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The West Indies team of 1963 was the sixth to visit England since 1928 and play an official Test series. No more popular side has ever toured the old country and with so many thousands of the coloured population from the Caribbean having emigrated to the big cities of Great Britain the cricketers received plenty of support from their own people. They flocked to the grounds and their good humour and incessant banter helped to keep the game alive.
It was recognised that England's invincibility at home against the majority of countries would face a most serious challenge when Frank Worrell and his men arrived in London in the early days of April. Already they had won fame two years earlier by their deeds in Australia which included the memorable tie in the Test at Brisbane. They revitalised interest in cricket in Australia. Now they came to England and again by their sparkling batting, bowling and fielding they caused the whole nation to follow the progress of the Tests.
That this combination of players, assembled from all quarters of the globe through the professional engagements of Sobers, Hall and King, should take the field within a few days of their arrival as a perfectly balanced cricketing unit had to be seen to be believed.
Unlike most other previous sides from the West Indies, the majority of the 1963 team had gained much experience of English conditions, nine having held League engagements, while five were in John Goddard's 1957 side in England. Both wicket-keepers, Allan and Murray, were newcomers, and strangely enough the latter, straight from school, met the fast bowler, Wesley Hall, for the first time when the players assembled in London.
Worrell had an almost perfect side to lead. It was ideally blended with three really quick bowlers in Hall, Griffith and King, a proved off-spinner in Gibbs, the evergreen Valentine of the victorious 1950 combination to provide left-arm slows, plus Rodriguez, the Trinidad captain and leg-spinner.
To these bowlers could be added the all-rounders, notably Worrell himself and Sobers. At times, Sobers bowled with the new ball with the hostility of Alan Davidson and at others with the skill and guile of Fleetwood Smith or Tribe.
Most of the batsmen had Test experience, both at home and in England, and the majority were in Worrell's team in Australia. Before the tour began the West Indies officials knew that, properly led and controlled, this team could present a formidable challenge to England in England, and that is exactly what happened.
Worrell's shrewd appraisement of the strength and weakness of the opposition, and his ice-cool control in all types of situation inspired his men and compelled them to give of their best including their last ounce of energy.
No wonder they emulated the deeds of the 1950 side and carried off the rubber by the same margin -- three victories to one. It was surprising, considering the matches of this tour were played on pitches which had been covered and could be covered as a protection from continuous rain, how few centuries were recorded. Not one was hit for England in the five Tests and only eight were made in the other first-class games whereas the West Indies players finished with seventeen centuries including four in the Tests.
Worrell, himself, made a very limited batting contribution, but those who saw his finest hour in the first Test at Old Trafford where he made 74 not out will vow this was the most graceful exhibition of late-cutting in the last fifty years.
Sobers was the strong man of the party. He missed only six first-class engagements including the two against Oxford and Cambridge, and in almost every game he played he contributed some outstanding performance. He left his imprint on every field he played, taking wickets at a vital time, making runs quickly when necessary and swallowing up 29 catches, mostly in the slips. His form in the last month of the tour qualified him as the outstanding performer and all-rounder in present-day cricket.
West Indies were fortunate that immunity from injury enabled them to play the same ten men in each of the five Tests. That they made the odd change was due to their opening batting being as fickle as England's has been since the Hutton-Washbrook era.
Hunte, the number one, appeared in all five Tests, but he had three different partners, Carew, McMorris and finally Rodriguez. The inability of the left-handed Carew as well as McMorris to settle down to consistently sound displays threw a heavy responsibility on the middle batsmen. Carew was hitting catches to deep fine leg in the last week of the tour as frequently as he did in the opening weeks, and when one remembers the classic knocks by McMorris in the last month it did not seem possible that he failed to reach fifty before July.
Kanhai, a near batting genius, was another who baffled the watchers. His first visit to the crease resulted in a century at Cambridge, his only three-figure innings of the tour, but he hit nine half-centuries, including four in Test innings.
Butcher emerged as the most dependable batsman. He alone never appeared to be out of touch during the whole tour and his record of only two hundreds can be attributed to the fact that he was never average conscious. His 133 in the thrilling Lord's Test was a most valuable effort and emphasized the soundness of his methods.
Nurse took a long time to justify the nice things claimed for him. He got himself out far too often through always being in too big a hurry to get on with the scoring, but in August he looked a very fine player.
The usefulness of Solomon could not be judged by his batting figures. In a team of many brilliant stroke-makers, his ability to shut up one end often stemmed a possible collapse.
The tour was a triumph for Hunte, the vice-captain. He played a prominent part in the Test victories at Old Trafford and The Oval. In the first, he exhausted England with his 182 and in the fifth he was top scorer in each West Indies innings, 80 and 108 not out. Hunte made full use of the experience he had gained over six seasons in the Lancashire League. Never caught playing off the back foot like most of his colleagues, he played many attractive innings and his determination carried him far on his successful tour.
Down the years, many Test rubbers have gone to the team possessing a genuine pair of pace bowlers. Worrell's striking force was undoubtedly his two fast openers, Hall and Griffith. The weekly advancement of Griffith in the skills of the game was most noticeable. His command of the yorker has not been equalled in this century and his success came easier through the big increase in the number of batsmen who favour the two-eyed stance.
Hall was the ideal foil for Griffith. Possessing a long hostile run-up to the wicket, with an equally long follow-through, Hall bowled as though he meant to take a wicket with every delivery. Nobody will ever forget his famous last day in the Test at Lord's when he bowled on and on, hour after hour.
How Worrell kept him going in that epic drawn game, perhaps only Worrell can say. Hall was never quite the same player again, which was a pity because his batting promised so much. He hit the season's fastest century, 100 in sixty-five minutes at Fenner's, and made his runs in the classic mould, not in the unorthodox manner usually adopted by fast bowlers.
It was one of the game's little ironies when, in the last Test, Trueman not only clean bowled Hall, but broke a piece off the stump. Hall had the satisfaction of knowing that he had taken greater toll of Peter May in the West Indies when he not only bowled down the middle stump but also broke it clean in two.
It was a surprise to many when the youthful Murray was chosen to keep wicket for the first Test, but the selectors' judgment proved right. The Trinidad wicket-keeper showed a beautiful pair of hands and a quick eye for Sobers' googly. He set up a West Indies record for a wicket-keeper in a Test series with his 24 victims; only J.H.B. Waite, 26 for South Africa against New Zealand in 1961-62, has done better. Murray returned to the Caribbean with the great chance of being the world's best in say two years' time.
Rodriguez had the misfortune to go down with cartilage trouble before the first Test just as he was being given a chance with the ball, but once Gibbs had asserted himself with eleven wickets in that Test, the slow bowling worries were over.
A slight panic brought White, an all-rounder from Barbados, as a replacement for Rodriguez, and the extra player when Rodriguez was fit again caused selection embarrassments during the latter stages of the tour.
By the success in the Tests, Frank Worrell was the first captain to receive The Wisden Trophy and he flew home with his men to a tumultuous welcome in Kingston, Jamaica where they immediately played two matches. Worrell ranks as West Indies greatest and most successful captain and he received a knighthood in the New Year Honours of 1964. The team manager, Mr. Berkeley Gaskin, himself a former Test player, contributed much towards this success.
More details about Sobers, Hunte, Kanhai and Griffith can be found earlier in the Almanack where they rightly appear among The Five Cricketers of The Year.
Test Matches -- Played 5; Won 3, Lost 1, Drawn 1.
First-Class Matches -- Played 30; Won 15, Lost 2, Drawn 13.
All Matches -- Played 38; Won 19, Lost 3, Drawn 16.
Wins -- England (3), Col. L. C. Stevens's XI, Duke of Norfolk's XI, Gloucestershire, Cambridge University, M.C.C., Oxford University, Somerset, Glamorgan, Ireland, Sussex, Derbyshire, Middlesex, Warwickshire, Yorkshire, T.N. Pearce's XI, Sir Learie Constantine's XI.
Losses -- England, Yorkshire, Sussex.
Draws -- England, Worcestershire, Lancashire, Surrey (twice), Ireland, Hampshire, Essex, Minor Counties, Leicestershire, Glamorgan, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Kent, A.E.R. Gilligan's XI, Club Cricket Conference.
Match reports for
Tour Match: LC Steven's XI v West Indians at Eastbourne, Apr 24-25, 1963
Tour Match: Duke of Norfolk's XI v West Indians at Arundel, Apr 27, 1963
Tour Match: Worcestershire v West Indians at Worcester, May 1-3, 1963
Tour Match: Gloucestershire v West Indians at Bristol, May 4-7, 1963
Tour Match: Cambridge University v West Indians at Cambridge, May 8-9, 1963
Tour Match: Lancashire v West Indians at Manchester, May 11-14, 1963
Tour Match: Yorkshire v West Indians at Middlesbrough, May 15-17, 1963
Tour Match: Marylebone Cricket Club v West Indians at Lord's, May 18-21, 1963
Tour Match: Oxford University v West Indians at Oxford, May 22-24, 1963
Tour Match: Surrey v West Indians at The Oval, May 25-28, 1963
Tour Match: Somerset v West Indians at Bath, May 29-31, 1963
Tour Match: Glamorgan v West Indians at Cardiff, Jun 1-4, 1963
Tour Match: Sussex v West Indians at Hove, Jun 15-18, 1963
Tour Match: Hampshire v West Indians at Southampton, Jun 26-28, 1963
Tour Match: Essex v West Indians at Southend-on-Sea, Jun 29-Jul 2, 1963
Tour Match: Minor Counties v West Indians at Sunderland, Jul 10-11, 1963
Tour Match: Leicestershire v West Indians at Leicester, Jul 13-16, 1963
Tour Match: Derbyshire v West Indians at Chesterfield, Jul 17-19, 1963
Tour Match: Middlesex v West Indians at Lord's, Jul 20-23, 1963
Tour Match: Surrey v West Indians at The Oval, Jul 31-Aug 2, 1963
Tour Match: Glamorgan v West Indians at Swansea, Aug 3-6, 1963
Tour Match: Warwickshire v West Indians at Birmingham, Aug 7-9, 1963
Tour Match: Yorkshire v West Indians at Sheffield, Aug 10-13, 1963
Tour Match: Northamptonshire v West Indians at Northampton, Aug 14-16, 1963
Tour Match: Nottinghamshire v West Indians at Nottingham, Aug 17-20, 1963
Tour Match: Kent v West Indians at Canterbury, Aug 28-30, 1963
Tour Match: AER Gilligan's XI v West Indians at Hastings, Aug 31-Sep 3, 1963
Tour Match: TN Pearce's XI v West Indians at Scarborough, Sep 7-10, 1963
Tour Match: Sussex v West Indians at Hove, Sep 12, 1963