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From West Indies opener to law degree candidate

Once a hard-hitting opening batsman, Philo Wallace had a fleeting time in the spotlight for West Indies, and now has turned his attention to becoming a lawyer

Philo Wallace sweeps during his hundred, Final: South Africa v West Indies, Wills International Cup, Dhaka, November 1, 1998

Philo Wallace's only ODI century came in the final of the 1998 ICC Knockout against South Africa  •  AFP

Philo Wallace. For Indians of a certain age, the name evokes one memory: the first ball of West Indies' innings in the semi-final of the 1998 ICC Knockout in Dhaka. West Indies are chasing 243, and Wallace smacks Javagal Srinath for six, just like that, over long-off.
Wallace chuckles when you ask what he was thinking.
"I would just say that if the ball comes down on a certain line and length, I'm going to hit the ball, because I like hitting the ball straight, you know?" he says. "I believe when a batsman is in good form, hitting the ball straight shows form and control. And once the ball came down on that line and length, I just hit straight through the ball, I came down to the pitch. I just hit straight through the ball and it went for six, and it was, here we go again."
At 46, Wallace doesn't look like the hulking, power-packed opening batsman he used to be. His build has softened around the edges, and a pair of spectacles give him a studious, almost lawyerly air. Which is appropriate, because he is studying for a University of London law degree through the international programme at the College of Legal Studies in Chaguanas, 18km from Port-of-Spain.
"I came here to do some work, and then I decided, look, let's study," Wallace says. "Law was it, because I worked 11 years in the Ministry of International Business. I worked for Corporate Affairs and Intellectual Property at home in Barbados for 11 years before I decided to come over here. And I got into studying and I'm a student now. Student of cricket and student of law. And I enjoy both, I enjoy both of them. I've made some good friends here, and I like what I'm doing."
Wallace says he had been thinking of life beyond cricket even when he was still playing.
"Yeah, when I captained my country, I was working, and I was studying too. I did a paralegal [course] as well. Combined all three. I was not a freak, but that's what I did. Because at the end of your playing days, you have to look for something to do, a career.
"Not all of us are good enough to get into television or even radio, so a cricketer needs to advance himself outside of cricket, and sometimes it's best to go the academic way, and then you can marry the two, because sports and academics, there's a marriage, and I just want to use myself as an example for younger cricketers, to say, look, when you stop playing cricket, your world is not over. There's something beyond the horizon once you put your mind to it."
It is day one of the fourth West Indies-India Test at Queen's Park Oval. Play has been called off, and Wallace is the last person still around in the Constantine Stand. "Just to be here makes me feel good," he says, "and to see cricket live rather than on television. I think it's fantastic."
Wallace's international record is modest: seven Tests, 33 ODIs, averages of 21 in both formats. But there was one major ODI triumph, that ICC Knockout tournament in 1998, in which he scored 79 against Pakistan, 39 in that semi-final against India, and 103 in the final, which West Indies lost to South Africa. In his three matches in that tournament, Wallace scored 31.53% of the runs he made in a 33-ODI career.
"At that time our trainer was Dennis Waite, and he got us very fit, and I thought the pitches in Dhaka were fantastic," Wallace says. "And I just trusted myself. You know, we had a good team, and my job was to go out there and get runs, and the pitches were good and I backed myself to play the shots that I know how to play."
In Tests, he promised briefly to form a long-term opening partnership with Clayton Lambert. The two averaged 72.40 as an opening pair, and added 82, 72, and 167 in the home series against England in 1998. But that high was immediately followed by the low of the 1998-99 South Africa tour, in which Wallace made a highest score of 21 in eight innings. He never played a Test match again.
"I look back at my career as not too bad," he says. "Yes, I could have played more than seven Test matches, but the competition was a lot tougher. That's why it hurts me to see guys like Leon Johnson being put out of position, and playing [as opener], because they will say he is no good, but he's batting out of position.
"I went into West Indies cricket as an opening batsman, and I opened the batting. Full stop. You couldn't tell me, bat at four. That would never have happened. You're picked to open, you open. I came out of Barbados an opening batsman, that's what you do for the West Indies. Unfortunately, it is not happening this way [now] because we are a little short in those areas.
"But I think that when you look back, you can say I've done something at the time that was good. I had a partnership with Clayton Lambert, you know, we really did well against England, we went to South Africa and weren't so successful and it was cut in half, but I'm proud of what I've achieved in cricket."
Where Wallace was all stillness, refusing even to tap his bat until the bowler had jumped into his delivery stride, the left-handed Lambert was a croucher and shuffler with an open stance. They looked very different at the crease but shared a penchant for hitting through the line of the ball, with little regard for its length.
"We got along really well," Wallace says, "and it happened from England. Because he played in the leagues in the north-east of England, and I played in the north-east as well, and that is where it all happened.
"How it used to be is, well, in the summers, the West Indian cricketers would go to England and play. So you would meet up with the other West Indian players and you would start to form friendships, not knowing, two years down the road, you could be my batting partner in a Test match."
Lambert relocated to the USA in 1999, and even played for the country in the 2004 Champions Trophy, aged 42. Since then, he has coached the USA as well. Wallace says he has found it difficult to keep in touch with his old opening partner.
"I'm trying to, but he's a hard man to find," he says. "I'm still trying, and one day we'll get together, and we'll have a nice dialogue. We'll reminisce on what we used to be."

Karthik Krishnaswamy is a senior sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo