GOMEZ, GERALD ETHRIDGE, died from a heart attack when playing tennis in Trinidad on August 6, 1996, aged 76. Gerry Gomez was a major figure in West Indian cricket for more than half a century, as a player, manager, selector, administrator, commentator and finally elder statesman. In an emergency, at Georgetown in 1964-65, he even umpired a Test match. He made his name as a batsman, scoring 161 not out for Trinidad against Jamaica when he was still a teenager, and earning selection for the 1939 tour of England, though his achievements there did not match his promise. By the time West Indies resumed Test cricket almost nine years later he was senior enough to take over the captaincy for one match, but - as all white West Indians were to find - his place in the team was being challenged by the emergence of new talent.
Gomez adapted: he dropped down the order, provided dogged counterpoint to the genius of the three Ws and developed into a gifted swing bowler. From quiet beginnings, he matured enough to take seven for 55 at Sydney in 1951-52. He still played important innings, including his only Test century in West Indies' first match against India, at Delhi in 1948-49, but usually he was either in a supporting role or - as happened regularly in Australia- in charge of repairs. Gomez captained the team on only the one occasion; his compatriot and contemporary Jeff Stollmeyer overtook him. But his leadership qualities came through later.
When he was appointed manager for the 1960-61 tour of Australia, C. L. R. James said it was "a brilliant selection ... Gerry is popular at home and in Australia, knowledgable and tough." The tour was a triumph and Gomez was an important behind-the-scenes influence in ensuring harmony. He was a longstanding member of the West Indies Board, and president for 30 years of the West Indies Cricket Umpires' Association, which he welded together. Gomez played football for Trinidad, and became a vice-president of the country's football and tennis associations, an executive member of the Olympic Association, president of the Boy Scouts' movement and chairman of the annual music festival. He was a holder of Trinidad's Humming Bird Medal (Gold), for services to sport. When he died, he was president of the Queen's Park Cricket Club.