Although the West Indies team has fallen from grace over the last decade or two, many Jamaicans -particularly the older set who remember the glory days – still love their cricket. And now, with the popularity of the explosive, high-adrenaline T20 format, many younger people are coming back to the game.
The All-Time Jamaican Eleven by Anthony Johnson, says cricket was more than just a sport for youth to focus their energies on but a teacher of essential life lessons. Imported from Britain and popularized in her colonies, Jamaican cricketers have broken several barriers in the sport and are now considered among the best in the world. Here are a few of them:
- Jimmy Adams – A batsman, spinner and wicketkeeper, he made his debut for Jamaica in 1985. During his 18 year career, he played 55 matches for Jamaica scoring 3,830 runs with 11 centuries including a top score of 203 not out, at an average of 46.14. He played 54 Test matches for the West Indies, he scored 3,012 runs with six centuries, including a top score of 208 not out, at an average of 41.26. He was also responsible for 151 dismissals across test and one day international (ODI) formats. Following his retirement from active play, Adams became the manager of the Under-19 side in 2006, and in 2008, he succeeded Barry Richards as the president of the Federation of International Cricketers’ Associations. Later that year, he was appointed technical director of Jamaica’s cricket development programme.
- Jeffrey Dujon – Often described as the prototype for wicketkeeper/batsmen. A lithe, efficient figure, Dujon was a key figure in the dominant 1980s West Indies teams. With 272 test and 204 ODI dismissals to his name, he never participated in a losing series, and his tally of victims puts him amongst the best 10 wicketkeepers to ever play the game. As a lower-order batsman, his elegant but efficient style garnered him five Test centuries. His highest score was 139 against Australia at Perth in 1984-85, and helped rescue the Windies from 186 for 6. Dujon is now a commentator.
- Chris Gayle – This hard-hitting giant made his debut in the ODI format in 1999 and his test debut a few months later in 2000. Since then, he has set about dismantling opposing teams’ bowling attacks in every format of the game. His highest scores to date are 333 against Sri Lanka in 2010; 215 against Zimbabwe in the 2015 World Cup in New Zealand (ODI), the first double century ever scored in the World Cup; and an unbeaten 175 for Royal Challengers Bangalore against the Pune Warriors in the 2013 season of the Indian Premier League (IPL) T20. That majestic knock required only 30 balls. Gayle is also the first man to score a century in T20, which made him the first batsman to score 100 in each of international cricket’s three formats.
- George Headley – At 19, he stunned the cricket world when he made his first double century (211) in his maiden international series against Lord Tennyson’s XI at Melbourne Park in 1928. His prowess with the bat earned him nicknames such as ‘Atlas,’ because he bore the brunt of the West Indies batting on his shoulders during the 1930s, and the ‘black Bradman‘ (after Aussie great Sir Donald Bradman, whose 1930s/40s batting statistics remain unmatched). In 22 Tests, the Panama-born Headley scored 2190 runs, including 10 centuries – eight against England – with an average of 60.83. He was the first to score a hundred in each innings of a Test at Lord’s.
- Michael Holding – Nicknamed ‘Whispering Death’ due to his stealthy run-up, followed by a delivery of blinding pace, Holding was among the most feared and respected bowler in his time. Holding played 60 tests, taking 249 wickets, and 122 ODIs, capturing 142 scalps, for West Indies between 1975 and 1987. His career best of 14 wickets for 149 runs came at the expense of England at the Kensington Oval in 1976. This remains the finest match figures ever by a West Indian. Holding, known for his candor, is now a highly respected commentator.
- Tamar Lambert – He has led Jamaica’s senior men’s cricket team to win five consecutive outright West Indies Cricket Board Regional Four-Day Tournaments, making him the most successful captain in the region in the last decade. Unfortunately, despite his leadership skills and consistent middle-order batting, with a first-class average of 31.24, Lambert has never been called up to play for the regional squad.
- Balfour Patterson – He blasted on to the international scene in the 1986 Sabina Park test against England, and was instantly heralded as the fastest bowler in the international game. Patterson’s career strike rate of 51.9 is amongst the best of all time. He was dropped for disciplinary reasons after the 1992/3 tour to Australia.
- Allan Rae – Prior to his brief test career, Rae captained Jamaica, scoring 1,464 runs at an average of 40.67 in 20 matches, with five centuries. He played only 15 tests, scoring 1,016 runs, but eventually transitioned into the management of the West Indies team, where his true impact was felt. He was the president of the West Indies Cricket Board from 1981 to 1988, arguably the golden era of Caribbean cricket.
- Lawrence Rowe – Between 1972 and 1980, he produced a number of technically brilliant innings, including a double century, 214, in his first innings, and 100 not out in his second innings on debut against New Zealand at Sabina Park in 1972, and 302 against England at Kensington Oval in Barbados two years later. With a record of 2,047 runs from 30 Test matches, seven centuries and an average of 43.55, Rowe’s career eventually began waning due to eye problems and hay fever. He eventually suffered a steep fall from grace as he scouted for and led a rogue West Indies team that played in apartheid South Africa in 1983 and 1984 in contravention of an international ban on sporting activity with that country. Rowe eventually apologised for his actions in 2011 after the Jamaica Cricket Association (JCA) controversially named a pavillion at Sabina in his honour.
- Marlon Samuels – Making his test debut at 19, before ever playing for Jamaica, Samuels’ elegant style of play earned him comparison to the great Sir Viv Richards. He has spent his career trying to live up to his immense potential, but following some rough patches – including a two-year ban due to a match fixing scandal – he seems to have found his way. In the 2012 series against England, Samuels scored 386 runs in five innings, with a century and three 50s. Later that year, he was the hero for the Windies in the World Twenty20 final against Sri Lanka, scoring 78 to lift the team out of a hole and lead them to their first world title since the 1979 World Cup. A month later, he notched his first test double-century, scoring 260 against Bangladesh in Khulna. He is also a handy part-time off-spinner, with 144 wickets across the three formats internationally.
- Oneil Smith – More popularly known as ‘Collie’ Smith or ‘Mighty Mouse,’ he played 26 test matches between 1955 and 1959, scoring 1,331 runs – including four centuries – before his untimely death due to injuries sustained in a car accident in 1959. His death came as a heavy blow to the West Indies. Smith first appeared for Jamaica in 1955 against the visiting Australians, scoring 169. This earned him a place in the opening test match and he took full advantage, hitting 104 in the second innings. Smith was also a useful off-spin bowler, taking 48 wickets at an average of 33.85.
- Jerome Taylor – Prior to his test debut at just 18 years old, Taylor was named the most promising fast bowler in the 2003 Carib Beer Series, with 21 wickets at 20.14 in six first-class matches. That haul included a second-innings spell of 8 for 59 in Jamaica’s five-wicket victory over Trinidad and Tobago, a match in which he took 10 wickets for the first time. His test debut was forgettable, but he has since proven himself to be one of the consistent standouts in a team that has been struggling for years. So far, he has collected 122 test, 123 ODI and 23 T20I wickets.
- Stafanie Taylor – The rose amongst the thorns, Taylor is a former ICC Women’s Cricketer of the Year. She has racked up many firsts since making her debut for the West Indies during their 2008 tour of Europe. Per ESPN CricInfo, the right-hander is the world number one Women’s ODI all-rounder, and is in the top 10 for batting and bowling in this format, as well as T20.
- Alfred Valentine – The left-arm spin bowler was the first West Indian to take 100 wickets in Test cricket. He was a central figure in what is considered the first great West Indian team – the one that shocked England in 1950 by winning the series 3-1. Prior to his selection for the team, Valentine had only played two first-class matches and had not done well. However, he stunned the English batting lineup on debut with eight for 104 in the first innings, taking the first eight wickets to fall.
- Courtney Walsh – He is one of cricket’s most successful fast bowlers, with a career that lasted for almost two decades. Fast bowling tends to take its toll on a body, but Walsh was an exception, setting a new world record for taking the most test wickets – 435 – at the age of 38. The accomplishment was made even sweeter as it was achieved on his home ground at Sabina Park in Kingston. The feat came in his 114th test match. In what can only be considered a comic twist, Walsh was no batsman – he has a test record 43 ducks, with a high score of 30. He retired in April 2001 after taking 519 Test wickets. His career best 13 for 55 against New Zealand in 1995 is just behind Holding’s record.
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