Play Fantasy Cricket & Win

Cash Daily! Click here

Home > Features > Moments in history >

The tragic death of one of Jamaica’s favourite sons

The tragic death of one of Jamaica's favourite sons

Collie Smith acknowledges his century in the second innings of the Third Test at Trent Bridge against England. Smith went on to score 168. Two years later, Collie died in a tragic car accident, which was driven by his close friend, Garfield Sobers © Getty Images

“He was three years older than me and already a very fine cricketer who seemed destined to become even better. He was more than just an accomplished batsman, having scored big 100s against England and Australia. He was also developing into a very good off-spin bowler. I am serious when I say that he had the potential to be a top class all-rounder, probably one of the world’s best.”Sir Garfield Sobers
 

 

On September 6, 1959, Collie Smith, Garfield Sobers and Jamaican medium-fast bowler Tom Dewdney met after their respective Lancashire League games and were all set to travel through the night to London to take part in a charity match the following day. But fate had different plans. At around 4.45 that morning, Sobers was in the driver’s seat, and it so happened that he was confronted with two dazzling headlights coming straight towards him leaving him no time to react. That was all, Sobers says, he could remember about the collision that followed. It was later learnt that the car they were travelling in had run head-on into a 10-ton cattle truck. Once out of the daze, Sobers immediately went to check on Collie, but the latter responded by saying “I’m all right, Maan. Go look after the big boy (Tom).”

 

Three days later, on September 9, 1959, Collie was declared dead due to a severe damage to his spinal cord. He had lapsed into unconsciousness after the horrific accident, and one of Jamaica’s favourite sons was no more. He was already an accomplished player by then, having scripted terrific centuries against formidable sides like England and Australia. Sobers, in his autobiography, reckons that Collie would have been among the top players in the world had he not been taken away by that fatal accident. But on that day, the dreams of the Jamaican people and that of Collie’s had indeed come to an abrupt end.

 

“There should have been four of us making the journey south on that fateful night. We were waiting for Roy Gilchrist,but after an hour or more we gave up and decided to make our way to London without him. Such is the fickle finger of fate. Had we left on time or had we waited for a little longer who knows what might have happened. But there is no turning the clock back,” Sobers writes.

 

During the mid-1950s, Collie was a fierce competitor and a good enough cricketer, adept in both departments of the game. A strong Australian side toured the West Indies in 1955, and Collie scored centuries in both innings for Jamaica playing against some of the best names in the world. Jamaica was reeling at 81 for five in response to Australia’s mammoth 453, and this is when Collie decided to take charge and plundered 169 against an attack that featured names like Ray Lindwall, Keith Miller and Richie Benaud.

 

Later, during the first Test at Sabina Park, which also happened to be his debut, Collie went on to score 44 in the first innings and essayed another poetic ton in the second. Nevertheless, owing to a poor bowling performance, the West Indian side lost the first Test by nine wickets. He was dismissed for a pair in the next Test and was eventually dropped, but it wasn’t long before he staged a comeback.

 

Two other innings of his remains etched in the memories of cricket lovers from that era. One is the knock of 161 during the Edgbaston Test of 1957 against an English line-up consisting of Fred Trueman, Brian Statham, Tony Lock and Collie’s idol Jim Laker. The other ton at Trent Bridge during the same year is reminiscent of his innings for Jamaica against Australia. After England amassed 619 for six in its first innings, the West Indians found themselves in troubled waters at 89 for five. At this juncture, Collie walked to the wicket and smashed his career-best score of 168 to take his side to the shores of safety.

 

Collie played his last Test for West Indies in March 1959 against Pakistan, a match his side went on to win by a huge margin of an innings and 156 runs. He scored 31 with the bat and dismissed Saeed Ahmed. He was a regular feature in the leagues in England thereafter.

 

Off the field, Collie was Sobers’ closest friend and best adviser. “He was so jovial and such a good fellow, we hit it off straightaway. It was wonderful rooming with him, and we quickly became firm friends. We were good company for each other. We would lie on our beds talking through the night, confiding in each other. We were so close, like brothers,” Sobers writes in his book.

 

After that accident, Sobers was apprehensive about playing at Sabina Park in Jamaica, which was Collie’s home ground. But he couldn’t have been more mistaken about his fears, as the Jamaican crowd showered him with tremendous support throughout his stay at the crease. They understood the grief he felt and mourned with him.

 

A crowd of 60,000 is believed to have attended Collie’s funeral in Jamaica. That speaks volumes of how popular he was back then. The people believed in his ability. After the three ‘Ws’ -  Everton Weekes, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott – had graced the stage for West Indian cricket, it was perceived that another trio in the form of Sobers, (Joe) Solomon and (Collie) Smith would take the cricketing world by storm. Sadly, the dream was short-lived.

 

(Karthik Parimal, a Correspondent with CricketCountry, is a cricket aficionado and a worshipper of the game. He idolises Steve Waugh and can give up anything, absolutely anything, just to watch a Kumar Sangakkara cover drive. He can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/karthik_parimal) 

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 24, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Sharjah

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 25, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Dubai

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 25, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Dubai

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 26, 2014 (16:00 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 26, 2014 (20:00 IST)   at Abu Dhabi

More

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 23, 2014  at Dubai

Chennai Super Kings won by 7 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 22, 2014  at Sharjah

Kings XI Punjab won by 72 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 21, 2014  at Abu Dhabi

Chennai Super Kings won by 93 runs

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 20, 2014  at Sharjah

Kings XI Punjab won by 7 wkts

Indian T20 League 2014

Apr 19, 2014  at Dubai

Delhi Daredevils won by 4 wkts

Photos

CSK vs DD, IPL 2014 Match 8 at Abu Dhabi

Videos

IPL: Tanmay Mishra talks shows the contents of his kit

IPL 2013: Chris Gayle’s monumental 175 against Pune Warriors India

Who else but Shakespeare on the World Book and Copyright Day?

IPL 2013: Shane Watson’s scintillating century against Chennai Super Kings goes in vain

John Small — The first man to use a straight bat

IPL 2014: Dwayne Bravo’s absence a major blow for Chennai Super Kings

Chennai Super Kings Delhi Daredevils Glenn Maxwell India IPL IPL 7 IPL 2014 Kings XI Punjab KXIP vs SRH KXIP vs SRH 2014 MS Dhoni Rajasthan Royals RR vs CSK 2014 Sanju Samson Sunrisers Hyderabad

IPL 2014 set to break all records

Saleem Malik hits out at PCB for not reviewing his life ban

IPL 2014: Ravindra Jadeja says he enjoys bowling after Chennai’s win over Rajasthan

David Miller believes three consecutive wins in IPL 2014 ‘phenomenal’ for Kings XI Punjab

Ravindra Jadeja’s all-round show helps Chennai Super Kings trump Rajasthan Royals by 7 runs in IPL 2014 tie

Sachin Tendulkar: Why he remains my favourite cricketer

Sachin Tendulkar: How he made me fall in love with cricket

Sachin Tendulkar: The child, the father, but sexy? Not quite

Meg Lanning, Arran Brindle and other women cricketers who have led at a younger age than ther male counterparts

IPL 2013: Chris Gayle’s monumental 175 against Pune Warriors India

Fan of the Day

Suraj Gowda

Suraj Gowda

622 Posts | 7 Fans

Video Highlights: Virat Kohli's 77 during India vs Sri Lanka ICC World T20 2014 final at Dhaka

Google Street View now lets users go back in time

Amazon takes on Flipkart, offers self service registration to sellers

Bahrain expels envoy of Shiite Ayatollah Sistani

Sachin Tendulkar: How he made me fall in love with cricket

Now an ICU in your home — at a much cheaper cost!

Kolkata Knight Riders (KKR) vs Royal Challengers Bangalore (RCB), Live Cricket Score, IPL 2014: Match 11 at Sharjah

Is Cameron Diaz planning holiday for Gwyneth Paltrow?

BJP trying to take political mileage out of disaster: Rawat

Also on cricketcountry.com