50 Magic Moments

Worrell and Co. get a royal farewell

West Indies may have lost the series, but they won the hearts of all Australia

Peter Roebuck
Peter Roebuck

Melburnians turn out in their thousands to bid West Indies goodbye © Cricinfo Ltd
Melbourne, February 1961
Frank Worrell was West Indies' first black captain. Others had led the West Indian team for an occasional match, only to be put back in their place by a returning white-skin. Many black players had found themselves obliged to play under fools and even knaves.
Mostly it was a racial thing. To some it was inconceivable that a black man could be put in charge of anything, let alone a cricket team representing a bunch of independent islands. Here was a task requiring tact. White men had been trained to lead, blacks to serve.
Of course, the reliance on white leaders was insulting and absurd. Already the region had produced several remarkable cricketers, among them George Headley, Clyde Walcott, Everton Weekes, and Garry Sobers. Not before time, the cry went out for a black man to be chosen as captain.
Frank Worrell took the team to Australia in 1960-61. Strong of mind and gentle of manner, he knew the stakes were high. The tour was a triumph. Although West Indies lost 1-2, they played brilliant attacking cricket, and were sporting in victory and defeat. Worrell found a worthy adversary in Richie Benaud, and afterwards the pair shook hands, and the crowds came out to cheer as the West Indians received a farewell fit for heroes.

Peter Roebuck is a former captain of Somerset and the author, most recently, of In It to Win It. This article was first published in the print version of Cricinfo Magazine