Brian Lara

CARIBBEAN MEN: Brian Lara, left, chats with fellow West Indies cricket legend, Sir Wes Hall, centre, and Barbadian calypso icon Gabby at the funeral of Sir Everton Weekes, yesterday, at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados. —Photo: CWI Media

A man of “grace, gentility and greatness” that ushered in the era of the unshackling of the colonial stranglehold on the consciousness of the Caribbean region.

That was the way Professor Sir Hilary Beckles described Sir Everton Weekes as the UWI Vice Chancellor delivered the eulogy at the near-four-hour funeral service for the late West Indies great at the Kensington Oval in Barbados yesterday. Sir Everton was later buried alongside fellow West Indies legends Sir Clyde Walcott and Sir Frank Worrell on the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus.

He said the life of Sir Everton bore witness to those traits and the Professor described him as, “a special gift so precise and profound as to be near extinction in the competitive culture of global humanity.”

He added that Sir Everton’s achievements had to be evaluated against the backdrop and context of the history of slavery which the descendants of Africans had to deal with.

“They were not expected to escape the estates and conquer the world far beyond. Sir Everton then, was one of the greatest revolutionaries of our Caribbean world because he deliberately designed a method to turn this history upon its head, a disturber of the colonial peace that denied any justice,” Professor Beckles stated, “He emerged as a dignified man representing everything he was not meant to be.”

Beckles said Weekes’ distinction as a phenomenal proven performer on the cricket field, in combination with Walcott and Worrell, laid the foundation for the West Indies’ rise to the top of the World Test table by the Sir Garry Sobers-led side from 1965-67.

He said Sir Everton was much more than was represented by his statistics.

“Numbers are never enough. Behind the figures reside the configuration of life and living. It is the grand narrative of which they are merely a part,” said Professor Beckles. “Behind the numbers there is the hidden history. With Sir Everton, the truth of this history is even more palpable.”

Beckles described an interview with Sir Everton in which he asked him how he managed to deliver the five back-to-back centuries in 1948-49 to which Weekes said:”Back in those colonial days performance on the field and selection didn’t always go hand in hand. A poor boy like me who couldn’t vote when selected to play for his country had to shame the selectors. You had to make so much runs that the selectors would lose sleep if they didn’t pick you.”

Beckles noted that in the 1950-51-period when Barbados finally won adult suffrage, the global cricket community bestowed upon Sir Everton the title of the best batsman in the world.

“In this recognition and elevation as the first Barbadian to be classified and celebrated as number one in the world in any approved and respected endeavour represented a seismic and seminal moment. A country not yet a nation state and under colonial oppression received its first international endorsement as a place that produced performance and excellence,” Sir Hilary said.

Sir Everton, who made his debut for the West Indies in January 1948 and played 48 Tests in an illustrious career, died on July 1. Weekes, who was 95, had been ailing for some time after suffering a heart attack in early 2019.

Long heralded as one of the finest batsmen to have graced the game, Sir Everton scored 4,455 runs including 19 centuries between 1948 and 1958 at an average of 58.61, after making his international debut at age 22.

Also attending the funeral at Kensington were Barbados’ Prime Minister Mia Mottley and Governor General Dame Sandra Mason, as well as a number of former West Indies stars, including Brian Lara and Sir Wes Hall.

Veteran Calypsonian Gabby delivered one of his songs in tribute called “Well Done.”

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West Indies head coach Phil Simmons said victory in the second warm-up match against New Zealand ‘A’ bowling off today at John Davies Oval, Queenstown, will be ideal for the visitors ahead of their Test series starting next week.

The warm-up fixture is also set to feature Windies Test captain Jason Holder, who travelled to New Zealand following the conclusion of the Indian Premier League.

Simmons said, he would like to see more time being spent at the crease by his batsmen as well as big partnerships and big scores, but a victory will be the ideal way to boost their confidence ahead of the Test series.