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Wayne Daniel: Fast and furious on the field; a Casanova off it

Wayne Daniel.
Wayne Daniel. Photo Courtesy: SportsWorld Cards

Fast, furious, intimidating, ruthless Wayne Daniel was born on January 16, 1956. The Calypso Champion, born in the wrong era, made England his second home during his tenure with Middlesex.  Abhishek Mukherjee looks at the Black Diamond of cricket.

Pele was Black Pearl. Wayne Wendell Daniel was Black Diamond. That perhaps says a thing or two.

Daniel ranked ninth in the world during the ten-year period from 1976 to 1985 with a 30-wicket cut-off. Unfortunately, he was also fifth among West Indians, which probably tells a thing or two about the Caribbean dominance of the era. In terms of strike rate, however, he ranked next to only Marshall’s 47.1.

The man

There was more to Daniel than his fierce bowling and aggression on the ground. It was the sheer aura of the man that made him stand out in a crowd. In A Lot of Hard Yakka Simon Hughes recalled his first sight of the giant: “The door burst open and in came a hulking, beaming West Indian in blazer and white shirt with several buttons undone to reveal a glistening gold chain.”

That was the lingering image of Daniel that stayed with Middlesex for over a decade. It was unfortunate that despite his immense talent, Daniel could not get the new ball for Barbados, let alone for West Indies: he had to compete with Malcolm Marshall, Joel Garner, Vanburn Holder, and Keith Boyce; Franklyn Stephenson and Ezra Moseley were still on the rise. To make things worse, Daniel was, to put things very politely, a non-batsman.

Let us go back to Hughes again. The following passage demonstrates how terrible Daniel was with the bat and the way Brearley never bothered to improve him, in stark contrast of the expectations today’s captains have of their tail-enders.

“‘Am I late, Rip?’ he [Daniel] asked, the beam fading into a grin.”

“‘Yes, you are,’” [Mike] Brearley said gruffly. Then a wide smile spread across his face. ‘Doesn’t matter a bit. We’re all very glad to see you, Diamond. Welcome back. We’re just off over to the Nursery. Get over there when you’re ready, no hurry. You can leave the bat behind, though.’”

“Obviously batting practice for Wayne Daniel is a waste of time,” Hughes added.

It was not that he was not a hard-hitter. Brearley recalled: “Ray East, of Essex, would get Wayne Daniel every time, as the latter could hardly contain his excitement. Just occasionally Daniel would connect and the ball would be retrieved from the Southend municipal duck pond.”

Mike Selvey described his action in ESPNCricinfo: “[Wayne] Daniel’s action was instantly recognisable, beginning with a run like a bather first ooh-aahing onto a hot beach then sprinting through the shallows to sizzle his feet, followed by a classical back-bending gather, heaving delivery and knuckle-scraping follow-through. From wickedly just-back-of-a-length, he bowled the heaviest of balls, which jarred the bat sufficiently to loosen a batsman’s fillings.”

After the Grovel series of 1976 Hughes added in And God Created Cricket: “[Wayne] Daniel was 16 stone of pure muscle who thundered to the crease like a black rhino and hurled the ball wicket-wards with all his might.”

It was an incredible side, Middlesex at the turn of the decade. Seldom has a side been so full of characters: the Cambridge-educated Phil Edmonds and Selvey — the former being an eccentric character on field and an astute businessman off it, while the latter could easily have passed as a rockstar; Mike Gatting, eating his way to glory and competing with John Emburey at the nets (and at backgammon); Clive Radley, a smart and soft-spoken individual and a complete contrast to the Graham Barlow, who had the most muscular thorax in the side; Brearley, sitting quietly in the background, but ready to step in if anything got out of hands; Vintcent van der Bijl, a gentle giant with a terrific sense of humour; and Wilf Slack and Roland Butcher, both admirers of Daniel, mostly due to his “conquests” over women.

Casanova

The fairer sex was easy bait to win favours from Daniel: Brearley often “coaxed extra overs” out of him by “promising an introduction to the attractive brunette in the Tavern”. Hughes, during his days as the Middlesex twelfth-man, mentions that whenever the phone “old red payphone behind the door” behind the door of the dressing-room rang persistently, it was often a member of “Daniel’s harem”.

When Daniel appeared, he, as Hughes mentioned, “spend most of the lunch interval wrapped in a huge white towel, saying into the mouthpiece, ‘Helloo, how arrre yoooou. Mmmm, what are you doing tonight?’ and caressing his genitals.”

Daniel had that “ability”. Hughes wrote that Daniel “would softly chat up your girlfriend in the bar afterwards, plying her with drinks and compliments before coming up with such toe-curling compliments as ‘Do I make your juices flow?’”

His exploits with women are too many to list. He was once excused fielding practice for treatment having an injured thumb. When he did not turn up to bowl (which was rather unusual) Hughes was sent to search for him. Hughes later wrote that he found Daniel “in the physio’s apartment. The huge, rippling West Indian was face down on the floor, wearing only a jockstrap; the girl in a little white tunic was astride him administering a full massage.” Not exactly the kind of treatment a thumb requires, but then, that was what Daniel was about.

There were other dimensions of this as well. Daniel’s respect for Viv Richards, for example, spread to beyond the realms of the turf. It was not that he was a huge fan of his batting: “Jesus Chris’ man, Viv can play, he can play.” But then he would invariably add: “And you should have seen his piece of crumpet at the Tavern…”

Likewise for Clive Lloyd: playing for Lancashire, Lloyd once hit a straight six that marginally missed Daniel’s head. Hughes wrote that Daniel “went as white as a sheet…and joked afterwards that he’d never chat up Lloyd’s ‘crumpet’ again.” Everything invariably came down to women.

Edmonds often made fun of Daniel (and his mates, Butcher and Slack) when they went on discussing the same topic (which often involved the other two listening to Daniel): “Why don’t you guys just get your c*cks out and measure them?” However, despite the stark contrast in character, Edmonds — astute businessman of Oxbridge background and as quirky as anyone on the field — and Daniel — a Barbadian giant raring to charge at batsmen and women — emerged as the best of friends and always travelled together.

When Phil Tufnell had earned a call-up for the Ashes in Australia, Daniel’s response was immediate: “Tuffers, it’s the only place to go. Australia, that’s where it is. All the guurrls. Everything’s big, man.”

Hughes mentioned another incident: “I had half an hour to drag Wayne Daniel away from a scrum of admiring females, out of the pub and into my car for the journey to Leicester, where we were playing a Sunday League match the next day. Getting Naomi Campbell into the Lord’s pavilion would have been easier.”

Middlesex forever

Daniel did not play for an all-conquering Middlesex side: he helped transform them into an all-conquering side. There was a reason for Mike Smith christening him Black Diamond.

David Lemmon wrote of him in The History of Middlesex County Club: “What the County (Middlesex) had achieved in qualifying (Wayne) Daniel was a bowler who was not only among the fastest and most fearsome in the world in his early years, but a cricketer who was totally committed to the Middlesex cause.”

Barring tempting him with brunettes, Brearley, the man with “a degree in people”, knew how to use him: “At Middlesex we were well aware of Wayne Daniel’s value to the side, so we would not bowl him when a match was tame, or flog him on an unhelpful pitch.” He was richly rewarded.

Brearley even let Daniel have his way with injuries. As he wrote in The Art of Captaincy, “Physiotherapists must often, I think, allow players to follow their own hunches.” Brearley was perfectly fine with Daniel used to rub his sore Achilles’ tendon daily with acne cream; it had kept him fit, and his captain was happy to let it remain that way.

There were several other demands Daniel had, but Brearley, given his amazing ability of man-management, knew Daniel was left best to himself and his requirements: “Barbados would regularly ring to ask if Wayne Daniel could play for them in a crucial match ten days after we [Middlesex] were due back. On the one hand, it seemed ridiculous to stop a man playing high-class cricket rather than watching the rain fall in London; on the other, if Daniel were to be allowed leeway others would expect it, and some degree of acclimatisation is necessary.”

In short, “anything for Diamond” was the motto at Middlesex, in the same way “anything for Middlesex” was Daniel’s. Brearley’s famous declaration against Surrey at Lord’s in 1977 would not have been possible without Daniel’s presence. As cricket knows, Brearley had declared the Middlesex first innings closed after a single ball was played to extend Surrey’s presence on the terrible Lord’s strip. Surrey were bowled out for 49 and 89, and ended up losing by nine wickets: Daniel, having just earned his Middlesex cap, finished with five for 16 and four for 23.’

In a career spanning from 1977 to 1987, Daniel finished with a tally of 685 wickets for Middlesex at 22.02 and a strike rate of 43.8. Against Lancashire at Southport in 1981 he picked up a hat-trick, the victims being Andrew Kennedy, Steve O’Shaughnessy, and David Hughes. In all First-Class matches (which included matches for Barbados and Western Australia) he had 867 wickets at 22.47 and a strike rate of 44.7.

His List A numbers, 362 wickets at 18.16 and an economy rate of 3.42, were equally impressive. He finished with figures of 11-5-12-7 Against Minor Counties at Ipswich in the Benson & Hedges Cup 1978; it was then the second-best figures in List A cricket, next to only Boyce’s eight for 26 (Rahul Sanghvi currently holds the world record with eight for 15).

“Don’t mess with me”

Daniel could be unplayable, especially if charged up. Imran Khan had found this to his own peril in the 1980 Gillette Cup semifinal at Hove when he “propelled a murderous bumper which came within a wafer of decapitating [Wayne] Daniel.” The poor Sussex batsmen had to pay for Imran’s “sin”: Daniel removed the first three with 18 on the board, dished out special treatment for Imran, and finished with 10-2-15-6 as the hosts were bowled out for 115, extras emerging as the leading scorer with 27.

Jonathan Agnew committed the same mistake when he bounced Daniel at Lord’s in 1985 in a Championship match, hitting him on his shoulder. A few days before the incident Daniel had taken a hammering from Gordon Greenidge; this took Daniel over the brink. Daniel responded with a terrifying spell, finishing with five for 48 (four batsmen were bowled, and one leg-before) — all of them in a span of four overs — but it had more to do the way he bowled.

Hughes wrote: “Staring into the batsman’s eyes from short-leg, I saw the kind of fear that is usually confined to the besieged ground forces in films like Apocalypse Now and Platoon. With only a thin blade and a bit of skimpy padding to protect them from this onslaught, the Leicester batsmen clearly didn’t want to be out in the middle, and not many of them were for very long.”

Daniel broke James Whittaker’s arm, and Daniel Cobb was hit on the helmet so hard that “one of his visor’s screws was catapulted back over the bowler’s head and halfway to the boundary”. When a bowler’s-eye view of the dismissal of Gordon Parsons came out in the newspapers the next morning, the frame did not have a trace of the batsman in it.

This was the same quiet man who had once said that “the greatest things which have been invented are cricket and soul music.”

The Jackson Five

Hughes wrote: “They [Daniel, Butcher, and Slack] were joined in the staff by two other players born in the West Indies — Norman Cowans and Neil Williams — and the whole lot of them always sat together in the dressing-room. We called them the Jackson Five. They spent an inordinate amount of time preening themselves after training, dousing their bodies in creams and lotions.”

The language in which they spoke, however, took a new turn, often involving “the assets of Neolene the lunch waitress”. Few people understood the conversation between the quintet:

“Mnnn, she raggin’ it, her body smooth, her tighs dem luk-sha-ree.”

“Wha’s happenin’, you bin chatting breeze, Raas-ole?”

“Listen up, I ain’t no Raaaas-ole, Bamba Claart.”

Testimonial

Middlesex gave Daniel a testimonial season in 1985, and the following season he passed the driving license test. He was immediately given a Peugeot 309 by the Club, much to the relief of the cricketers who had to ferry him back to Manchester. What followed was not perhaps something the Club would have expected.

Hughes wrote: “[Wayne] Daniel eased his [car] gingerly into St John’s Wood Road, took one look at the streams of taxis, vans and cars shooting by and reversed back into the ground, nearly colliding with a wall. ‘Man,’ he exclaimed, ‘they don’t drive like that in Barbados!’ and handed the keys back.” The car went to Hughes and Keith Tomlins, the only first-team members with a license and without a car.

02
Wayne Daniel took 36 wickets in 10 Tests at 25.27 for the West Indies. Photo Courtesy: eBay

Test Career

Born in Bereton Village, St Phillip, Daniel made his First-Class debut against Trinidad and Tobago at home in a Shell Shield encounter in 1975-76. There was no Holder, or Boyce; Garner and Marshall had still not arrived; Daniel scythed through the Trinidadians with figures of five for 34 and three for 27.

He never looked back: in the tour match against the Indians, Daniel skittled out the visitors for 150 with four for 24, including the wickets of Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath. Barbados won by ten wickets, and with India having chased down 406 in the previous innings, Lloyd adopted a new strategy for the fourth Test at Sabina Park.

Daniel was brought in as Michael Holding’s bowling partner: if the Indians had to win the Test, they would have to pay with it with their blood. Bouncers were aplenty, as were injuries; the umpires, Douglas Sang Hue and Ralph Gossein, never intervened; India were defeated by ten wickets, but lost only 11 wickets in the Test.

The plan had been executed to perfection: Daniel was the missing cog on the England tour; he would be the third tearaway along with Andy Roberts and Holding, with Holder playing the foil and Bernard Julien making the occasional appearance. Between them they steamrolled England, dishing out a 3-0 victory; Daniel finished with 13 wickets at 24.38. These were excellent numbers, but looked pedestrian when pitted against Holding (28 at 12.71) and Roberts (28 at 19.17).

England were beaten black and blue, but some of the eye-witnesses did something smart: Middlesex signed up Daniel. He later signed up for World Series and went out of contention once Marshall and Garner arrived on the forefront. However, Colin Croft’s participation in the rebel tours and Garner’s unavailability meant that West Indies had to look out for that fourth fast bowler in their inventory.

So the 27-year old Daniel was recalled for their “revenge” tour of India in 1983-84. Left out at Green Park, Daniel was brought back at Kotla. Gavaskar’s 29th hundred and Vengsarkar’s 159 stole the show, which meant that Daniel’s comeback figures of three for 87 and three for 38 on a flat track went unnoticed. It turned out to be good for him.

The next Test at Motera was played on a largely underprepared track, and Daniel routed the Indians with five for 39 — surprisingly, his only Test five-for. India conceded a 40-run lead despite Gavaskar playing out of his skin to score a counterattacking 90 in 120 balls. He had only two wickets to show at Wankhede, which was an unpardonable crime for a West Indian fast bowler of the 1980s: when a fit Roberts came back, Winston Davis was retained and Daniel dropped.

He played two more Tests, against Australia at Bourda and Queen’s Park Oval, adding seven more wickets to his tally. He finished with 36 wickets from a mere ten Tests at 25.27 and a strike rate of 48.7.

Post retirement, Daniel had taken up a career in radio commentary before serving as individual coaches to fast bowlers. He played a prolific role in the resurgence of Tino Best’s career that led to his comeback in 2012.

(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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