The extraordinary life of Sir Everton Weekes

OBITUARY

Sir Everton Weekes's zest for life, his ability to laugh at himself and the insatiable enthusiasm to keep facing every challenge with a smile and a laugh had everyone around him in awe

Sir Everton Weekes’s zest for life, his ability to laugh at himself and the insatiable enthusiasm to keep facing every challenge with a smile and a laugh had everyone around him in awe © Getty

“I’m happy… only thing I’d like would be to take on Usain Bolt in the 100… but we know that won’t happen.” Phillip Spooner wasn’t surprised by the sprightly tone and the trademark humour at the other end of the line when he called on February 26 this year. That’s the Sir Everton Weekes the longstanding West Indies media manager had known and interacted with for nearly 25 years after all. So, it was only natural that on his 95th birthday, Weekes would joke about wanting to outrun the fastest man the world’s ever seen.

For, life had never really slowed down for the last of the remaining three Ws (alongside the late Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clyde Walcott). The Bajan was the youngest man to have ever lived into his 90s. Not only did he remain self-sufficient in every aspect of his life, including cooking his own meals, he also continued to take a dip ever so often at Miami Beach in the fishing town of Oistins in Barbados, which he called home for most of his post-cricket life. He’d actually only stopped swimming on his doctor’s orders around 18 months ago at the ripe age of 93.

Unlike his joke about challenging Bolt to a 100 m dash, the former great had sounded very serious and rather confident about reaching the three-figure mark in life when interviewed by the late Tony Cozier upon turning 90 in 2015. Unfortunately though, despite having been the most prolific century-getter in his era with bat in hand, Weekes has ended up falling five short of his promise to Cozier with his passing on Thursday (July 2).

There is of course a lot to be celebrated about the extraordinary life of Sir Everton. His incredible performances with the bat – a Test average of 58 – represent only a segment of it. He of course continued giving back to the sport that he would often talk about owing a lot to, be it as a commentator, an administrator, a coach or even as one of the earliest match-referees. Not to forget the years he spent playing Bridge at the highest level, after having represented his country in football as a youngster.

Above all, it was Weekes’s zest for life, his ability to laugh at himself and the insatiable enthusiasm to keep facing every challenge in life with a smile and a laugh that had everyone around him in awe. If it was the three Ws who brought Barbados’ unique brand of entertaining batsmanship to the fore, Sir Garry Sobers, Conrad Hunte and Seymour Nurse took it up a notch before Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge left their stamp on it. And Greenidge believes Weekes had a huge role to play in how he approached his own batting.

“Sir Everton was a favourite of all West Indians. He was a genuine man, he had a great sense of humour and was a very jovial person. We will all miss him. He always offered great advice on batting. He always told you ‘if you don’t hit the ball in the air you won’t get caught’. Our conversations were always very pleasant,” the former opener told Caribbean Media Corporation.

The ‘keep the ball along the ground’ diktat was understandable considering Weekes didn’t believe in aerial shots to a great extent despite being renowned for his stroke-play.

It was the manner in which Weekes would build an innings and find gaps on the field that stood out for former captain Clive Lloyd about his batting. But it was his ability to transcend boundaries as a human being with his affable personality that Lloyd felt made him a hero around the world, while talking to Caribbean Media Corporation.

“He was a great Barbadian and a great West Indian. Someone who was proud the fly the West Indies flag wherever he went. He was a pioneer and paved the way for persons like myself to come along. We kept in close contact and was someone I had the greatest respect for. He was one of those great men in West Indies cricket who taught us how to play cricket. The Three Ws showed fortitude and were very professional. They showed the world we could play the game. They were winners and were respected all over the world. People always speak with reverence about Sir Everton in India, in the Leagues in England and wherever he went,” he said.

For all his achievements on the field, it’s the barriers that Weekes broke alongside Worrell and Walcott-all three of course born within a mile of each other-as young black men at a time of great inequality that will stand as his greatest legacy. In an interview with Cozier for Cricket Legends of Barbados when he was 73, Weekes-the first black man to captain Barbados-had spoken about how cricket had kept him out of trouble, and the challenges of growing up in poverty.

“I would have been sent on an errand to get rice or sugar or peas and I would leave home at 10 in the morning and be back at 6 and of course I’d be spanked. But I would go and do it all over again the following day. I don’t think I’ve invested too badly. Cricket was responsible for this. It was one of the ways to keeping out of trouble,” he’d said.

And his humility came through resoundingly when he adds, “Cricket has made me into a more socially accepted person. A lot of people will talk to me because I’m Everton Weekes the cricketer. I’m not sure they’ll talk to me because I am Everton Weekes the person. I am prepared to accept both.”

But he hasn’t just been accepted but lionised as both an exceptional cricketer and person, and so he shall be forever. Sir Everton Weekes wasn’t born into privilege but rose to aristocracy in the cricket world with his feats with the bat and now leaves this world with a deserved knighthood for having provided a blueprint on how to live a wholesome life, at full speed.

© Fame Dubai

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