The last of the three Ws, Sir Everton Weekes has passed.

It is unfortunate that in a 24-year-long career, West Indies legend George Headley only managed 22 Tests. An intervening World War and the difficulties of travel made Test cricket in the 1930s and ‘40s a much less regular occurrence than it is today.

Still, Headley’s wildcard selection to the SportsMax Ultimate XI Test cricket competition is perhaps no surprise and certainly not unwarranted.

Headley, averaged more than 60 in those 22 Tests, a remarkable feat when you consider how much time might elapse between games at the highest level. In those 22 Tests, Headley also scored 10 centuries and five half-centuries, which suggest when he got going, chances are you were going to staring down a three-figure innings.

Headley was solid when his West Indies teammates were considered ‘vulnerable and impulsive’. Headley was the first immortal at Lord’s, scoring a century in both innings of a 1939 Test against England.

Other greats, like Sir Len Hutton and Clarrie Grimmett, have all expressed sentiments suggesting they were very impressed with Headley’s batting. Sir Len said he had never seen a batsman play later than did Headley, while Grimmett said he was the strongest on-side player he had ever bowled to.

Test statistics aside, Headley’s first-class achievements playing in England tell a story of his class as well. He scored heavily at every turn, matching the exploits of the modern-day greats stride for stride.

But Headley’s contribution to West Indies cricket cannot be overstated. He was the first great batsman of the region, paving the way for an avalanche of eye-catching wonders from the Caribbean.

 

Career Statistics

Full name: George Alphonso Headley

Born: May 30, 1909, Colon, Panama

Died: November 30, 1983, Meadowbridge, Kingston, Jamaica (aged 74 years 184 days)

Major teams: West Indies, Jamaica

Batting style: Right-hand bat

Bowling style: Legbreak

 

Test Career: West Indies (1930-1954)

Mat    Inns    NO     Runs      HS         Ave     100s    50s    

22         40      4      2190       270*      60.83      10       5     

 

Career Highlights

  • Nicknamed the “black Bradman”
  • Tallied 2190 runs from 40 innings at an average of 60.83
  • Scored 10 centuries and 5 half-centuries
  • Highest score of 270*
  • Played 16 of his 22 Tests against England

The Caribbean has created many of the great cricketers in history and quite a number of them would have been greater still had they not had such keen competition for places in a stacked West Indies side.

A few weeks ago, we decided to have our own West Indies Championship featuring the all-time greatest sides from the region and a mouthwatering contest is set to unfold if you look at the teams we have come up with over the period.

Today we turn our attention to Jamaica, a country that has produced fast bowlers of the highest quality, but also every other type of cricketer you can think of. The country has had brilliant representation at the West Indies level behind the stumps, as well as with the bat.

As is usual, we invite your comments on the team we’ve selected because everybody has their favourites. For the purposes of consistency, we’ve made up the teams using six batsmen, a wicketkeeper, and four bowlers.

On occasion, somebody gets left out who people think it incredulous to do so. Do not hesitate to tell us where we went wrong by commenting under the article on Facebook or on Twitter.

 

BestXI: Jamaica

 

Chris Gayle 180 matches, 13,226 runs, 333 HS, 44.83 avg, 32 (100s), 64 (50s)

Christopher Henry Gayle’s fame and claim to greatness has come largely from his exploits in T20 cricket. However, the tall, powerful, imposing left-hander, even before that was one of the most dominant batsmen in Jamaica’s rich cricketing history. Gayle has scored more first-class runs than any cricketer the country has produced. His 13,226 runs have come at a healthy average of 44.83, only surpassed by Maurice Foster and the colossus of West Indies cricket, George Headley. Gayle has also scored 32 centuries in the format, again, the figure is only surpassed by Headley, who has 33. But Gayle stands alone in the number of half-centuries he has scored, slamming 64 of them.

 

Easton McMorris – 95 matches, 5906 runs, 218 HS, 42.18 avg, 18 (100s), 22 (50s)

Easton McMorris struggled for the West Indies when he got his chances at that level in the early 1960s, but for Jamaica, he was immense, averaging 42.18 as an opener and scoring 18 centuries and 22 fifties in just 95 matches, ending his career with 5,906 runs under his belt.

 

George Headley - 103 matches, 9921 runs, 344* HS, 69.86 avg, 33 (100s), 44 (50s)

George Headley needs no introduction really, his 22-match stint at the very top of cricket is legendary, but as a first-class cricketer, he was even more consistent, averaging nearly 70 over the course of 103 games. He scored 9,921 runs, including 33 centuries and 44 half-centuries.

 

Lawrence Rowe – 149 matches, 8755 runs, 302 HS, 37.57 avg, 18 (100s), 38 (50s)

Lawrence Rowe’s first-class average of 37.57 belies the impact he had on the game in Jamaica and certainly throughout the Caribbean. Crowds would come to regional matches just to see ‘Yagga’ bat. But he wasn’t bereft of runs when his career ended, scoring 18 centuries and 38 fifties from his 149 matches. The style with which he put together the majority of the 8,755 runs he scored was something to watch. According to teammate, Michael Holding, Rowe was the best batsman he ever saw. Unfortunately, Rowe was troubled with his eyesight, as well as an allergy to grass, of all things. That may have spoilt his performances somewhat, but at his best, there was no better batsman.

 

Maurice Foster 112 matches, 6731 runs, 234 HS, 45.17, 17 (100s), 35 (50s)

Maurice Foster was one of the most prolific runscorers in the 1960s and 70s and it was said, his ability to play fast bowling came from his love for table tennis where he was a West Indies champion at one time. In just 112 matches, Foster notched up 6,731 runs at an average of 45.17, only bettered by the great George Headley. In those six thousand plus runs can be found 17 first-class centuries and 35 half-centuries to boot.

 

Collie Smith 70 matches, 4031 runs, 169 HS, 40.31 avg, 10 (100s), 20 (50s)

Collie Smith died at the age of 26, but in that short time, the space between a boy and a man, he managed to score 10 centuries and 20 half-centuries in first-class cricket. Of course, by the time he was 26, his prodigious talent meant he had already represented the West Indies 26 times, scoring four centuries and six half-centuries. For Jamaica, he would play 70 times, amassing 4,031 runs at an average of 40.31.   

 

Jeffrey Dujon – 200 matches, 9763 runs, 163* HS, 39.05 avg, 21 (100s), 50 (50s)

A wicketkeeper averaging nearly 40 is a luxury. But his batting was only part of the story, as Dujon had to keep wicket for the West Indies during a period when it was notoriously difficult. Pace, real pace was hard to react to from behind the stumps but Dujon made his acrobatic catches so commonplace, they ceased to be a thing. At the first-class level, Dujon would claim 469 victims, 22 of those went to stumpings. But Dujon can also be proud of the 21 centuries he put together in 200 matches, as well as the 50 half-centuries that were part of his 9,763 runs with the bat.

 

Michael Holding – 222 matches, 778 wkts, 23.43 avg, 49.9 SR

The Rolls Royce of pace bowling, the man known as ‘Whispering Death’, has claimed 778 first-class wickets, standing only behind Courtney Walsh who had a markedly longer career. Holding would end his after 222 matches and his wicket tally would be taken at an average of 23.43 with a good strike rate of 49.9. A student of the game, Holding would outthink batsmen, even as he delivered with blistering pace that could shock you into doing altogether the wrong thing.

 

Courtney Walsh – 429 matches, 1,807 wkts, 21.71 avg, 47.2 SR

Courtney Walsh took a wicket every 47 balls during his long first-class career. That career would span 429 matches and include 1,807 wickets, making anything any Jamaican ever did with the ball, minuscule. His strike rate was better than Holding’s and so was his average. The stingy Walsh would only give up 21.71 runs for every wicket he took. A generally jovial, charismatic man, with ball in hand, he transformed into a bit of a grinch and is arguably the greatest pace bowler the country has produced.

 

Patrick Patterson – 161 matches, 493 wkts, 27.51 avg, 49.3 SR

Patrick Patterson drove fear into batsmen, even those who claim to like the quick stuff. Patterson, with his trademark shuffle to the crease and that high-lifting boot that would signal what’s to come, was devastating and on occasion, unplayably quick. He would end his 161-match first-class career with 493 wickets at an average of 27.51. His strike rate of 49.3 was also something to behold.

 

Nikita Miller – 100 matches, 538 wkts, 16.31 avg, 48.9 SR

Nikita Miller is the most prolific bowler in the history of Jamaican cricket. In just 100 first-class matches, Miller bagged 538 wickets at an average of 16.31. His strike rate of 48.9 is better than all his potential fast-bowling teammates. Miller has taken 10 wickets in a first-class innings on 12 occasions and also has 35 five-wicket hauls to go with the 36 occasions he took four in an innings. Between 2005 and 2019, Miller single-handedly orchestrated many of Jamaica’s victories. 

The argument regarding the players who should be ranked among the best of all time gets harder and harder as cricket evolves.

Batsmen are more dynamic and harder to contain these days, while bowlers had more advantages when you look back at it. There was even a time when pitches were uncovered and therefore much more of a nightmare to bat on.

Despite the ever-changing circumstances that most certainly impact the nature of performances over the decades, SportsMax’s editors have still been hardpressed to avoid the addiction of coming up with the answers to the age-old question of who is the greatest of all time.

As usual, we’ve come up with XI of them.

Now, the most challenging form of cricket is undoubtedly Test cricket. There might be a debate about which form of the game is best to watch, most profitable, which is the future of the game, all that. But there’s no argument that Test cricket has lived up to its name and is the hardest. This is why our XI will only have players who have played the longest format of the game.

Best XI

 

Don Bradman (Australia)

While many of the experts of the game today, never saw him play, it is still generally accepted that Sir Donald Bradman, with 29 centuries and 13 half-centuries from just 52 Test matches, is the greatest batsman to ever walk the planet. His average of 99.94 in Test cricket will likely never be matched. Interestingly, Bradman only hit six sixes in his glittering Test career.

Sachin Tendulkar (India)

If Bradman was the greatest, Sachin is the most complete batsman to ever play the game. The little magician’s batting is considered by those who wrote the textbook on the subject, to have the perfect mixture of balance, economy of movement, precision stroke-making, and most of all, anticipation. Sachin put all those together more often than not to average 53.78 from his 200 matches, getting to a century on 61 occasions and to a half-century on 68 others. Those statistics meant he amassed a mammoth 15,921 runs, by far the most of any batsman.

 

Brian Lara (West Indies)

Whenever the conversation about who is the greatest of all time comes up, the name Brian Charles Lara is never far away. Undoubtedly a genius, Lara still holds the world record for the most runs ever scored in a single Test innings. Lara’s 400 not out was not the first time the left-hander was putting together a score that nobody else had. Australia’s Matthew Hayden scored 380 against Zimbabwe to pass Lara’s first world-record effort of 375 against England but the diminutive left-hander would not be satisfied without breaking that record all over again. Lara’s first record-breaking effort bested Lara would score 34 centuries from 131 Tests at an average of 52.88. The Trinidad & Tobago native also scored 48 half-centuries, getting to 11,953 runs before he called it quits.

Vivian Richards (West Indies)

Sir Vivian Richards, the Master Blaster, turned Test cricket on its head with his brand of aggression. In a time when bowlers were the aggressors with the insistence on pace and bounce, Viv, changed the game, making bowlers quake at the sight of his nonchalance in the face of searing pace and his penchant for taking bowling attacks apart. Viv played 121 Test matches and ended with an average of 50.23 despite a long lean spell toward the end of his career. His highest score was 291 but his 24 centuries and 45 half-centuries were remarkable instances each time. There is many a bowler who, throughout the ‘80s hated to get wickets against the West Indies because that would mean the man who brought ‘swagger’ to cricket, would walk to the crease.

George Headley (West Indies)

Depending on where you hail from, George Headley is either the Black Bradman or Bradman is the white Headley. In 22 Tests, Headley scored a remarkable 10 centuries and five half-centuries including a highest score of 270 not out. Headley was the only batsman that stood between West Indies and regular capitulations. In fact, between 1929 and 1939, Headley did not have one bad Test series, scoring eight centuries against England and becoming the first immortal at Lord’s. Sir Len Hutton, a man who could easily make this list as one of the first batsmen who could be called a superstar, said he had never seen a batsman who played the ball later, making him a nightmare to set fields for.

 

Garfield Sobers (West Indies)

Sir Garfield Sobers is likely the finest all-rounder of all time, taking 235 wickets in his 93 Tests and scoring more than 8,000 runs in his 93 Tests. But his efforts as a batsman are by themselves, worthy of making him a certainty for this list. Sobers scored 26 hundreds in Test cricket but his first is something the game will never forget. In 14 previous Tests, Sobers had a highest score of 66 and averaged just 32.54. Though his talent was undeniable, Sobers was just not getting over that hump. Then Pakistan came calling. Sobers went into the third Test at Sabina Park in Kingston, Jamaica having scored three half-centuries (52, 52 and 80) in the previous two. Walking in at number three with the score on 87-1, Sobers and Conrad Hunte would take the West Indies to 533-2 when Hunte fell for a brilliant 260. Sobers would keep batting, getting to 365 not out before the skipper Gerry Alexander declared the innings on 790-3. Until the era of Sachin Tendulkar and Brian Lara, the argument for the greatest batsman of all time stood between Bradman and Sobers. Sobers also became the first man to hit six sixes in an over

 

Rahul Dravid (India)

Many of the great innings the world experienced from Sachin Tendulkar were made possible by the man known as ‘The Wall’. Steadily, Rahul Dravid created the reputation for being one of the finest batsmen in the world and started the Indian revolution, helping them become a team that was dangerous, not just at home.

His technique and robotic-like concentration would help him to 36 centuries and 63 half-centuries from his 164 Tests. His 13,288 runs have made him legendary in India but around the world too. Himself and Sourav Ganguly formed the backbone of a formidable Indian batting line-up and every team knew, that without getting out either or both, India were likely to come out the winning side.

 

Sunil Gavaskar (India)

The first man to get to 10,000 Test runs and score 30 centuries, make him most undoubtedly one of the greatest batsmen of all time. But Gavaskar has an even more interesting legacy. He is the man who made Indian cricket what it is today, teaching his teammates and the country of now over one billion, the importance of a professional approach to cricket. But outside of that, Gavaksar must be credited as one of the few batsmen to be able to score significantly against the West Indies all-pace attack of the 1980s, scoring 13 centuries against them. In fact, Gavaskar played five Tests at the Queen’s Park Oval, averaging 99.12 at the ground. Gavaskar was a fine opener, averaging 51.12 over the course of 125 Tests, scoring 34 centuries and 45 half-centuries with a highest score of 236 not out against the West Indies in 1983.

 

Jacques Kallis (South Africa)

Jacques Kallis is the only man to threaten Sir Garfield Sobers as the greatest allrounder of all time, and like his West Indian predecessor, his batting makes him a good fit for this list of some of the greatest batsmen of all time.

Kallis played 166 Tests and averaged 55.37 on his way to scoring a mammoth 45 centuries and 58 half-centuries on his way to putting together 13,289 runs. Kallis was part of South Africa’s second rebirth after being let back into international cricket and along with young skipper Graeme Smith, he led a fight-back to international prominence by performing at a remarkably high level for a long time.

 

Steve Waugh (Australia)

Steve Waugh is not the batsman that a ground outside of Australia might fill up to watch and it was largely agreed that his brother, Mark Waugh, was the more talented of the two batsmen. However, Steve’s drive to do well, mixed with hard work and a fine ability to read a situation from the middle of the pitch made for a career that was more than something to be proud of. Waugh led Australia to becoming the most dominant team in World cricket throughout the early 2000s, overtaking the West Indies for that title, with a symbolic 2-2 draw in the Caribbean. Interestingly, Waugh made that draw possible with a double century in the final Test at Sabina Park in Kingston that kick-started a spree of run-scoring that would not be halted until his retirement.

Waugh would play 168 Tests at an average of just over 51. That double century in Kingston was his highest score on the way to 10,927 runs. His 50 half-centuries meant there were very few times Waugh didn’t contribute to Australia’s eventual totals. Like Dravid and Ganguly were for India, Waugh was the rock that held the team together, the talented batsman evolving over time to a player who had eliminated risk from his game.

 

Kumar Sangakarra (Sri Lanka)

Kumar Sangakarra came into the Sri Lankan team on the back of careers like that of Arjuna Ranatunga and Asanka Gurusinha, who paved the way for dismissing the myth that batsmen from that area of the world could be blown off the pitch by good aggressive pace bowling. Sangakarra was decidedly a battler, but he added quite a bit of grace to the role, cementing his place in the side for 134 Tests in which he averaged 57.40. Sangakarra would end his Test career with 12,400 runs, 38 centuries and 52 half-centuries. Interestingly, nobody, not even the great Sachin Tendulkar, made it to 10,000 runs more quickly, the two being joint quickest to the milestone.

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