In 146 years of Test cricket’s existence, Sir Everton Weekes has one record that has been unmatched, even after eras where Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and Ricky Ponting dominated all records. Almost 80 years ago, Weekes was not just a name in cricket, he was perhaps one of the most feared names.
Funnily, the West Indian great was named after the English football club, Everton, but the history that surrounds him is multifold. In between the 1940s and 50s, Weekes was easily one of the biggest names in world cricket, and his bat often sang a perfectly pitched tune.
What was more astonishing is the ladder that he had to climb to find a place in that West Indies team. A team that was filled with ridiculous talents, from Frank Worrell, George Headley, Clyde Walcott, John Goddard and Jeffrey Stollmeyer. Having done the hard yards in domestic cricket, it was his time to shine on the world stage.
But just like some of the other great stories, the start wasn’t as perfect.
Having made his debut at the age of 22, Weekes had quite an underwhelming start. A string of average scores - 35, 25, 36, 20 and 36 - put him on the cusp of dropping to the bench for the fourth Test against the then-favourites, England. If not for George Headley being deemed unfit just a day prior, Weekes’ record and his long-stretched career in Test cricket wouldn’t have existed.
Despite not finding a seat on the plane, for love or money, fate had an important role to play in his career, this time via Jack Kidney, who gave away a seat to Weekes. In spite of reaching a day late, Weekes was still in the squad, and the playing XI, for the fourth Test against England.
Walking in at 39/1, the right-hander went on to change the course of the Test, and his career with a swashbuckling 141, which really put him on a higher pedestal. Ultimately, it helped West Indies beat England 2-0, and thumped a red-lined statement on world cricket. Weekes now became an integral part of that setup, or did he?
Back in 1949, just a year after India gained its freedom from British rule, Weekes had arrived and how, after a high against England. Despite batting higher in the order against England, and later North Zone, he only got a chance to bat at No.7, a position that is often unheard of for a specialist batter. A 128 in a scoreboard that read 631 all-out perhaps isn’t a big thing.
But what transpired after the innings perhaps was a telling tale of the series and possibly one of the greatest pages in cricketing history.
‘Weekes was faced with a ring of six fielders from point to mid-off to stop his powerful off-side strokes. He deftly countered by placing the ball through the wide gap between square-leg and mid-on,’ Reuters reported on the innings. And then came weeks of mania, where Weekes at No.4 wasn’t for the Indian weak-hearted.
In the second Test in Bombay (now Mumbai), Weekes, who was promoted at No.4, put on a dazzling show, a show where he showed no respite to an Indian bowling unit who had lost all their voices amidst the musical symphony from the blade of the Barbadian. And, when he walked back after scoring 194, surely he was just getting warmed up.
And the record
Heading to the third Test in Calcutta, the heat was truly on. Figuratively and metaphorically. In Weekes’ own recollection later, “He [Amarnath] kept saying that when we got to Calcutta, he was going to show us what swing and seam bowling was really like on a grassy pitch.” The fire was truly set ablaze.
What followed was the wildfire, one that caught then and hasn’t been replicated ever in cricketing history. Grassy pitch in Kolkata? Sledges? No worries, said Weekes as he went on to crunch 24 boundaries in a knock where he went on to post 162 of the 366 runs that the Windies had scored. Seldom do batters do such a thing. But what followed in the second innings truly cemented him as one of the greats.
After some show-boating with the bat, on 86, there was an opportunity for Amarnath to end the streak. But alas, he was dropped, and his second century, his fifth on the trot and a world record was en route.
At the same Eden Gardens, Weekes became not just a well-celebrated cricketer who was laced with the varied coloured garlands but was rather laced with the eternal history of this great game. He then went on to narrowly miss his sixth consecutive century when he was deemed run out dubiously by the square-leg umpire.
As his own admission, maybe the umpire did not want to see more of him.
In just 12 innings, the quick-footed right-hander got to 1000 Test runs, a record fast that he shares with England great Herbert Sutcliffe. Over 48 Test matches, Weekes scored 4,455 runs at an average of 58.16 with the help of 15 centuries. Alongside Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott, Weekes formed a batting trio as the Three Ws.
Sir Everton DeCourcy Weekes, KCMG, GCM, OBE. While age has caught up with him since then, his record - one of 74 years - is still unmatched.