Ondrive with Sham Samaroo
July 2, 2020
Sir Everton Weekes passed away on Wednesday July 1, 2020. This interview took place in the summer of 2003 in New York.
Last Saturday, I had the honour and esteem privilege of sitting with both Sir Everton Weekes and Sir Gary Sobers at the Canarsie Cricket Ground during the Lawrence Samuel Memorial game in New York. It was a very special moment for me, and one, I am sure, I will cherish forever: Flanked by cricket’s royalty with Sir Everton on my left, and Sir Garry on my right. I met Sir Garry twice before, but this was the first time meeting Sir Everton – and he is so easy to talk to. Over the years, I have met a number of famous sports personalities, each of whom has left an indelible impression on me, but, my goodness, I think Sir Everton is right up there. What a kind and genteel soul. Immortalized as one of the 3 W’s, Everton de Courcy Weekes was later knighted for his batting exploits. Sir Everton, now 78, is considered by many to be the finest of the 3W’s: an opinion shared by a close friend and acknowledged cricket connoisseur, fellow Barbadian and former USA national player Tony Gilkes.
As wide-eyed teens, you always dreamt of meeting such idols – these colossal heroes of West Indies cricket. In this childish fantasy, you would ask and get answers to all the questions that you and your buddies have argued over endlessly. And at school the next day, you would be the most popular guy. Why, even the girls, who have no interest in cricket, think you are so cool. But what would it be like to meet them as an adult? Of course, we would be more mature, and no longer in awe, right? Well, as my freshman class would say, you are so not right!! Last Saturday I had just such an opportunity, and for a moment there I was dumbstruck…what was it I wanted to ask again? I vaguely remember mumbling something about the golden era of West Indies cricket – the era of the 3 W’s. Sir Everton smiled, but disagreed. “There were other eras equally good”, he graciously shared.
Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Frank Worrell, and Sir Clyde Walcott were born within a mile and within a year of each other. All three debuted in 1948 against England, and the Guyanese fans were privileged to see them win their first test match, a seven-wicket drubbing of England at Bourda with Sir Frank notching his first test ton. The following year on the tour to India, Sir Everton completed one of the most phenomenal batting feats and one that might never be matched – centuries in five consecutive test innings. In the sixth, he was “adjudged” run out for 90. During that incredible run (pun intended), his scores read: 141, 128, 194, 162, 101, 90, 56, 48, 52, 1, 63, 63, and 129. When asked about this, Sir Everton seemed almost embarrassed. “I don’t like talking about myself”, he admitted. I was pleasantly surprised by his humility, and this absence of vanity endeared him to me. We chatted on about the greats of the past – Sobers, Kanhai, Worrell, Walcott, Richards. Whenever we talk of the past, we do have a tendency to elevate the players of that era, at the expense of the present ones, but not Sir Everton. He gestured to Brian Lara (who was fielding at the time) and said, “Here is one of the finest batsmen in the world today, who could easily take his place among any list of stars of West Indies cricket”. We also talked about the late Sir Frank Worrell and that memorable tour to Australia in 1961. “It was such a wonderful time for West Indies cricket”, he reminisced.
I asked Sir Everton about cricket in the USA. He told me that he “first visited New York in 1947”, and hoped that someday he “might see a game here at a proper ground with real facilities”. He reminded me that, unlike 1947, today there are many West Indians living and voting in New York, and that we have the power to make it happen. Before I said goodbye, I had one last question for Sir Everton: Do you think the West Indies will be ready to host the 2007 World Cup? “Absolutely, there is no doubt in my mind”, was the gleeful reply. I remarked that it would be wonderful if West Indies were to win it. Sir Everton smiled in agreement and said that he hoped that he would be around to see it.
The following day, Sunday, I traveled to Long Beach for a game. Railton Matthews was the Umpire. For those of you who do not know Railton, he is a cricket fanatic, a walking encyclopedia on the game. At the break, I asked him if he had ever seen Sir Everton at bat. “Sure I did”, Railton boasted. “He was robbed out for 94 at Bourda against England in 1953”. What do you mean? I asked. “The Umpire ruled him out bowled by Locke, but it was the quick hands of keeper Godfrey Evans that did the trick. He deflected the ball back onto the stumps and caught the Umpire napping”, Railton recalled. (Later when I checked the match report, it did suggest that the decision was questionable). So what do you think of him as a batsman, how was his technique? “The man was pure class, Sham”, Railton assured me, and went through the motions of a classic forward defense to punctuate his point. Nothing grabs your attention like someone talking passionately, reverently, about the greats of long ago. I have often listened to my friend Tony Gilkes reminisce about his many chats with Sir Everton. I envy you Tony. I envy the fact that you had the privilege of seeing one of the finest exponents of the art of batting in full-cry at Kensington Oval – a thrill that, unfortunately, I shall never be able to experience.
Thanks for the memory, Sir Everton, and see you at the 2007 World Cup Final, Sir!
Footnote: It is to the WI Cricket Board’s collective shame that this colossal icon of West Indies cricket was not even afforded the courtesy of an invitation to the opening ceremony of the 2007 World Cup.
Everton de Courcy Weekes
Born: 26 February 1925, Pickwick Gap, Westbury, St Michael, Barbados
Major Teams: Barbados, West Indies.
Known As: Everton Weekes
Batting Style: Right Hand Bat
Bowling Style: Leg Break
Other: ICC Match Referee
Test Debut: West Indies v England at Bridgetown, 1st Test, 1947/48
Last Test: West Indies v Pakistan at Port-of-Spain, 5th Test, 1957/58
Wisden Cricketer of the Year 1951
TESTS: Matches (48); Innings(81); Runs(4455); HS(207); Ave.(58.61);Tons(15).