Courtney Walsh Biography
Courtney Walsh is unique in the history of the game. No man has bowled as fast for as long in the annals of cricket. His Test career spanned across 17 years, a duration more suited to superlative batsmen rather than fast men.
As a young man he was fantastic enough to make his way into the side as a regular during the high noon of the incredible West Indian fast bowling fire-power, when they attacked in fearsome foursomes, including men like Malcolm Marshall and Michael Holding.
He was great enough to carry on the dominance well into the 1990s, when the supporting cast slowly dwindled to fewer and fewer till only Curtly Ambrose stood sweating at the other end as the other genuine legend of West Indian pace.
He was durable enough to take them into the new millennium, running in with the same metronomic regularity even as the team fell from towering heights to abysmal lows. Walsh's own performance remained as consistent as ever, graduating from the toiling into-the-wind bowler to the dangerous new ball exponent. But throughout he remained a workhorse, even as the senior-most pro, due partly to circumstances and lack of support, and partly to his incredible stamina.
He bowled with the Marshalls, the Pattersons, the multiple Benjamins, the Bishops and mostly with his old mate Ambrose. He outlasted them all, and ended his career bowling alongside Cameron Cuffy and Mervyn Dillon.
On his special days, Walsh could make the ball talk as eloquently as a leg-spinner, with as many variations and as much guile. He could disguise his slower delivery more than most, the finest example being the much-acclaimed LBW of Graham Thorpe at Old Trafford in 2000.
With Curtly Amrbose he formed one of the greatest new ball partnerships, their 412 wickets with the shining cherry second only to Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram's 476. And while his batting bordered on side-splitting comedy — indeed, he was one of the weakest batsmen among the pantheon of Caribbean quick bowlers — Walsh was unique among the select band for a very special reason. He was the only West Indian fast bowling legend to lead the cricket team in Test matches, and did so with distinction in as many as 22 of them, winning six and losing seven. At six foot five inches, he was a captain all the players looked up to — literally.
Interviewed after his 300 Test wickets, Fred Trueman had said that anyone who followed him to the mark would be bloody tired. Walsh defied the arrow of time and the limits of human endeavour to go on and on, never quite losing pace, running in with his economical action, not a step taken in vain, and ended with 519 wickets from 132 Tests, sending down 30,019 balls in the process. He bowled 10,822 more in ODIs capturing 227 more wickets in that format, which included one instance of ridiculous bullying of a Sri Lankan batting side to finish with figures of 5 for 1.
He bowed out in 2001, perhaps as the last of the magnificent breed of great West Indian fast bowlers.