Profile by Dr Dhanpaul Narine
Joe Solomon is a legend. He has spent his life promoting the sport the he loves.
Cricket for him is life. It gave him fame and the stability that he needed to find his way. This son of Port Mourant in Berbice, Guyana, is known around the world for his reliability at the wicket, and a dependable bowler. Joe’s mentor is Sir Frank Worrell, a trailblazer that saw cricket as a force for Caribbean integration. Joe recalls that Sir Frank loved to bat with him. “When we were at the wicket, Frank said he could relax and take a break. He knew I would hold up the other end.”
A number of his admirers met recently to honor Joe and to talk about the old days. That was the time when cricket was cricket! It was when people lined up at four in the morning to get into the grounds, when we were glued to the radio, and woke up all night to listen to the commentaries from Australia. It was when Ram and Val beat them at Lords, and Sobers and Kanhai, and Hall and Griffith, kept us talking for days as to who can really play!
Joe Solomon is from that ilk. His career spanned three phases. The first was his contribution to Port Mourant cricket in which he excelled. This led him to the second phase that was at the inter-territorial level. He made three centuries for Guyana in his first three appearances that remains a record for the country. He was also a reliable spinner. Joe captained Guyana and distinguished himself as a shrewd tactician. His achievements propelled him into the West Indies team in which he would have a date with destiny. This occurred in the Brisbane Test in December 1960.
Australia required 233 runs to win the Test. They were going good until the drama of the last over unfolded. Conrad Hunte threw a perfect return from the boundary to run out Wally Grout. It was then left to Solomon to add to the excitement. The scores were tied as Hall ran in to bowl the final delivery. Kline touched the ball and ran. Solomon swooped from square leg, like an eagle, and ran out Meckiff, with only one stump to aim at. It resulted in cricket’s first Tied Test, and a million fans bidding the team goodbye, at the end of the series. Solomon has been immortalized in the annals of the game. But spare a thought for photographer Ron Lovitt who captured the final ball for posterity with one exposure left in his camera.
Joe Solomon sat with charming humility as the testimonials and proclamations were read to him. He nodded and smiled when the names rolled off the citations. They were Frank Worrell, Garry Sobers, Rohan Kanhai, Clive Lloyd, Wes Hall, Peter Lashley, Gerry Alexander, Sonny Ramadhin, Allan Davidson, Richie Benaud, Sunil Gavaskar, Hanif Mohamed, Brian Lara, and Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Alvin Kallicharran whom Solomon mentored. There were messages from Chanderpaul, Kris Persaud, owner of the Jamaica Tallawahs, Ramnaresh Sarwan, and Joe’s brother, Maurice, who recalled the happy times in Guyana.
Since becoming Guyana’s Consul-General to New York, Mr. Michael Brotherson has been proactive in reaching out to Guyanese in the diaspora. He was represented at the Joe Solomon event by Vice-Consul, Nacifa Watson and Dabi Sukhnandan. Ms. Watson spoke glowingly of the contributions of Joe and wished him well. The Solomon family was in attendance and included Oliver, Alex, Nalini, Nirmala, Anil, Vinoo, Jean and Nila, and helpers Bibi and Nadira.
The family is grateful to the Mayor New York City, Eric Adams, for recognizing the contributions of Joe with a Citation, as well as Queens Borough President, Donovan Richards and his Community Liaison Mohamed Hack, and the Councilwoman for District 27, Nantasha Williams, and her Constituent Liaison Rasha Kadir, for the Proclamations.
The City Council Citation notes that Joe is one of cricket’s finest gentlemen. He has many admirers, “that include Dhanpaul Narine, Ashook Ramsaran, Ralph Tamesh, Clem Seecharan, Ian McDonald, Maurice Sukhoo, Mohamed Hack, and many others.” Professor Clem Seecharan and Ian McDonald teamed up to produce a book on Joe Solomon that will be launched in London in October, and in Guyana in November 2022.
Joe is advanced in years. He has many memories of the glorious game. At the end of the impressive and memorable function, he said the recognition was one of the happiest days of his life. Cricketers do not die, nor do they fade. They sit in a special place and cast a beam of light on humanity that extends far beyond the picket fences of the pavilions.
Joe smiles. He remembers the mangoes he pelted in Port Mourant in Berbice, Guyana. There is a twinkle in his eyes. He closes them and he is in Brisbane. He has only one stump to aim at. He releases the ball with unerring accuracy. The bail is dislodged and the last batsman is out. The Test is tied. History is made and he walks off into cricket immortality.