Wes Hall
Cricket West Indies

More than being just loved, the West Indies are widely admired for their big hitting exploits. The moment one notes that there’s the West Indies in any format of the game, especially in the current context of the sport, one’s attention, more often than not, shifts towards the scorecard. And you expect it to be a soaring one.

A big scorecard.

You instantly expect big hits and going by the nature of their wham-bam strokemakers, who leave little to the imagination, you tend to count the number of sixes they’ve hit in a match.

More often than not, it’s the West Indians who outscore their opponents in the sixes and fours hit department.

Though this inveterate habit of expecting the average West Indian dasher to smoke the bowlers into a submission was not shaped randomly. It didn’t happen in mythical terms. Nor did it happen on its own.

Going by the mighty achievements of their big white ball players- the Gayle’s, the Pollard’s, the Brathwaite’s, the Russell’s and now, the Pooran’s- expecting West Indians to hammer bowlers just became a thing to expect.

But was their cricket always and just about that?

Back in the halcyon days, it was anything but.

Today if the West Indies are still considered many a fan’s second favourite team after that of the country of his origin, it is because they are still a shadow, albeit a pale one, of having been a cult.

Back then when cricket knew of no Lara, no Sir Viv, no Shai Hope even, the West Indians were already the fire breathing dragons on the cricket turf.

They did to their opponents- whether India or Australia or England- what Clint Eastwood did to the bad guys in those unmissable spaghetti westerns.

We know quite well he just hammered them; drilling into their mortal bodies countless bullets.

Likewise, the West Indians drilled inescapable bullets into the bodies of their opponents. Today’s Instagram loving, constantly Tweeting, app-obsessed generation may well relate to the term bodied.

The West Indians, quite simply, bodied their opponents. But the primal force that submitted West Indian opponents into oblivion wasn’t a great gaggle of batsmen; they were primarily bowlers.

And back in the late fifties and throughout the sixties, the West Indians had a certain Wes Hall in their ranks.

Fast. Brutal. Lethal and relentless. The fiery pacer was all this and more.

Moreover, Wes Hall, as Mark Nicholas describes him, could go all day long without breaking into any kind of sweat.

His opponents, such as the widely respected Mike Selvey remembers the Hall of the sixties as being a brutal force of nature.

Others quite simply contended with the fact that he wasn’t the ideal bowler to face especially during the closing stages of a Test match’s play.

And definitely not the one to be against with a bat in hand on the final over of a Test match.

At a time and in an age where there are as many number crunchers as there are fish in the Atlantic Ocean, obsession with stats being at an all-time high, it’s important to remember that the first ever West Indian to take a Test hat trick was, and still is, Wesley Hall.

Those who played alongside him regarded his tenacity and sheer will to contribute to the West Indian cause.

In an era where there was no Walsh and no Sir Curtly yet and even no whispering death, in some sense it could be argued that Wes Hall, who turns 86 today, was one of the institutions of good clean hard hitting West Indian fast bowling.

In a sport that yearns for impact, it didn’t take Sir Wes Hall to create some, taking three priceless wickets of Vijay Manjrekar, Nari Contractor and Pankaj Roy in his debut Test, emerging, however with four wickets in the game.

So lethal was his penchant to target the stumps that his maiden wicket in Test match cricket did certainly rattle the stumps of Pankaj Roy.

Back in 1958, together with Eric Atkinson, Roy Gilchrist, the latter who for some was just unplayable, Wes Hall arrived on the scene to further fortify the West Indian fast bowling cauldron.

His eventual bowling partner, though, would turn out to be Charlie Griffith, who besides being a close friend, was also interestingly Wes Hall’s compatriot from Barbados.

What’s rather emphatic to note is that 130 of his 192 career wickets came against India and England combined; Hall would awe struck onlookers by collecting sixty five a piece against both opponents.

But the team he truly wore out with his unrelenting pace and accuracy, records and past documentations of his heroics suggest, was England; not long after his debut, when he was just two years into playing Test cricket, Hall eclipsed a Colin Cowdrey, Peter May, Ted Dexter and Ken Barrington-powered England with a majestic 7 for 69.

This would remain his best bowling figures in his five day career. Wes Hall’s was a career that truly undermined the teams from India and Pakistan; his bowling average against the two remained nearly identical, Hall maintaining an enviable average of 17 in Tests against Pak until the end of his career.

All of that said, what’s rather remarkable about the teams and their players from that bygone era is just how much they succeeded despite functioning in an age that was an utter stranger to aspects of the modern age, such as- data analytics, mental guidance and coaching, nutrition even.

But that was a time where players soldiered on, putting national duties on the front page of their chapters over anything else having no untoward lust toward anything else other than cricket, which was their prime currency and mode of operation in life.

Zero advertisements. Zero deflection from appearing for the country given there were no freelancing cricket-meets-entertainment leagues. Was that why Wes Hall managed to bowl no fewer than 1658 overs in his career, which in effect, culminated in way more than 9000 deliveries?

Source: David Griffin Photography (Twitter)

Or was it sheer athleticism and desire to usurp batsmen that led way to a glorious career for a truly champion West Indian cricketer?

Whatever it is, Sir Wesley presided over a Hall of bowling greatness, a theatre functioning on sheer line and length that moved one and all; whether Ambrose and Marshall in the decades after or the likes of Roach and Joseph today.

Note- feature image from Cricket West Indies


  1. Very nicely written article about the legends of West Indies. I was fortunate enough to see them live in Indore along with sir Gary Sobers,Collis king, Nurse,collimore,lance Gibbs,hunt,Clive Lloyd had just joined the squad .It was a treat to watch them.Thanks for bringing those memories back.


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