Brilliant cricketer who was the last of the Three Ws

Barbados is scarcely bigger than the Isle of Wight, yet in the 1940s, the island nation produced three legendary Test cricketers – Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott, and Everton Weekes – who “lit up the game” in the postwar period, said BC Pires in The Guardian. The three batsmen were born within 17 months of each other, all delivered by the same midwife. Weekes, who has died aged 95, was the last surviving member of the so-called “Three Ws”, and the most prolific scorer of the trio. Powerful all around the crease, and with an attacking style reminiscent of Sir Donald Bradman’s, he scored 4,455 runs in 48 Tests for the West Indies at an average of 58.61, including 15 centuries. Together, the Three Ws, who were all eventually knighted, had a “devastating” impact on West Indies cricket; and as outstanding black players in a staid and still white-dominated society, an even greater impact on the islands’ social order.

Everton DeCourcy Weekes was born in 1925, and grew up in a slum in Bridgetown. It was just down the road from the Kensington Oval; but his father followed football, and named him after his favourite team. (“It’s a good job he wasn’t a fan of West Bromwich Albion,” England spinner Jim Laker once remarked.) He played cricket at St Leonard’s school, but he received no formal coaching. In 1943, he enlisted in the Barbados battalion of the Caribbean Regiment. He didn’t see active service, but during the War he was talent-spotted. He made his debut for Barbados in 1945, aged 19. By 1947-8, he had made enough of an impression to be selected by the West Indies, “to play against Gubby Allen’s weak England side”, said The Daily Telegraph. Having scored only modestly in the first three Tests, he was dropped for the final one. But when George Headley was injured, he was reinstated and scored 141, helping his side to the win that clinched the series. He was duly selected for the tour of India the next year, where he hit centuries in his first four innings, giving him a record of five consecutive Test centuries that still stands. In 1949, he played the first of his seven seasons for Bacup in the Lancashire league. He was homesick and suffered from the cold, but was cheered by his landlady’s potato pies, and the presence of Worrell and Walcott, who were playing for nearby Radcliffe and Enfield, respectively.

In 1950, the trio were on the “formidable” side that gave the West Indies its first series victory in England, said The Times. At Trent Bridge, Weekes scored 129, sharing a stand of 283 in 210 minutes with Worrell. Outside the Tests that summer, he had scores of 246 not out against Hampshire, 304 not out against Cambridge University, and 200 not out against Leicestershire, said BC Pires. That last performance prompted Worrell to advise him to stop hitting so hard. “You give the fielders no chance, so they don’t chase the ball,” he told him. “Hit a little less hard and they will have to run after it. Watch how quickly they tire.” An affable man, Weekes is said to have appreciated the joke, but he clearly didn’t heed his teammate’s advice. Yet he was not reckless at the crease. Like Bradman, he believed that trying to hit sixes was risky, and only twice in his Test career did he hit the ball clear over the boundary.

Weekes was made captain of Barbados in 1958, the same year he made his last appearance for the West Indies. He was 32 when he retired from Test cricket, but continued to play first-class cricket until 1968. He later worked as a coach and commentator. He also put his shrewd judgement to good use in another context: he was an excellent bridge player, and represented Barbados in that game for many years. He is survived by a daughter and three sons, one of whom, David Murray, also played for the West Indies.