Next Monday, February 26, Sir Everton deCourcey Weekes, the legendary Barbados and West Indies batsman of the late 1940s and 1950s celebrates his 93rd birthday. Sir Everton is one of the oldest living West Indian cricketers.
Roy Miller of Jamaica, a right-handed batsman and fast-medium bowler whose sole Test appearance was the fourth Test match against India at Georgetown in 1953, is the oldest living West Indian Test cricketer. Miller, 93, was born December 24, 1924.
Sir Everton was born two months later on February 26, 1925. Unlike Miller who is a one-Test wonder, Sir Everton played 48 Test matches, scored 4,455 runs including fifteen centuries at an average of 58.61. In addition to his remarkable skills as a batsman, he was a brilliant and versatile fielder.
Short and thickset, Weekes was immensely quick on his feet and possessed aN armoury of attacking strokes on both sides of the wicket, he along with the late Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott are immortalized as the Three Ws due to the manner they dominated the West Indies batting in the decade between 1948 and 1958.
Worrell batted at number 3, Weekes number four and Walcott at five. Unlike Worrell and Walcott who were educated at Combermere and Harrison College respectively, Weekes did not have the benefit of being educated at a secondary school, he was educated at St Leonard’s Primary School (now St Leonard’s Boys Secondary School).
He was born in Pickwick Gap about three hundred yards from the old Kensington Oval just outside of Bridgetown. The young Weekes used to help the groundsman prepare the pitch at Kensington Oval for first-class matches. After his work was finished he stayed on to watch the game, if he went home and returned to the ground, Weekes had to pay to watch the match.
In 1928, at the time of Weekes’ birth, even though the game of cricket was firmly rooted in the psyche of the Barbadian masses, it was difficult for a boy from poor social standings to be accepted into the leading clubs on the island.
The clubs playing in the Division One Competition of the Barbados Cricket Committee were Wanderers, the club of the white upper class, Pickwick who drew its membership from among the white plantation and sugar factories manager and store managers, Spartan, the club of the coloured elite, and Police whose members came from the constabulary.
Empire which was founded in 1914 after Herman Griffith was blackballed from joining Spartan, catered to minor, elementary schoolteachers, small back businessmen and shop clerks. The three other teams playing in the First Division were Harrison College, Combermere and The Lodge School.
Fortunately for Weekes in 1936 the Barbados Cricket League (BCL) was founded by journalist Joseph Mitchinson (Mitchie) Hewitt to provide organised cricket for working-class men in the island. Weekes first captivated the public with his batting while playing for the BCL as a teenager.
Weekes’ batting continued to shine at the Garrison Sports Club in the 1940s, and he later became a member of Empire club.
Before the 1940s, Barbados had never produced a black batsman that dominated West Indies’ cricket. Up to that time, George Challenor of Wanderers, P.H “Tim” Tarilton and Clifford Goodman of Pickwick were the leading Barbadian batsmen.
The island was renowned for producing black fast bowlers such as Herman Griffith, George Francis and Emmanuel “Manny” Martindale. In 1941 Worrell and Walcott made their first-class debut for Barbados. Weekes’ first match for Barbados was against Trinidad at the Queen’s Park Oval in 1944.
During the 1940s, Worrell and Walcott compiled several huge scores for Barbados in first-class matches. In 1941, Worrell scored 308 not out against Trinidad at Kensington Oval. Five years later, Walcott scored 314 not out in a fourth-wicket partnership of 574 with Worrell who made 255 not out at the Queen’s Park Oval against the same opponents.
Unlike Walcott and Worrell, Weekes did not make any mammoth scores for Barbados in his early first-class matches. Weekes and Walcott made their Test debuts in the first Test against England at Kensington Oval in 1948.
He scored 35, 25, 36, 20 and 36 in his first three Test matches. These lacklustre figures caused him to be dropped for the fourth Test at Sabina Park. Weekes was recalled for the fourth Test as a last minute replacement after George Headley was ruled out of the match due to an injury.
Weekes accepted this opportunity with both hands. He flew into Jamaica while the Test was in progress, the West Indies were fielding and the Jamaican batsman J.K Holt was the substitute fielder.
Weekes was booed when he replaced Holt on the field. The next day the crowd came on to the field and lifted him off after he scored his first Test century, a dashing 141. This was the start of a record-breaking performance in Test cricket by the right-handed batsman.
The West Indies next Test series was against India on the sub-continent in 1948/49. Weekes scored 128 in the first Test at New Delhi, 194 the second Test at Bombay and wrote his name into the record books in the third Test at Calcutta with centuries in both innings, 162 and 101, to become the first and only batsman to score five successive Test centuries. He was run-out for 90 in the fourth Test at Madras. Weekes’ aggregate in the Test series was 779 runs at the remarkable average of 111.28.
His appetite for making big scores continued when the West Indies toured England in 1950, Weekes scored 2,310 runs including five double centuries. In the Tests, he registered 338 runs at 56.33, including 129 at Trent Bridge in the third Test.
Weekes fell below his high standards in 1951/52 against Australia Down-Under where ten Test innings yielded him 245 runs at 24 .5 and against England in 1957 when he scored 215 runs in ten Tests.
Other than those two series, Weekes was a run-machine in Test matches. He scored against India with 716 runs at 102.28 when they came to the Caribbean in 1953. His runs feast continued with 487 (69.57) against England when they visited the West Indies in 1954.
Weekes always found the going rough against the Australians and yet when they thrashed the West Indies in the Caribbean in 1955, he managed 469 runs at 58.52. He was completely dominant against New Zealand when the West Indies toured there in 1955/56, scoring 940 runs (104.44) in eight first-class matches.
In the Tests alone Weekes made 418 runs (83.60) which included 123 in the first Test at Dunedin, 103 in the second Test at Christ Church and 156 in the third at Wellington. He retired from Test cricket in 1958 at the tender age of 32, after scoring 455 runs (65.00) against Pakistan.
He held the record for the most runs by a West Indian batsman in Test cricket when he retired from Test cricket. Even though he was an attacking batsman Weekes always struck the ball along the ground, as a result he struck only one six in the 81 Test innings he played, this was at the Queen’s Park Oval against Australia in 1955.
In addition to his remarkable Test career, Weekes also played in the English Leagues and captained the Barbados team in the 1950s. After he retired from first-class cricket he served as a coach and also managed the West Indies team against England in 1968. For several years he made very erudite comments on the radio on first-class and Test matches.
A keen bridge player, he represented Barbados in international bridge tournaments. Sir Everton was awarded the MBE and CBE and was knighted in 1995. In 2009 he was inducted into Cricket’s Hall of Fame.
Of Sir Everton, former Prime Minister Owen Arthur once noted that through his excellence on the cricket field, he helped in a fundamental way “to change Barbados for the better, forever, by proving that true excellence cannot be constrained by social barriers.”