Walsh

Born October 30, 1962, Courtney Andrew Walsh is a former West Indies fast bowler and a legend of the game. Hailing from Jamaica, Walsh was a member of the great West Indian fast bowling quartet that took the Caribbean cricket to the pinnacle of the world cricket. A tremendous athlete, Walsh survived the grinds of the international cricket for 16 long years and became the first from his art to reach to the milestone of 500 Test wickets. On his birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 18 interesting facts from the life of the West Indian giant, who was considered to be a true gentleman during his playing days and even today is admired by team mates and opponents alike.

1.  Early life: Walsh was born to parents Joan Wollaston and Eric Walsh and raised on Molynes Road in the Half Way Tree area of Kingston, Jamaica.

2.  The Melbourne Club: Walsh played his early cricket for the same cricket club for which another West Indian great Michael Holding also played. For a club based in Jamaica, it had a rather amusing name — The Melbourne club.

3.  Child Prodigy: James Laker and Anil Kumble did it in Test cricket; Walsh did it in school cricket. In the year 1979, when he was aged 17, Walsh took all 10 wickets to fall in an innings playing for the Excelsior High School’s Sunlight Cup Cricket team. The team at the receiving end was Camperdown High School’s team. Three years later, he was playing First-Class cricket for Jamaica.

4.  ‘Duracell’: Though Walsh was fondly called as ‘Mark’ or ‘Cuddy’ by his friends and relatives, he got the nickname ‘Duracell’ by his team-mates at Gloucestershire, an English county club for which he played for 14 long years. He got the name because of his ability to bowl long spells.

5.  Test debut: Walsh’s Test debut came in the year 1984 against Australia during the first Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy at Perth. He made his debut alongside the legends such as Malcolm Marshall, Michael Holding and Joel Garner and had little to do in the first innings. The pace-trio skittled the Australians for a paltry 76, with Holding taking six wickets and Garner and Marshall two each. Walsh was a mere spectator on the field. He, however, got a chance to bowl in the second innings and he picked up two wickets. Batsman Graeme Wood was his first international victim in the match that West Indies won by an innings margin.

6.  The demolition act: Against Sri Lanka in December 1986, during a One-Day International (ODI) match at Sharjah, Walsh took five wickets conceding just one run. He was used as a fifth bowler in the match that West Indies won by 193 runs. Walsh ran through the Sri Lankan tail, registering the cheapest five-wicket haul in international history. He finished with a dream spell of 4.4-3-1-5, his solitary five-wicket haul in the format.

7.  Magnanimity costs the World Cup semi final berth for the first time: During the 1987 World Cup Walsh won millions of hearts when he refused to ‘Mankad’ Saleem Jaffar – a gesture that ultimately cost West Indies a World Cup semi-final berth for the first time. The famous incident happened when an unplayable Walsh was coming running to bowl the fourth ball of his over at the crucial stage of the match and found non striker Jaffar already leaving the crease to take the next run. Walsh, despite having all the time in the world to just knock down the stumps at the non striker’s end and run Jaffer out, just stopped bowling and signalled him with his eyes to get back into the crease. This act of magnanimity from the legendary fast bowler cost West Indies the match, as Abdul Qadir scored the winning runs. Walsh received a hand-woven carpet from a local fan and was hailed for his true sportsmanship.

8.  The hat-trick: Walsh became the first bowler ever to take a Test hat-trick spanning over two innings in the first Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy at Brisbane in the year 1988. His victims included Tony Dodemaide in the first innings and Mike Veletta and Graeme Wood in the second.

9.  Partnership with Ambrose: In the earlier stages of his career, Walsh played second fiddle to the likes of Marshall, Holding and Garner. Later on, he formed a deadly partnership with Curtley Ambrose and the two together took 412 wickets between them at 22.10 in 52 Tests. Only the pair of Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis from Pakistan has managed more wickets together than them. Though Walsh played a supporting role to a more illustrious Ambrose throughout the 1999s, he played a significant role in the fading days of West Indies cricket.

10.  The slow yorker: During the 2000 series against England, when Walsh was at the fag end of his career, he produced a famous slow yorker in the Old Trafford Test with which he completely out-foxed England batsman Graham Thorpe.

11.  Bunny with the bat: While he was a terror with the red cherry in his hand, he was a bunny when holding a bat. He owns a rather embarrassing Test-record of scoring 43 ducks during his career. However, a famous batting incident came in the year 1998-99 during the third Test of the Frank Worrell Trophy at Barbados, when chasing 311 to win, West Indies were 9 down for 302. Brian Lara was still there on a score of 140 plus. Walsh walked in to join him and given his reputation with the bat, Australia could smell a victory. However, Walsh survived those nervous moments and helped Lara take the team over the line to secure one of West Indian cricket’s famous wins.

12.  Nasty Walsh: During the West Indies tour of India in 1994, Indians were on the verge of putting an end to West Indies run of not losing a Test Series for more than a decade. But Walsh and co. didn’t allow this to happen. Manoj Prabhakar faced their brunt when he was smacked on the nose by Walsh in the second innings of the third Test. Ball went between the gap of helmet and visor and left him with bloodied face. West Indies won the Test and drew the series 1-1.

13.  Numero Uno: In the year 1998, Walsh went past Marshall’s Mark of 376 Test wickets to become the West Indies leading wicket-taker during the first Test against South Africa in Johannesburg. In 1999, he became the first West Indian and only third bowler in Test history, after Kapil Dev (434) and Sir Richard Hadlee (431), to take 400 test wickets. Soon he went past both Kapil and Hadlee and eventually became the first man to reach the milestone of 500 Test wickets.

14.  Married to cricket: Walsh never married but on many occasions, he jokingly said that his marriage to cricket was all consuming and his love of cricket continues to dominate his life and conversations. He has three children from his girlfriends, with all of whom he shares a cordial relationship. He lives with his mother and loves to cook for her.

15.  Friends: Walsh spends most of his time with a core group of friends that include Ambrose, Jimmy Adams, Roger Harper and Robert Samuels. Outside of Kingston, he stays in touch with Andrew Symonds, Mike Atherton and Jack Russell, who makes him a cup of tea when he visits England.

16.  Most not-outs: Walsh also holds the record for the most “not outs” in Test cricket — 61 times.

17.  Most balls bowled in Test career: A physiological phenomenon, Walsh had an unbreakable body, for he holds the record for most balls bowled by a fast bowler in the history of Test cricket — 30,019.

18.  Gloucestershire: There is just one flaw in Walsh’s otherwise flawless career that continues to trouble him. The acrimony over his departure from Gloucestershire in 1998, after spending 14 summers with the English county, has never eased.

“It was poorly handled by the people who were there at time but I was invited up there last year by Jon Lewis to talk to the younger bowlers and I was happy to talk to the guys and watch them play.

“I am still disappointed and sad that I never got the chance to say a proper farewell after all those years. That is the most disappointing thing that happened in my career. No one has made any effort to make it right so I just get on with life but if they asked me to get involved, it is something I would think about. I could still do a job I think,” Walsh once told The Telegraph during an interview.

(A self-confessed cricket freak, Chinmay Jawalekar is a senior writer with Criclife and CricketCountry. When not writing or following cricket, he loves to read, eat and sleep. He can be followed here @CricfreakTweets)