Albert Padmore. Courtesy: Albert Padmore’s Facebook account
Albert Padmore. Courtesy: Albert Padmore’s Facebook account

Albert Leroy Padmore, born December 17, 1946, was a lanky off-spinner whose career coincided with Clive Lloyd’s switch to a four-pronged pace attack. Padmore played a mere two Tests, but both of them were historic ones. However, he did well in Kerry Packer’s SuperTests, captained Barbados to a Shell Shield title (winning every match on his way), and managed both West Indian rebel tours to South Africa. Abhishek Mukherjee looks back at the Barbadian who donned many a hat.

A tale of two Tests

Leading by 1-0, West Indies were clear favourites going into Queen’s Park Oval. Clive Lloyd called correctly. Viv Richards slammed 177. Michael Holding took 6 for 65. West Indies acquired a 131-run lead. Alvin Kallicharran shepherded the second innings, and Lloyd set India 403. There was a-day-and­-a-half left. Lloyd had, in his side, a trio of spinners: Raphick Jumadeen, who bowled tight left-arm spin; Imtiaz Ali, the leg-spinners; and debutant Albert Padmore, the tall off-spinner who resembled Lance Gibbs in frame and action.

He also had Holding and Bernard Julien. What could possibly go wrong?

The first wicket saw 69 being added; the second, 108; the third, another 159; and whatever chances was there of a collapse was averted by another 56-run stand for the fourth wicket. Sunil Gavaskar and Gundappa Viswanath scored hundreds. Mohinder Amarnath, stumped off Padmore in the first innings, had to be run out before he scored 85. And the dashing Brijesh Patel remained unbeaten on 49 when India pulled off a spectacular four-wicket win.

It is said that Lloyd took his three spinners aside and asked them: “Gentlemen, I gave you 400 runs to bowl at and you failed. How many runs must I give you in future to make sure that you get the wickets?”

The Test was a historic one, not only because it was then the highest successful chase in Test cricket, but also because it changed world cricket for over two decades. Jumadeen was retained for the next Test at Sabina Park, where the Indian batsmen were blown away by the raw pace and bounce of Holding and Wayne Daniel. India lost only 11 wickets in the Test as one batsman after another was felled.

Imtiaz and Padmore were forgotten, for a new era — that of four-pronged West Indian fast bowlers — had been born. Andy Roberts was already there, and Holding had arrived. The next couple of years saw the likes of Daniel and Julien deliver goods —till Joel Garner and Colin Croft came along. Then came Sylvester Clarke, Courtney Walsh, Patrick Patterson, Ian Bishop, Curtly Ambrose, and — the greatest of them all — Malcolm Marshall.

World-class fast bowlers like Ezra Moseley and Tony Gray were restricted to a handful of appearances. Franklyn Stephenson did not play at all.

And, of course, no spinner ever made it — till Roger Harper came along with his batting and electric fielding to support his off-breaks. Till Harper, the fast bowlers were supported by the part-time bowling of Richards and Larry Gomes, and Carl Hooper came along later with his innocuous off-breaks.

Imtiaz never played another Test. Padmore did play one more — in the ‘Grovel’ series. England had drawn the first two Tests at Trent Bridge and Lord’s. They had even obtained the lead at Lord’s, and the Test ended with West Indies on 241 for 6 chasing 323.

Lloyd decided to get a spinner in to go with Roberts, Holding, and Daniel. England did well, bowling out West Indies for 211, a total that could have been abysmally low had Gordon Greenidge not slammed 134. Padmore was not needed when England batted, for they scored a mere 71, David Steele being the only one to reach double-figures.

Greenidge scored his second hundred of the match, and with Richards also smashing 135, Lloyd set England an unrealistic 532. When Brian Close, 45, and John Edrich, 39, walked out to bat, 65 minutes of play remained on Day Three.

Close and Edrich, to their credit, survived probably the most hostile display of fast bowling even by West Indian standards. Roberts, Holding, and Daniel kept bowling bouncers, often overstepping, but they hung on grimly, taking blow after blow.

Of the 17 overs bowled in the session, Padmore got to bowl 3. His figures read 3-2-1-0. He bowled two full-tosses in the last over of the day, but Close, probably out of confusion, blocked them.

England were bowled out for 126 the morning after. Padmore finished his two-Test career with one wicket — that of Mohinder — at the cost of 135 runs. He had sent down 474 balls. At the time of writing this article Padmore has the sixth-worst bowling strike rate in history.

Rise and fading out

But Padmore was not that ordinary a bowler. Had he got a proper run things may have been different, but after a poor Test debut he played only one more Test, and got to bowl a mere three overs. Lesser bowlers have had better Test careers.

Playing for Barbados meant, of course, playing alongside the likes of Keith Boyce and Vanburn Holder and Garner and Daniel and Marshall and Moseley and Clarke and Stephenson at various points of time in his career. It was not easy, for Barbados itself could have played an intimidating four-pronged attack.

But Padmore claimed 193 First-Class wickets at 29.94 from 68 matches. These are decent numbers, worse but certainly not significantly inferior to those of Gibbs (27.22). It was simply not the right era to play in West Indies.

Born in Halls Village, St James, Padmore broke through to the Barbados side when he was 26, no less. He claimed Lawrence Rowe on debut, but that was about it.

The first big performance came the next season. Barbados had conceded an 11-run lead to Combined Leeward and Windward Islands at Basseterre. The hosts (who boasted of Richards, no less) needed 241 to win, and reached 32 for 2.

Then Padmore had Richards caught-behind, and the floodgates opened: David Holford (4 for 6), with his leg-breaks, and Padmore (4 for 10) ran through the rest, skittling out the hosts for 53.

He got two matches when MCC toured West Indies in 1974-75. The first, for West Indies Board President’s XI, was a relentless toil: MCC piled up 511 for 4, and Padmore had 2 for 153. In the other match, for Barbados, he claimed 3 for 64. He got a call-up for winter tour to the subcontinent.

Unfortunately, he was one in a plethora of spinners. There was Arthur Barrett, the Jamaican leg-spinner; Elquemedo Willett, the left-arm spinner from Nevis; and towering over all of them (literally and otherwise) was Gibbs, no less.

This meant that Padmore did not get his Test cap on the tour. It was somewhat harsh, for his 26 wickets in India came at the cost of 21.65. This included a stretch of 6 innings in which he had 25 wickets at 12.20.

He broke Central Zone with 6 for 89 and 4 for 40 and East Zone with 5 for 48 and 3 for 32. West Indies won both matches by an innings. During this phase, they also lost consecutive Tests at Eden Gardens and Chepauk. But, alas, there was no luck for Padmore — probably because his style of bowling was too similar to Gibbs’.

He kept his place for the Australia tour (where West Indies took a 1-5 pasting), but once again, did not get a Test. Then India came over. Playing for Barbados, Padmore came to his elements, taking 5 for 42 (five of the top six, including Gavaskar and Viswanath) in the first innings.

He then took 2 for 21 in the second innings, and Barbados won by 10 wickets. Padmore duly won his Test cap, India chased down a total in excess of 400, and Padmore was dropped — but, to be fair, he was retained for the England tour.

When the tourists thrashed Hampshire by an innings, Padmore took 2 for 27 and 5 for 49. His 2 for 81 and 6 for 101 against Derbyshire (West Indies won by 10 wickets) got him another Test call-up.

But by then Lloyd had realised that his success lay in four fast bowlers. Padmore took 6 for 69 and 4 for 78 against Middlesex, but the tourists lost, and Padmore could not find his way back. Padmore finished the tour with 59 wickets at a remarkable 23.40. He was the leading wicket-taker for West Indies on the tour, but was never considered again. He was 29.

SuperTests

Padmore had an impressive haul of 4 for 72 when Pakistan toured West Indies the following winter, but the tour also witnessed the debut of Garner and Croft, blocking out Padmore from a Test slot for good. Thus, with age catching up, he did not turn down when he was called up by Kerry Packer.

He started on a high, with 2 for 14 and 4 for 119 for WSC World XI. He outdid this in two 40-over matches, with 5 for 20 and 4 for 28. However, he came to his elements when WSC West Indies emerged as a separate team, taking 4 for 102 against WSC World XI after Holding broke down.

Then, when WSC came to West Indies, Padmore was involved in an epic contest with Greg Chappell. Chappell came out at 0 for 2; when he was out for 150 the score read 256 for 9; WSC Australia eventually scored 282. At one end, amidst all this, Padmore wheeled away over after over, finishing with 54.4-21-81-6.

Padmore played 5 full WSC matches in all, taking 15 wickets at 36.80. Ray Bright (50 wickets in 13 matches) and Derek Underwood (16 in 5) were the only other spinners with more. However, in the limited-overs matches — that probably suited his style more — Padmore had 41 wickets at 26.80 against the best batsmen in the world.

Leadership

Leading Barbados was not a challenge. Ironically, Padmore relied on the same four-pronged pace strategy that had ended his career. He had, after all, Marshall, Garner, Daniel, and Clarke at his disposal.

In Teddy Foster there was even a left-arm spinner. In Collis King there was an all-rounder. David Murray stood behind the stumps. A youngster called Carlisle Best made his debut that season. Of course, all these batsmen were needed only when Greenidge and Desmond Haynes could be separated at the top.

Barbados crushed every opposition on their way to the title, winning two matches by an innings and another by 10 wickets. Only Trinidad and Tobago put up a fight of sorts, with Rangy Nanan and Inshan Ali making sure Barbados won by a mere 5 wickets. Padmore was hardly needed: he bowled an average of 24 overs a match, and took a mere 7 wickets from 4 matches, though, to his credit, his 4 for 104 and first-innings 50 were crucial in Barbados’ win over Trinidad.

The Barbados juggernaut continued the following season, when they crushed Guyana by an innings. Then, after winning 5 matches on the trot, Padmore finally faced defeat as captain, against Trinidad. Barbados came second that season, but won again next time. Padmore finished his Shell Shield career as captain with 9 wins, 1 defeat, and 3 draws. He also led Barbados to a draw against MCC.

The rebel

The first rebel tour to South Africa involved Sri Lankans. The matches, largely one-sided, generated neither interest nor revenue. They then went after the big fish — the West Indians — who toured South Africa in successive seasons.

Every West Indian who toured South Africa received a lifetime ban. This included some big names like Lawrence Rowe (who led the side on both tours), Kallicharran, Croft, Clarke, Stephenson, Julien, King, and David Murray. Padmore was also a member of both squads — as player-cum-manager. Gregory Armstrong, a liaison officer, was assistant manager.

There have been speculations regarding the rebel tours, but there was no doubt that most of these men were either past their primes (Kallicharran, Rowe, Croft, Julien, and Clarke) and/or had no chance to make it to the side in near future. The tours cost the likes of Stephenson and Moseley their careers.

At 36, however, Padmore stood no chance of making a comeback. Unlike a few others, he did not have an alternate career (which often meant a County contract). Like Winston Davis, Clarke, and Herbert Chang, Padmore, too, denied that he was going. Though Davis did not eventually go, the other three did.

Later, in a letter to Barbados Cricket Association, Padmore made it clear that he was joining the rebel tours only for money. He also told in an interview: “Each of us loathes apartheid as vehemently as the loudest opponents of that inhuman practice.”

The players were paid sums between $100,000 and $120,000 for the tours. The team boasted of outstanding talent. Clarke, Croft, Julien, Moseley, and Stephenson were a formidable force. In fact, they were quick enough for the South Africans to don helmets.

Padmore made sporadic appearances. He returned figures of 10-0-19-1 in a 50-over match. Against Northern Transvaal he had 3 for 103. In his last recorded match, against Griqualand West, he finished with 5.1-2-5-2.

Off the field, however, the Padmore-managed side received immense support, from both the white (for playing cricket in the country) and coloured (for defeating people who had been unfair to them) sections of the population. Barring an incident involving Croft being kicked out of a train carriage by a white man (Willie van Zyl), the tours generally went along well.

Padmore later migrated to Florida.

The man

What kind of a man was Padmore? On the 1976 tour to England, for example, Padmore used to party a lot. Daniel, the ubiquitous Casanova, later told Simon Lister that he and ‘Paddy’ were often out late at the disco, “shaking it a bit”.

Then there was his sense of humour. Rudi Webster narrated a story in Think Like a Champion from his days as WSC West Indies manager. Webster mentioned the English silently sledging the Australians: “they would raise both hands in the air and alternately place one hand over each wrist” to remind Australians of their convict lineage.

The WSC West Indies side were in splits. Amidst the noise a quiet voice broke through — Padmore’s (“he spoke once every two weeks,” wrote Webster): “Mr Manager, we can’t do that. If we do that those buggers would look us straight in the eyes and place their hands around their ankles.”

It was, of course, a reference to their slavery background, but it did liven up the spirits — a bit too much. “The laughter was so loud that hotel guests rushed down the corridor to the meeting room to see what on earth was going on.”

West Indies had never won a series in Australia till then. They won this one. Though it was not an official Test series, the contest and quality was as fierce as any.

They don’t make them like that anymore. Not many, after all, can inspire a team by having a laugh at his ancestry.

(Abhishek Mukherjee is the Chief Editor at CricketCountry and CricLife. He blogs here and can be followed on Twitter here.)