The cricket world is in mourning after West Indies cricket legend Everton Weekes died at the age of 95.
He was one of the “Three Ws” – along with Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott – who put Barbados and West Indies cricket on the map in the 1950s.
It is expected that he will be buried alongside Worrell and Walcott, who died in 1967 and 2006 respectively, at the Three Ws Stadium on the University of the West Indies’ Cave Hill Campus in Barbados where a plot has been left vacant for Weekes.
Cricket West Indies paid tribute to Weekes, tweeting: “Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of an icon. A legend, our hero, Sir Everton Weekes. Our hearts are heavy as we mourn the loss of an icon. A legend, our hero, Sir Everton Weekes.
Weekes made his Test debut at the age of just 22 during England’s 1947-48 tour of the Caribbean.
That same year, he became the first batsman to score five Test centuries in consecutive innings – a record that stands to this day.
The record might have been six consecutive centuries had he not been run out for 90 in Madras.
Weekes’ relatively diminutive stature rarely stopped him from dominating opposition bowling attacks.
When named by Wisden as one of its five Cricketers of the Year in 1950, it was written that “Weekes possessed in full measure those gifts which are the hallmark of all really great batsmen – exceptional quickness of eye and foot,” adding that “many bowlers must have been astonished at the speed with which the ball hurtled straight back past him.”
It was predicted that Weekes would continue to perform and deliver for the West Indies side, and indeed he did.
He finished his international playing career in 1958 having amassed 4,455 Test runs at an average of 58.61 and 15 centuries. Weekes’ average remains in the top 10 career averages for a player with more than 4,000 runs.
Race and Barriers
Weekes was born into a world still rife with systemic and societal racism.
As a 13-year old, Weekes began playing for Westshire Cricket Club in the Barbados Cricket League as his local club Pickwick catered only to white players.
Batting places were predominantly reserved for lighter-skinned players, but such was Weekes’ ability that he forced his way into the Barbados team at 18.
Even after his illustrious playing career was over Weekes faced discrimation.
Trevor Chesterfield recounts in an essay entitled ‘Zimbabwe Cricket: A Challenge almost Won’ in the book “Cricketing Cultures in Conflict: Cricketing World Cup 2003” that Weekes was a target of racism during a 1967 exhibition tour of the then-named Rhodesia.
On a travel day, Weekes joined his white teammates for a drink at a Gwelo bar but was individually told on arrival, “Get out, you know where your bar is.”
Weekes and former West Indies teammate Rohan Kanhai threatened to abandon the tour but remained after an apology from officials in government.
The discrimination didn’t stop there and, although Weekes was said to be a mild-mannered and quiet person, he was unafraid to stand up to racism.
While denied by officials at the time, a game against a local side in Gwelo – now known as Gweru in Zimbabwe – was moved from a ground in the white area to a substandard ground in the black area due to Weekes’ and Kanhai’s presence in the touring side.
A white local approached the Bajan great before the game, barking: “Say you there … Weekes, I know you’re going to give us a first-class performance, aren’t you?” all while wagging his finger.
The then-42-year old replied: “Well, as this is a second-class venue, it’ll be a second-class performance.”
Weekes proceeded to purposefully top-edge his first ball and walked off without waiting to see if he had been caught out.
Weekes suffered a heart attack in June last year but rallied to see his 95th birthday in February this year.
The current West Indies side arrived in England at the beginning of June for a three-Test series set to begin on July 8.
It has been announced that both England and the West Indies will sport the Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts during the series.
Both teams are wearing black armbands today during their respective intra-squad warm-up matches to honor Weekes, with the West Indies also holding a minute’s silence before play.