Happy-Birthday-wes

Sir Wesley Winfield Hall or simply Wes Hall, born September 12, 1937, is a former West Indian cricketer who terrorised the batsmen world over with his towering frame and lethal fast bowling for over a decade. A bowler with one of the longest run-ups in cricket, Hall played 48 Tests for the West Indies. He later donned many hats, as he went on to become a selector, manager, board president and the sports minister in Barbados government. On his 79th birthday, Chinmay Jawalekar looks at 14 facts from the life of the fearsome fast bowler who was knighted for his contributions towards the sport as well as the society.

1.  Started as a wicketkeeper: Born in Saint Michael, Barbados, to a light-heavyweight boxer’s family, Hall studied at St Giles’ Boys’ School and later at the renowned Combermere School with the help of a scholarship. He made it to the Combermere School’s cricket team as a wicketkeeper-batsman and was exposed to top quality cricket as his school team played in the elite division 1 league of the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA). One of his team-mates at Combermere was future West Indies fast bowler Frank King, who made 14 Test appearances for the Caribbean side.

2.  Cable office: After schooling, Hall was employed by the Cable office in Bridgetown. He soon made it to the Cable office team and it is here that he took up fast bowling.

3.  First genuine fast bowler post World War II:  Hall was the first genuine tearaway pacer for West Indies after the post World War II era. He would bowl at a pace like fire – a phrase that went on to become the title of his autobiography.

4.  Long run-up: Hall had quite a long run-up, with an equally long follow-through, even by the standards of a fast bowler. In addition to his towering frame and fearsome looks, his long run-up made him a complete package for a deadly fast bowler. Watch his fear inducing run-up here:

5.  Mystery:  For all his achievements, it remains a mystery that Hall was never chosen as one of Wisden’s Five Cricketers of the Year. He, along with the likes of Australia’s Jeff Thomson, India’s Bishan Singh Bedi and Pakistan’s Abdul Qadir and Inzamam-ul-Haq remains as one of the five great players who surprisingly never achieved the coveted feat.

6.  Part of first tied Test: Hall was the part of the historic first-ever tied Test in the history of the game. He not just played the Brisbane Test between West Indies and Australia in 1960, but also played a vital role in the game as he bowled the last over of the match. Hall claimed 9 wickets in that match (4 for 140 and 5 for 63) and bowled the final over with Australia needing 6 runs to win. Three wickets fell in that dramatic over bowled by Hall 2 of which were run-outs, and the match was eventually tied.

7.  Partnership with Roy Gilchrist and Charlie Griffith: They say, fast bowlers always hunt in pairs. Hall too forged two important partnerships in his career — first with Roy Gilchrist and later with Charlie Griffith, both of whom were tearaway pacers. The Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack described the Hall-Gilchrist duo as “two fearsome opening bowlers reminiscent of the days of [Manny] Martindale and [Learie] Constantine, while the partnership of Hall and Griffith was often described as “the centre of attraction and the key to victory”. For years, their association was a significant feature of the victorious West Indian side.

8.  Hat-trick: Hall became the first West Indian bowler to claim a Test hat-trick, which came in the year 1959 during the third Pakistan–West Indies Test at Lahore. His victims were Mushtaq Mohamamd, Fazal Mahmood and Nasim-ul-Ghani. Hall ended the match with figures of 5 for 118 as West Indies won the match by an innings and 156 runs. It was also Pakistan’s first Test loss on their home soil.

9.  200 minutes: Hall arrived in England on the 1963 tour with the reputation of being a fearsome bowler. His greatest performance on that tour came in the second Test at Lord’s when on the final day of the Test, Hall bowled unchanged for 200 minutes and took 4 for 93 besides breaking Colin Cowdrey’s arm.

10.  Turn towards religion: In the year 1990, Hall entered in a new phase of his life. He “made a very serious decision to give heart and life to God” by attending Bible school. The deadly pacer was later being ordained a minister in the Christian Pentecostal Church and went on to minister fellow Barbadian Malcolm Marshall when the latter was in final stages of his life and lay dying from colon cancer.

11.  Politics: Hall ventured into politics after quitting the game and became a member of the senate in Barbados. He later became a minister of tourism and sport in the Barbados government.

12.  Cricket administration: After retirement, Hall served as the manager of West Indies cricket team in 2001 and also a selector. He was also elected as the president of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB), a post he held from 2001 to 2003.

13.  Laurels: For his contributions towards the West Indies and world cricket, he was inducted into the West Indies Cricket Hall of Fame and the ICC Cricket Hall of Fame. He was also awarded the Caribbean Tourism Organisation’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his work as the tourism minister. In 2005, the University of the West Indies awarded Hall an honorary Doctorate of Laws. Besides, Hall and fellow Barbadian fast bowler Griffith have a grandstand at Kensington Oval named after them — the Hall & Griffith Stand. The biggest of his laurels however came in the year 2012, when Hall was knighted in the Queen’s birthday honours list for his “services to sport and the community”.

14.  Popular figure: Hall was one of the most popular cricketers of his time. His fandom went beyond the Caribbean borders all the way to Australia, where too he was a popular figure. He played a couple of seasons of Sheffield Shield for Queensland in Australia in early 1960s and they say he arrived in Melbourne for the same to a reception usually reserved to pop-stars. Hall is known as a thorough gentleman and a good humoured person amongst his peers. He resides in Bridgetown with his family which consists of his wife and three children.

(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)