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Courtney Walsh: The epitome of stoic durability

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Last updated on 30 Oct 2023 | 05:06 AM
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Courtney Walsh: The epitome of stoic durability

Though his record of 519 Test wickets was soon broken by Shane Warne and then Muttiah Muralitharan, Walsh’s career wasn’t just about numbers

From ending his career with 43 ducks to not mankading Saleem Jaffar in the 1987 World Cup, which eventually eliminated West Indies from the tournament and effectively ended their dominance in world cricket, a layman might see Courtney Walsh’s career as a bag full of regrets, but the player never thought so.

Former West Indies pacer and captain Walsh played for the sheer joy of pace bowling, which was evident from the fact that he ended up bowling more than 5000 overs, which resulted in 30,019 deliveries. Given Walsh’s consistent performances and relatively injury-free career, he was widely believed to be an anatomical prototype that could last forever.

The secret was probably his simple and non-elegant bowling action, where he just catapulted the ball with a snap of his hips from a dangerous height. A career spanning over 17 long years, Walsh had realized his inhuman durability early on in his career and had no problems being a stock bowler behind Joel Garner, Malcolm Marshall and Curtley Ambrose in the 1980s.

His time would come in the next decade when Barner and Marshall retired, as Walsh formed a deadly new-ball partnership alongside Walsh with the duo tallying a mammoth 752 wickets in 94 Tests. Walsh’s biggest strength was his ability to keep the batsmen guessing, with a devastating leg-cutter being his prime weapon. Later in his career, with his pace waning, Walsh would come up with a highly effective slower ball and deceptive in-swing delivery to compensate for it.  

Despite debuting for the West Indies back in 1984 in Perth, Walsh had to wait to get into the team owing to the plethora of talent that the Men in Maroon had in the pace department. But, once Walsh broke into the line-up, he never went away. 

Walsh would first make a mark for the West Indies in 1987 with a five-fer against New Zealand, and it was all the confidence he needed. He would follow that up with a memorable tour of India, where he took 25 scalps across four Tests that included two five-wicket hauls.

Walsh’s favourite opponent was England, as was the case with most West Indies pacers of the 80s, against whom he took a whopping 145 wickets in 36 matches. Australia and India came second and third, as Walsh had 135 and 65 scalps against them, respectively.

His longevity and vast experience did force the board to hand him the captaincy in 1992 from Richie Richardson, and Walsh did lead the team to series wins over New Zealand and India, but the fan-favourite Brian Lara would soon take over after West Indies were beaten 3-0 by Pakistan.

But, Walsh was hardly affected by it as he continued his bowling regardless and went on to break Kapil Dev’s record of 434 wickets on March 27, 2000. One year later, he would become the first bowler in the history of the game to reach 500 wickets, before he eventually hung up his boot with 519 wickets. Walsh would take six wickets in his last Test match against South Africa.

The white ball hardly suited Walsh as he ended with 227 scalps in 205 ODIs, but England’s Gloucestershire fans would always be fond of the man for his years-long service for the county club. Walsh would play 429 First-class games in which he took a whopping 104 five-wicket hauls.

Though his record of 519 wickets was soon broken by Shane Warne and then Muttiah Muralitharan, Walsh’s career wasn’t just about numbers. As Walsh had famously stated, “Cricket is not about winning. It is about having fun. If you’re having fun, you’re going to win.”

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