The passing of Sir Everton Weekes, last of the legendary 3Ws cricketers, is an occasion to be reminded of the heights that we West Indians have dared to scale and the challenges we have been able to conquer.
The place of Sir Everton is not only secure in the history of cricket but in the history of the Caribbean. With Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott, he was part of the generation that broke the mould of colonial superiority and fired the hearts of West Indian with the pride and self-confidence needed on the road to self-government and Independence. For that generation, the sport of cricket went well “beyond the boundary”, to quote CLR James. They took the field with the full understanding that cricket was a battlefield on which West Indian self-hood could be won. They were the David to the might of colonial Goliath. Their victories ricocheted across the Caribbean and the British empire.
Sir Clyde described Sir Everton as the best batsman of the 3Ws and the statistics support it. After a halting beginning to a career that started in 1948 against England in the West Indies, he hit his stride in the final test, scoring his maiden century in a tally of 141 runs.
In India later that year he blazed a trail of centuries- 128, 194, 162 and 101. Taken with the preceding 141 against England, Weekes set a Test record for five centuries in consecutive innings that stands to this day. A sixth was denied to him when he was controversially run out on 90.
In the 12th innings of his career he equalled the record of English cricketer Herbert Sutcliffe as the fastest in the world to reach 1,000 Test runs. He was also the first West Indian to pass 3,000 Test runs, in 31 Test matches, and the first to score 4,000 Test runs, in 42 Tests.
As a black cricketer in the British empire, Weekes experienced the open cut of racism, most notably in a part of apartheid Rhodesia known today as Zimbabwe. During a Cavaliers tour in the early 1960s he was the focus of several instances of discrimination including having a match moved to a sub-standard ground because blacks were banned from playing at the better ground. He and fellow West Indian great Rohan Kanhai threatened to abandon the tour and only decided to stay after Rhodesian government officials apologised. In his home country, he has the distinction of being the first tenured black captain of Barbados.
In the tributes that have been flowing since his passing at his home in Barbados last Wednesday, Sir Everton has been hailed as much for his humility as for his batting greatness. He was born in poverty to a family that lived on the earnings of a father who was away for 11 years working in the oilfields of Trinidad and was brought up largely by women, a mother and an aunt. As a boy, he found company among the groundsmen at Kensington Oval where his love for cricket was stirred.
The story of Sir Everton Weekes is one of great triumph against the odds.
Farewell, dear Sir.