Sunday will be another very special day in the life of Sir Wesley Hall.
On the eve of Barbados marking its 54th year of Independence, a statue of Sir Wesley, a West Indian cricketing great known for his exploits as a fast bowler, will be unveiled at Kensington Oval.
Fittingly, it is erected next to the statue of his former Barbados and West Indies teammate and long-standing friend, The Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, who is regarded as the world’s greatest ever all-rounder.
A charismatic figure on and off the field, Hall, tall and muscular, played 48 Test matches between 1958 and 1969, taking 192 wickets at 26.38 runs apiece, including five wickets in an innings nine times and ten wickets in a match on one occasion. He took 546 wickets at an average of 26.14 in 170 first-class matches.
Hall also served as a West Indies chief selector, team manager and president of the regional Board.In addition, he was a Barbados Government Minister of Tourism and Sports and Member of Parliament.
Now aged 83, Hall was first selected on the 1957 tour of England with only one first-class game to his name. He was then chosen for the 1958-59 tours to India and Pakistan and finished with 46 wickets in eight Tests.
In the third Test against Pakistan in Lahore, Hall became the first West Indies bowler to claim a hat-trick, dismissing Mushtaq Mohammad, Nasim-ul-Ghani and Fazal Mahmood.
He also featured in the famous tied Test against Australia in Brisbane in December 1960, taking match figures of nine for 203, including five for 63 in the second innings. He bowled the last over of the match as Australia, requiring six runs for victory with three wickets standing, were bowled out for 232 on the penultimate delivery.
Against India in 1961-62, he took 27 wickets at an average of 15.74.
In 1963 against England, Hall formed a fearsome pace attack with another famous Barbadian and his close friend, Charlie Griffith (now Sir Charles), as West Indies dominated, winning the five-Test series 3-1.In another epic finish at Lord’s, Hall bowled unchanged for three-and-a-half hours in the second innings, taking four for 93 off 40 overs as the match ended in a draw with England, chasing 234 for victory, finishing on 228 for nine.
Hall also played a key role in helping West Indies to its first series win over Australia in 1965. He took 16 wickets.
He retired at the end of the 1968-69 tour of Australia and New Zealand.
In 2012, Hall was bestowed the honour of Knight Bachelor in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list for his “contribution to sport and the community”. He was inducted into the ICC Hall of Fame in 2015.
On his knighthood, he said: “It is an unbridled joy to have received such an accolade.”
As far as his induction into the Hall of Fame was concerned, Hall received his commemorative cap from fellow ICC Cricket Hall of Famer, Courtney Walsh, during the lunch break on the opening day of the second Test between West Indies and Australia at Sabina Park.
Commenting on his inclusion into the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame, Hall said: “I feel privileged and indeed honoured to be given this tremendous award. I have noted the list and it has some tremendous cricketers – heroes who have made the game what it is today. So, I am humbled to be included among these many great names of the game.
“Anytime you get these kind of encomiums, it is memorable. It is fantastic to receive the award in the West Indies and in front of adoring fans, which makes it even more special. I have represented the West Indies as a cricketer, as the team manager, and as the President of the WICB, so I will treat this as something I value and will always remember.
“Fast bowling was my hallmark and I enjoyed my moments on the cricket field. I enjoyed representing the people of the West Indies and contributing towards the development of the game in the region. Cricket has been extremely good to me and I was happy to give back to the game. This honour, presented to me by the ICC, is one I will cherish. It is not just for me but the people of the West Indies.”
Now, in scrutinising some of my privileged interviews with Hall, there is one dating back to the 2006 series against India in the Caribbean when he reckoned that West Indies needed to find at least three fast bowlers firing at over 90 miles an hour in their quest to return to the top of international cricket.
“I have been very consistent with my views on the future of West Indian cricket. I said three or four years ago that we have turned the corner but the proviso has always been with me that whenever we produce three fast bowlers of about 90 miles an hour we will be on top of the world,” he said.
“I say so because I have always recognised that since 1923 with George Challenor, 1929 with the great master George Headley, we’ve had batsmen. Following George would be the 3Ws (Sir Frank Worrell, Sir Clyde Walcott, Sir Everton Weekes), then Sir Garry Sobers, Sir Viv Richards, Clive Lloyd, (Rohan) Kanhai, (Seymour) Nurse, all these great players and then you enter (Gordon) Greenidge and (Desmond) Haynes, and Brian Lara.
“For those 75 years we’ve always had batsmen in the first three in the world. There is no doubt about it. But you have to bowl people out twice to win a game,” he said.
An ordained minister, Sir Wesley has also stood out as a public speaker. He deserves his many accolades.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional andInternational cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) Championship for over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email: [email protected]