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Bernard Julien: Underachiever on the field; cancer survivor off it

Bernard Julien © Getty Images
Bernard Julien © Getty Images

The flamboyant Bernard Julien was born on March 13, 1950. Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the explosive all-rounder that never happened at the top level.

Bernard Denis Julien was the cricketer every schoolboy aspires to be: he played the most dazzling of strokes; he could swing the ball at a brisk pace; when the ball got old he could bowl finger-spin, and even tried his hand at Chinamen; he was electric on the field; he was immensely popular among fans; and his handsome features and Jim Kelly-like hairstyle made him an instant hit with the fairer sex.

He walked back lazily to his bowling mark, often humming a song. In an interview with Sportstar he elaborated: “It was my way of self-motivation. It used to help me concentrate on my next ball. My objective was to get the batsman out. It may have given the batsman the wrong impression that I was relaxed. I used to bowl to the best of my abilities and I always played the game hard.”

Julien ran in from a forty-five degree angle with legs so taut that one feared they might get tangled on his way to the crease, resulting in him toppling over: only that he did not, and kept on bowling a nagging line with variations in pace, bounce, and movement. Writing for Sportstar, Vijay Lokapally called him “an athletic figure of a seamer full of verve and energy”.

He was also one of those marauders who could launch into any bowling attack, and could man any position in the field; he ran very fast, could cover distances very fast, and could throw extremely accurately; had he lived up to his immense potential he would have been the perfect successor to Garry Sobers.

Instead, he never managed to pull off what was expected of him: he showed glimpses of his talent, but 866 runs at 30.92 with two hundreds and 50 wickets at 37.36 hardly bear testimony of Julien’s skills. From 12 ODIs his tally read 18 wickets at 25.72 with an economy rate of 3.57; he played an instrumental role in West Indies’ maiden World Cup victory.

Julien’s First-Class numbers were more impressive: playing mostly for Trinidad & Tobago and Kent Julien finished with 5,790 runs at 24.53 and 483 wickets at 28.71. His international career ended when the likes of Michael Holding, Joel Garner, and Colin Croft came up to join Andy Roberts, and he ended his First-Class career when he decided to go on the rebel tour of 1983-84.

Early days

Born in Carenage, Julien made his First-Class debut at an age of 18 for North Trinidad against their southern counterparts. He scored only eight, but picked up Habib Khan, Lennox Balgobin, and H Roberts (all bowled). The performance won him his Shell Shield cap. Playing against Guyana at Bourda Julien failed with the bat but managed to pick up two wickets (including that of Alvin Kallicharran).

In the next match he demolished South Trinidad with figures of seven for 63 and two for 45 while scoring a lusty 54 batting at number eight. Regular subsequent performances for Trinidad earned him a call-up for Kent Second XI in 1970. A decent 1971 (44 wickets at 28.27) earned him a Kent cap the following season.

Julien never really took Championship Cricket by storm, but kept on delivering with both the bat and the ball. He was eventually picked for the 1973 tour of England; before the tourists started their matches he began on a high, bowling in tandem with Richard Elms to bowl out Middlesex for 136 at Lord’s.

A couple of wickets later he turned up for the tourists against Hampshire at Southampton: he did not get a bat, but bowled brilliantly in both innings, returning figures of five for 89 and four for 41. He kept on delivering with 55 and 37 against DH Robins’ XI at Eastbourne; 42 and three for 37 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge; and five for 53 against Sussex at Hove. In just over a week he made his Test debut.

Test debut

Julien made his debut alongside Ron Headley in the first Test at The Oval. He hit a couple of boundaries in a 14-ball 11 before being claimed by Geoff Arnold, and got Geoff Boycott and Keith Fletcher for a return of 49 runs. Out to score quick runs, he scored a 24-ball 23 before he was bowled by Ray Illingworth. West Indies won the Test by 158 runs mostly due to Keith Boyce’s 11 for 147.

The second Test at Edgbaston saw West Indies under pressure of sorts when Julien walked out at 242 for six. Roy Fredericks, who had played a lone hand till then, fell shortly afterwards for 150: it was left to Julien to resurrect the innings. Wisden later wrote that he batted “boldly” as he hit out against the English attack, scoring 54 with nine boundaries out of 85 scored during his stay. Once again he struck twice, dismissing Dennis Amiss and Tony Greig this time, but the Test petered out to a tame draw.

Then came the Lord’s Test.

Sobers had played a support act to Rohan Kanhai on Day One as West Indies finished on 335 for four; the captain was on 156 and Sobers on 31. That night Sobers realised he had drunk till four in the morning, thought of going back to the room, decided against it, and continued to drink till nine. Then he walked out, missed the first five balls, and somehow connected the sixth.

Kanhai had meanwhile been replaced at the crease by Julien, and the pair had fun. It was a saga of A Sobers and A Sober tearing a quality attack (Arnold, Bob Willis, Greig, Derek Underwood, and Illingworth himself) into shreds: they added 81 in 53 minutes before lunch (Julien scoring 47 of them); an excruciating stomach pain led to Sobers retiring on 132, and the pair had added 155 in a shade under two hours.

Wisden wrote that Julien “gave the bowlers little encouragement, striking the ball cleanly, powerfully and in mainly orthodox fashion to all parts of the ground in a thrilling display”. Julien continued with the massacre with Boyce for company, reaching his maiden Test hundred; he was mobbed by the West Indians who had flocked to Lord’s for the Test.

Spectators invade the pitch to congratulate West Indies batsman Bernard Julien on his century © Getty Images
Spectators invade the pitch to congratulate West Indies batsman Bernard Julien on his century © Getty Images

Julien eventually hit one back to Greig for a violent 143-ball 121 with 18 fours and two sixes. Sobers (equipped by self-prescribed port-and-brandy and an hour’s rest) emerged at the fall of the wicket and scored 150 not out before Kanhai declared on 652 for eight.

Despite a bomb scare on Day Three that held up play, England were bowled out for 233 and 193 halfway through Day Four. Julien finished with three for 69 (including wickets of Brian Luckhurst and Greig) in the second innings, helping the rout. England were defeated by an innings and 226 runs, Illingworth was sacked, and that was that.

Julien followed this innings with 127 in the Scarborough festival match against TN Pearce’s XI where nobody in the match crossed sixty. He also did a decent job with the ball in the two-match ODI series. Julien finished the tour with 520 runs at 43.33 and 27 wickets at 26.74.

Cementing a place

Had there been any doubt regarding Julien’s place in the side after the England tour, there wasn’t any left after the home series against them: he had 86 not out and two for 14 at Queen’s Park Oval, 66 and two for 40 at Sabina Park, and five for 57 — his only five-wicket haul — at Kensington Oval.

Julien picked up two for 57 in the rain-washed fourth Test at Bourda; Greig helped England pull off a heist at Queen’s Park Oval and level the series with figures of 13 for 156, but Julien still managed to return match figures of five for 56. With 392 runs at 43.55 and 23 wickets at 28.00 from eight Tests, Julien was hailed as the next big thing of West Indian cricket.

What followed from there was an anticlimax. He never reached the heights of that phase of his career:

M

R

Ave

W

Ave

First 8 Tests

8

392

43.55

23

28.00

Last 16 Tests

16

474

24.94

27

45.33

Total

24

866

30.92

50

37.36

On the subsequent tour of India Julien scored 45 and obtained three wickets at Kotla, but did little else of note. On the second leg of the tour, however, he found some form at Karachi, coming out at 336 for five and slamming 101 before being last out with the team score on 493.

The Champions of the World

 

Despite the slump Julien was picked for the 1975 World Cup; opening bowling with Andy Roberts he skittled out the poor Sri Lankans for 86 with figures of four for 20, winning the Man of the Match award. The next match — the humdinger against Pakistan at Edgbaston — saw Julien remove Sadiq Mohammad and score 18.

Against Australia at The Oval he was promoted to the spearhead of the attack, and removed Rick McCosker. By now the clear favourites, West Indies defeated New Zealand easily in the semifinal at The Oval after Julien routed them for 158 with figures of four for 27.

Bernard Julien during the 1975 World Cup  © Getty Images
Bernard Julien during the 1975 World Cup © Getty Images

The final saw Clive Lloyd playing his famous 102 and Kanhai a support act of 55, but the 52-run seventh wicket partnership between Boyce (34) and Julien (26) was crucial in lifting West Indies to 291. Australia crashed to 274, and West Indies won the first World Cup. Julien (ten wickets at 17.70) and Boyce (ten wickets at 18.50) finished at joint-second among wicket-takers in the tournament (after Gary Gilmour’s absurd tally of 11 wickets at 5.63).

Final days

Holding had meanwhile arrived on the scenario, and with Boyce definitely being the third on the rungs Julien found it difficult to maintain a spot in the Test side. He did a good job in the second Test at WACA, finishing with figures of two for 51 and three for 32 as Australia were defeated by an innings after Roy Fredericks’ iconic onslaught. Thereafter he lost track somewhere, and by the time the series ended he was not a certainty in the side anymore.

India chased down 406 in the third Test of the series at Queen’s Park Oval. Julien was given another chance in the final Test at Sabina Park, where he had clear instructions to come round the wicket and bounce the Indians out: while Holding and Wayne Daniel could terrorise the Indians with their furious pace and steep bounce, Julien went wicket-less.

Julien was still retained for the England tour for the “Grovel Series”, perhaps because of his earlier success against the opponents. However, he failed to impress yet again (though he had a good season for Kent, scoring 549 runs at 23.86 and claiming 51 wickets at 26.25).

On his return he played just one more Test, against Pakistan at Bourda: he scored five and finished with a solitary wicket, and was never recalled. He went out of contention with the arrival of Croft and Garner earlier that series.

Packer days, and later

Julien might have had an opportunity when Kerry Packer recruited the West Indians for his World Series, but he decided to join the brigade, effectively finishing his international career. By the time he returned Malcolm Marshall had also arrived on the scenario and Julien never stood a chance. He did not get a Kent contract either, and continued to play for Trinidad & Tobago.

He played Shell Shield till 1981-82, and it was in this season — in his penultimate Shell Shield match — that he earned his best innings and match figures. Though Shamshuddin Jumadeen picked up the second wicket Julien had the other nine, scything through the Jamaican line-up at Queen’s Park Oval with career-best figures of nine for 97. A wicket in the second innings gave him his only ten-wicket haul.

Rebel tour and repercussion

Julien decided to finish his cricket career when he went on the 1983-84 rebel tour to South Africa. He played a couple of blinders but failed with the ball, and played only three matches. The pace attack, consisting of Croft, Sylvester Clarke, Ezra Moseley, and Franklyn Stephenson was so strong that Julien found it impossible to find a place back in the side.

The players were ostracised on their return to their homeland. Opinions were divided (they are still divided) on the tours, and it took several years for the rebels to get their respect back in West Indies. The ban was eventually lifted in 1989, and even then Julien found it difficult to get a job and earn back respect in Trinidad & Tobago.

It was not that he did not have his supporters. In a letter to the editor of Guardian (Trinidad) a certain Jaglal Susankar wrote: “Please convey my sympathy to fellow Trinidadian Bernard Julien for the amount of humiliation and stripping of his medal by the Government. In my opinion he went to South Africa to play cricket as a sportsman. Secondly he was paid damn good. Who doesn’t like money? People of the same race who term him Judas are wrong and foolish.”

Later days

Julien was shunned to an extent that he was not even considered for club cricket. He eventually found appointment in the Ministry of Sports for eight-year tenure before being appointed West Indies Coach. He was later appointed as Trinidad Coach as well.

In January 2005 Julien was diagnosed with throat cancer. He gave up smoking and drinking subsequently, and showed signs of improvement. “I want to live. It is life you are talking about. I want to beat this thing. I am not giving up,” he said in an interview with Trinidad Express.

There have been subsequent migraine attacks and sleepless nights in 2009, and the problem remained undiagnosed for seven months. He lost 25 pounds of weight in six months, and eventually the scan reports had to be sent to Miami for diagnosis. In July 2010 he received an amount of $79,595 from the Health Ministry of Trinidad & Tobago.

Julien continues to live on.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Deputy Editor and Cricket Historian at CricketCountry. He blogs at http://ovshake.blogspot.in and can be followed on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/ovshake42)

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