India have been so focussed in their practice sessions at the 3Ws Oval that they probably haven’t noticed that one of the greats of the game lies buried in a quiet corner of the venue. Behind a Walk of Fame, that celebrates the achievements of every West Indian, past and present, with a plaque, lie the mortal remains of Sir Frank Worrell.
Only 42, when he died of leukaemia in 1967, soon after returning from an India tour, Worrell played 51 Tests for the West Indies, averaging nearly 50. But his greatness was never measured by numbers. Widely credited with bringing players of the different Caribbean islands together for the first time, Worrell was also a pleasingly elegant right-handed batsman.
Known for his distaste of crude shots, to the extent that he refused to play across the line, Worrell was described by
Neville Cardus as “never having played an ungrammatical stroke”. Although he played 10 Tests against India, scoring a double hundred in 1952-53, Worrell had at least two strong off-field ties with India.
The first connection is revealed on his grave, where his name is followed by the: B.A. (Manchester); L.L.D. (Punjab). The first degree was one Worrell acquired by studying, the second, an honorary Doctorate of Law, was conferred to him by the Panjab University.
For the second connection, you have to go back in time --- nearly five decades, when India toured in 1962. Nari Contractor, struck in the head by Charlie Griffith, was fighting for his life and required a metal plate inserted in his head after multiple surgeries. Worrell, who was the West Indies captain at the time, was one of the first to reach the hospital to donate blood in an attempt to save Contractor’s life.