Everton Weekes’s passage to greatness, via India
OBITUARY: The legend’s debut season saw five successive tons, four in India.Updated: Jul 03, 2020 08:50 IST
New Delhi By now, Sir Everton Weekes—who died at the age of 95 on Thursday—would perhaps be reunited with the other members of the legendary “Three Ws” at their final resting place. Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott are buried at the 3 Ws Oval in the outskirts of Bridgetown, Barbados. A plot beside them had long been left vacant for Weekes, should his family accept it.
The three men were joined at the hip for much of their lives and cricket careers. They were born within a few months and miles of each other in Barbados, and made their Test debuts in the same home series, against England in 1948. The triumvirate also led the way for Windies’s historic first series win in England (3-1) in 1950.
But what perhaps helped Weekes finish with a better batting average (58.61) and more Test runs (4,455) than Worrell and Walcott had a lot to do with his very first tour in his debut year— to India in 1948-49.
At 22, Weekes would begin his Test career with a string of low scores against England, all starts not converted into something substantial — 35, 25, 36, 20 and 36 in his first three matches. In his fourth Test, Weekes struck his maiden hundred in Jamaica — a towering 141 that helped West Indies win by 10 wickets. Since the next Test, in India, was a little over eight months later, Weekes would have to start all over again.
Batting at No.7 in the first Test in New Delhi, Weekes hit 128 in his first innings in Indian conditions. This wasn’t a stand-out knock in the context of West Indies’s only batting innings as Walcott had scored his debut hundred at No.4, Gerry Gomez hit a century at No.5, and Robert Christiani, West Indies’s No.8 batsman too finished with three figures. With 631 runs on the board, the visitors enforced a follow-on and did not bat again.
The Delhi innings, though, earned Weekes a promotion for the Test in Bombay (now Mumbai) at the Brabourne Stadium. Batting at No.4 (Walcott moved up to No.3), he thundered away to a long-standing career best of 194. Weekes was the last man dismissed before West Indies declared on 629/6, a total that again ensured West Indies didn’t bat twice. He now had two hundreds in two innings in India.
That tally was doubled in the following Test, thanks to twin hundreds in Calcutta. Significantly, it was now five centuries in as many innings for Weekes, including his maiden one nearly a year ago in Kingston —a batting record that has stood the test of time. Jack Fingleton, Rahul Dravid and Alan Melville (four each) came closest to equalling it over the years.
In the first innings at Eden Gardens, Weekes’s 162 was 108 runs more than the next best knock (54 by Walcott), and those runs were scored in a shade over three hours. Then, in a second innings fraught with single-digit scores, Weekes and Walcott each got centuries. There is no archival footage to lend visuals to these amazing numbers. Worrell’s words though paint a vivid picture of Weekes’s shot-making.
“Weekes is a tremendous hitter of the ball. His favourite, and perhaps most devastating, shot is the square cut. Yes, I know that he drives with immense power, and that he, too, loves to hook any ball that can be hooked, but Weekes is at his most majestic when he is square-cutting a ball,” wrote Worrell in his book, Cricket Punch. He went on: “His timing is superb, and the power he has in his wrists is incredible. A square cut by Weekes resolves itself into a flick of those strong wrists, a flash of that bat and a chase to the boundary for the fielder.”
In the next Test in Madras (now Chennai), Weekes could well have struck his sixth consecutive hundred overall, and fifth in as many innings ever in India. But he was run out for 90. “I thought the (square-leg umpire’s) decision was a very bad one. But in the game of cricket, I suppose, the element of decision-making would not always depend on the right result. I don’t think there is any dishonesty attached to it,” Weekes told Wisden India a few years ago. Still, his love affair with India carried on when the team visited the Caribbean in 1953, as Weekes smashed three more hundreds, including his new highest of 207 in Trinidad.
All in all, in 10 Tests against India, Weekes averaged a ridiculous 106.78 and scored seven of his career’s 15 hundreds. Weekes said: “When one is fit, no distance is too long really.”
The batting fitness gave away on his approach into the thirties, with several “pulled muscles”, as he once put it, cutting short his career after just 48 Tests. His batting average, though, remains second only to George Headley’s (60.83) by a West Indian, and 10th on the all-time list.
Weekes remained in touch with cricket after retirement -- first as a coach and later as a radio commentator. In 1994, a brief spell as match referee brought him back to India.
And as recently as January last year, a month shy of his 94th birthday, Weekes was seen in attendance at the Kensington Oval during the most recent Test held in Barbados, with a beer in hand and a smile for those who had carried his legacy forward.