The original Caribbean 'Atlas'
Given the number of times Brian Lara
has more or less single-handedly carried (and occasionally let down) West Indies' batting over the past decade, it is amazing to think that his importance to the side would pale in comparison to how dependent the West Indies sides in the 1930s and 1940s were on George Alphonso Headley
, born today
Among batsmen to have scored more than 2000 test runs, he has the third highest average
, after Don Bradman and Graeme Pollock. Before World War II broke out, he averaged nearly 67 from 19 tests and he was only 29 years old. He made 10 centuries in his first 35 test innings. After nearly a decade, when he played test cricket again, he was unable to pick up from where he left off. At a time when everyone talks about too much cricket
and players 'retire' to preserve themselves
, it is poignant to think about how many great cricketers missed out on the best years of their cricketing careers because of the Second World War.
Given that Headley was referred to as the 'Black Bradman' and Bradman was referred to as the 'White Headley', I thought it'd be interesting to compare how they did when they faced off against each other. As it turned out, West Indies toured Australia in 1930/31, the only time these two greats participated in the same test series. Headley definitely came away second best, averaging 37.3
to Bradman's 74.5
I'll hazard a guess - Australia's bowling attack, Bert Ironmonger and Clarrie Grimmett in particular, were much better than West Indies' lineup of Learie Constantine and a few other names I've never heard before. I also think Australia's harder pitches may have had something to do with it. In addition, the rest of the batting was getting blown away all the time. West Indies didn't make 300 until the last test, after being thrashed by huge margins in the remaining tests, including following-on in the second and third tests. The amazing part is that across the first decade of his career, until 1939 when World War intervened, the Australia tour was the only time he averaged less than 50 in a series!
In 1948, he was appointed the first black captain of the West Indies.
All this, from someone who nearly became a dentist in the US. A delay in procuring a passport to the United States to study dentistry gave him time to squeeze in knocks of 78 and 211 against a visiting English team.
Labels: bradman, headley, west indies