds in the summer including 168 not out at Lord's.

He struggled - as many did - against the Australian attack of Lindwall and Miller, but between 1953 and 1955 he had no equals. Against Australia he scored a then-record West Indian aggregate of 827 runs in a series, including a record five centuries, and 698 runs against England.

In England in 1957 he started brightly but sustained an injury in the first Test on his way to 90 and never regained his best form. He was, however, back to his imperious best for his final full Test series when Pakistan visited the Caribbean the following year.

But he retired from international cricket at the top when still a comparative young man. CLR James touched on the reasons in Beyond A Boundary, hinting that the politics of the region had left him exasperated and that he was upset by the board's insistance that a white player lead the side. Walcott himself insisted he quit for financial reasons after the board forced him to play for no fee after he took a paid coaching job in British Guiana.

In 44 Tests Walcott struck 15 hundreds, and made 3798 runs at an average of 56.68.

He also played first-class cricket for British Guiana between 1954 and 1964 and is widely credited with helping to expand the game to the sugar estates in Berbice. He also made a mark in the Lancashire Leagues.

Walcott went on to manage several West Indian teams, and became a commentator and coach in his native Barbados. He was president of the West Indian Board before, in 1993, he succeeded Sir Colin Cowdrey as chairman of ICC. He was himself knighted in 1994.

He led the ICC for six years, doing much to set in place the procedures aimed at investigating and stamping out match-fixing. He was once asked why he continued to work so hard as an administrator and replied: "Cricket has done so much for me that I can't do enough for cricket."

The revival of Caribbean cricket had always been close to Walcott's heart. "In recent years the game has changed considerably and I must admit we in the West Indies have done little to change our approach to this glorious game," he said in a statement recently to promote the World Vintage Cricket Carnival to be held in Barbados in October 2006.

However, Walcott hoped that soon there would be a turnaround. "I do hope that by 2007 when the World Cup is with us, our cricket will have improved so dramatically that we will be alive in the cricketing sense, once again."

Martin Williamson is managing editor of Cricinfo

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Martin Williamson Executive editor Martin Williamson joined the Wisden website in its planning stages in 2001 after failing to make his millions in the internet boom when managing editor of Sportal. Before that he was in charge of Sky Sports Online and helped launch and run Sky News Online. With a preference for all things old (except his wife and children), he has recently confounded colleagues by displaying an uncharacteristic fondness for Twenty20 cricket. His enthusiasm for the game is sadly not matched by his ability, but he remains convinced that he might be a late developer and perseveres in the hope of an England call-up with his middle-order batting and non-spinning offbreaks. He is now managing editor of ESPN EMEA Digital Group as well as his Cricinfo responsibilities.
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