In recent years, July has become a month of grief, whether from a personal perspective or relating to prominent people who made telling contributions to cricket and life in general.
The passing of former Barbados all-rounder Rawle Brancker on Tuesday, July 27 at the age of 83 is the latest on a list of those who touched my life in a big way.
Brancker, who was also in a 17-member West Indies squad on that famous tour of England in 1966 but never played a Test match in his career, is the second former Barbados first-class cricketer to die this month. The other was Geoffrey Hutchinson, a prolific batsman for Carlton Club, on July 3, aged 87.
Last year, world-renowned batting maestro Sir Everton Weekes of the 3Ws fame, left us on July 1 at the age of 95, and former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur on July 27, aged 70.
I wrote full columns on each (Hutchinson only last Friday), as I was fortunate to interview them on cricketing matters.
And seven years ago on July 23, my dear wife Dianne passed exactly one month short of her 52nd birthday and our 24th wedding anniversary.
Now you can understand why July and deaths of certain persons will always touch me immensely.
Today the spotlight is on Rawle Cecil Brancker, who apart from making his mark as a cricketer, was also a successful businessman and politician. He was appointed to the Barbados senate in 1971 and was unquestionably a highly respected citizen of Barbados.
In addition, Brancker was a stalwart at the famous Empire Club in Bank Hall, St. Michael and a member of the Board of Management of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) in 1972. He served with distinction on the management of Cricket Legends of Barbados and was Chairman of the ICC Cricket World Cup West Indies 2007 as well, before resigning after two years following well-documented differences with managing director Chris Dehring and former West Indies Board president and ex-Barbados and Jamaica batsman, Teddy Griffith.
A left-handed batsman and slow left-arm orthodox spin bowler, Brancker played for Barbados between 1956 and 1970. In 47 first-class matches, he scored 1,666 runs including five centuries at an average of 27.31 and took 106 wickets at 27.32 runs each – a unique record in terms his batting and bowling averages. He also took 21 catches.
His highest score was 135 not out, batting at No. 7 in a first innings total of 521 for eight declared against Jamaica at Kensington Oval in the 1967 Shell Shield Championship as Barbados, captained by the now Right Excellent Sir Garfield Sobers, won by 96 runs to retain the title (the Tournament started the previous year), while his best bowling figures were seven for 78 for West Indies against Kent at Canterbury in July, 1966, with West Indies triumphing by an innings and 56 runs.
Brancker captained Barbados against the Marylebone Cricket Club (MCC) in a drawn four-day match at Kensington Oval in February 1968.
He also played three List A (one-day) matches.
On the tour to England in 1966, West Indies won the Test series 3-1 with one match drawn.
The West Indies squad comprised Garry Sobers (captain), Conrad Hunte (vice-captain), David Allan, Rawle Brancker, Basil Butcher, Joey Carew, Rudolph Cohen, Lance Gibbs, Charlie Griffith, Wes Hall, Jackie Hendriks, David Holford, Rohan Kanhai, Peter Lashley, Easton McMorris, Seymour Nurse and Joe Solomon. The team manager was former West Indies Test captain Jeffrey Stollmeyer, who later became president of the West Indies Cricket Board (now Cricket West Indies).
There were nine Barbadians in Sobers, Hunte, Allan, Brancker, Griffith, Hall, Holford, Lashley and Nurse.
Twelve members of the team had toured England in 1963. The newcomers were Brancker, Cohen, Hendriks, Holford and Lashley.
Brancker, Cohen and Holford had not played Test cricket before the tour. Holford played in all five Tests but Brancker and Cohen, a fast bowler from Jamaica, did not appear. Like Brancker, Cohen never won a Test cap.
Born into a lower middle-income family in Emmerton, St. Michael, on November 19, 1937, Brancker attended Combermere School between 1949 and 1956. There, under the direction of Ronnie Hughes, the cricket master, he developed into a fine all-rounder.
According to a story in the treasured BCA book “100 Years of Organised Cricket in Barbados 1892-1992”, Brancker “began as a slow left-arm spin bowler and gradually improved his batting technique to the point where he became one of the best Barbadian schoolboy batsmen of his era”.
“He made a great impression on E.W. Swanton’s touring team to Barbados in 1956, scoring an attractive 83 not out for the Combined Schools. This gained him his first cap for Barbados before the Swanton tour was over.
“On leaving school, Brancker joined the Empire Cricket Club and became one of the stalwarts of that institution over the next twenty years. During the 1960s, he was one of the leading all-rounders in the Caribbean.
“Between 1956 and 1970, he represented Barbados on 31 occasions. In 1969, as player-manager, he took a Barbados team to England, which played in seven friendly matches, including two that were awarded first-class status.”
For Barbados, his statistics show 1337 runs (ave: 31.09) including five centuries, 73 wickets (ave: 27.87) and 11 catches.
“Rawle was a fine fieldsman, a very useful spin bowler, and a stylish batsman. He excelled off the front foot and played a number of glorious strokes through the covers. He was also an intelligent cricketer who made the maximum use of his talents, tenacity of purpose and character. This allowed him to progress much further than some players with greater ability,” it was stated in his profile in the BCA book.
From a local perspective, in covering numerous matches at Bank Hall, a photograph of the Empire team has always gripped me when they won back-to-back BCA First division (rebranded Elite in 2012) titles in 1970 and 1971 under the captaincy of the former Barbados wicketkeeper/batsman Darnley Boxill.
Speaking with the long-standing Empire Club member and versatile sportsman Robert “Tweety Nathaniel Bird” Clarke over the past couple days, I am very grateful for his help in providing me with the names of that wonderful team, 1970-71.
Squad: Darnley Boxill (captain), Seymour Nurse, Rawle Brancker, Tony “The Dancer” King, Lionel “Squarecut” Williams, Merlon “The Priest” Yarde, Hallam Gill, Henderson “Ted Dexter” Simmonds, Marven “Wrinkles” Alleyne, Mark “The Barber” Wilson, Calvin “Gabby” Rock, Carol “Spinner Imani” Harewood, Courtney Selman, Darnley “Dick” Carrington, David Murray and Adzil Holder.
Seven are now deceased – Williams, Yarde, Carrington, Holder, Wilson, Nurse and Brancker.
For me, there are a few occasions when I had the privilege of either interviewing or being in the company of Brancker. There are at least two, which stand out and both were in 2014.
With Empire celebrating its 100th anniversary, Brancker joined Reverend Courtney Selman, who also played for Barbados at the first-class level, as guests in studio on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s “Midwicket” show, which I hosted, on May 27, 2014, as they discussed the rich history of the Club. And there were fascinating stories including the formation of Empire Club and “derby” battles with Spartan.
The other was in early September, 2014 when I had the pleasure of being the Master of Ceremonies at a most touching function at the 3Ws Oval, as the National Assistance Board (NAB), under the patronage of Steve Blackett, then the Minister of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment and Community Development, recognised those who represented Barbados against the Rest of the World X1 in an historic first-class match at Kensington Oval on March 8, 9, 10 and 11, 1967, as well as other Legends of Barbados cricket. It was in keeping with Senior Citizens month.
Those honoured were Sir Garfield Sobers, Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Wesley Hall, Sir Charles Griffith, Seymour Nurse, Cammie Smith, Robin Bynoe, Peter Lashley, David Holford, David Allan, Rawle Brancker and Arthur Bethell, along with commentators Algernon Symmonds, Tony Cozier, Sam Wilkinson and Donna Symmonds.
At that time, two players who took part in the match, which Barbados lost by 262 runs – Sir Conrad Hunte and Alfred Taylor – were deceased. Since then, Nurse, Sir Everton, who was the team manager, and now Brancker, have left us.
The playing X1 showed: Sobers (captain), Hunte, Bynoe, Lashley, Nurse, Brancker, Holford, Bethell, Taylor, Griffith and Hall.
Algernon Symmonds, Cozier (both now deceased) and Wilkinson were part of the commentary team for the match, while Donna Symmonds, the daughter of Algernon Symmonds, was given a special award as the first female commentator to cover Test cricket in the West Indies.
There had been doubts over the presence of Brancker at the function as his daughter Jocelyn Carol-Anne Brancker had just died at the age of 50.
But once Brancker turned up and soon accepted condolences from those in attendance, Reverend Sir Wesley Hall prayed in a most powerful way for
Brancker and myself, still grieving over the death of my wife. It was very, very uplifting. I shall never, ever forget the occasion.
There were moving speeches as well by Minister Blackett and Senator Reverend Dr. David Durant, then the deputy chairman of the NAB. Later, as a BCA Youth XI opposed a Legends XI in a Twenty20 match, the wonderful, educational stories told by some of the greats and a couple others among the spectators, made it a truly enjoyable day.
Now, seven years later, we say farewell to Rawle Brancker. Deepest condolences to his wife Roxanne, who was my former Associate Managing Editor at the NATION newspaper, his sons Adrian and Jason, and other family members.
Summarised scores of the Barbados-Rest of The World match in March, 1967:
Rest of the World 308 all out (92.4 overs) (Mushtaq Mohammad 82, Chandu Borde 48, John Murray 33, Tom Graveney 31, Bob Barber 30, Neil Hawke 23, Rohan Kanhai 16, Basil D’Oliveira 16, Graham McKenzie 14; Wes Hall 4-85, David Holford 2-44, Charlie Griffith 2-85) and 276 all out (88 overs) (John Murray 121, Mushtaq Mohammad 57, Bill Lawry 33, Chandu Borde 15, Tom Graveney 10; Charlie Griffith 5-82, Arthur Bethell 2-19).
Barbados 84 all out (41.2 overs) (Garry Sobers 32, Conrad Hnte 15, Peter Lashley 10; Lance Gibbs 3-13, Mushtaq Mohammad 3-23, Graham McKenzie 2-28) and 238 all out (93 overs) (Seymour Nurse 48, Alfred Taylor 46, Robin Bynoe 37, Conrad Hunte 36, Rawle Brancker 17, Charlie Griffith 15; Lance Gibbs 3-59, Bob Barber 2-36, Neil Hawke 2-44).
Toss: Barbados. Umpires: Syd Buller (England), Cortez Jordan (Barbados).
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and International cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (rebranded Elite in 2012) Championship for four decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email: [email protected]