Gerry Alexander 1928-2011

'He upheld all the virtues of cricket'

Brydon Coverdale

April 18, 2011

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Gerry Alexander, Lance Gibbs, Chester Watson and Jackie Hendriks in Brisbane for the 40-year reunion of the tied Test, November 20, 2000
Gerry Alexander (far left) with Lance Gibbs, Chester Watson and Jackie Hendriks in 2000 at the 40-year reunion for the tied Test © Getty Images

Gerry Alexander, who kept wicket for West Indies during the tied Test, has been remembered by his opponents in that match as a pioneer of the wicketkeeper-batsman trend, and as a man who helped ensure the game was played in the right spirit. Alexander, who died on the weekend at the age of 82, made 484 runs during that famous 1960-'61 tour, which at the time was a world-record run-tally for a wicketkeeper in a Test series.

"He was what you'd call a competitor, which lifted his performance enormously," the Australia allrounder, Alan Davidson, told ESPNcricinfo. "We used to say if we knocked over Conrad Hunte and Kanhai and Sobers and Worrell and everybody, all of a sudden in comes this bloke Alexander. He could've batted No. 3 for them, because he was that sort of player.

"He was a good wicketkeeper as well. Let's face it, he had to take Wes Hall and then keep to Ramadhin and Valentine and Gibbs and everybody. Gerry was a great mate. We had tremendous respect for them. He was one of the real friends I made out of that tour."

During the tied Test at the Gabba, Alexander made 60 in the first innings and 5 in the second, and Davidson recalled the friendly on-field banter in what was to become the most famous Test of all, and the first match in a series that revitalised Test cricket.

"I can still remember bowling to him in a couple of the Test matches," Davidson said. "I remember in the tied Test, he played it just to the off side of the wicket and took off for a single, and of course I picked it up and from five or ten yards I'd knock the stumps down 100 out of 100 times. But just as my arm was coming through to throw it, guess who ran into my arm but Gerry Alexander, and it went for four overthrows.

"I appealed to the umpire and said, 'he knocked my arm, ump!' But of course Gerry said 'you were in my running line too, don't forget!' That's the wonderful thing about playing in those Tests, there was always the friendship that more or less bore out. It didn't stop your competitiveness, but there was a relationship that is lacking today."

Neil Harvey, who also played for Australia during that 1960-'61 series, described Alexander as a "fine cricketer" and a "very likable fellow". Harvey recalled how difficult Australia found it to dislodge Alexander during that tour, when only Australia's Norm O'Neill and West Indies' Rohan Kanhai made more runs than Alexander, who made 108 in Sydney, scored a half-century in each of the other four Tests and averaged 60.50.

He was probably one of the pioneers of this batting wicketkeeper business. He was a fine cricketer and a good bloke to go with it Neil Harvey on Gerry Alexander

"That was one of the best series that's ever been played. It resurrected the game of cricket in this country, and he was a big part of it," Harvey said. "He was a thorn in our side with the bat, actually, more than with the gloves. He was probably one of the pioneers of this batting wicketkeeper business. He was a fine cricketer and a good bloke to go with it. He was one of many West Indian blokes who we got on well with during the series."

Alexander featured in the final stages of the tied Test, when he caught Richie Benaud in the last over off Wes Hall, and four balls later he whipped the bails off after collecting a long-range throw from Conrad Hunte on the boundary to run out Wally Grout. Late last year, Alexander spoke to ESPNcricinfo about the 50th anniversary of the tied Test, and he recalled with a chuckle the chaos on the field as the West Indians made their late charge in that final eight-ball over.

However, there were tough times for Alexander as well, and as the captain on the 1958-'59 tour of India, he played a key role in having the fast bowler Roy Gilchrist sent home for refusing to stop bowling beamers.

"He was the one who had to deal with it when Gilchrist went crazy," Davidson said. "He pulled a knife on Gerry in Karachi, when he was captain. Gerry never had malice in his mind at any stage, with anyone. You knew you were playing against him and he was a great cricketer in his own right, but he upheld all the virtues of cricket."

And, as the last white captain of West Indies, Alexander also had to deal with a campaign to oust him in favour of Frank Worrell. However, even after Worrell took over as leader, Alexander remained a supportive member of the side and gave his all for the team.

"He was a very good keeper," batsman Joe Solomon, who played under Alexander's captaincy in nine Tests, said. "He always encouraged the players on the field. He was a good captain and then Frank Worrell took over, but even after that he was always a good leader and would give good advice to the players.

"He was a great friend of mine. He was a very likable person, the kind of man who you'd like to meet and be in his company."

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by Richkrys on (April 18, 2011, 18:37 GMT)

Interestingly, it seems that so few view points were solicited from West Indian players...

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Brydon CoverdaleClose
Brydon Coverdale Assistant Editor Possibly the only person to win a headline-writing award for a title with the word "heifers" in it, Brydon decided agricultural journalism wasn't for him when he took up his position with ESPNcricinfo in Melbourne. His cricketing career peaked with an unbeaten 85 in the seconds for a small team in rural Victoria on a day when they could not scrounge up 11 players and Brydon, tragically, ran out of partners to help him reach his century. He is also a compulsive TV game-show contestant and has appeared on half a dozen shows in Australia.
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