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Courtney Walsh

by Saurabh Sharma Apr 07, 2020 • 21:02 PM

Courtney Andrew Walsh is a former international cricketer (fast bowler) who represented the West Indies from 1984 to 2001, captaining the West Indies in 22 Test matches. He is best known for a remarkable opening bowling partnership along with fellow West Indian Curtly Ambrose for several years and holding the record of most Test wickets from 2000, after he broke the record of Kapil Dev. This record was later broken in 2004 by Shane Warne.

Courtney Andrew Walsh was born in Kingston, Jamaica on October 30, 1962, and he played his early cricket with the Melbourne club, which Michael Holding also represented. He made his first-class debut in 1981-82 as a teenager, taking fifteen Shell Shield wickets at 25.20 runs apiece. Less successful in 1982-83, he really came to the fore in 1983-84 when he took 30 wickets at an average of 20.06, figures good enough to earn him a tour of England in 1984. However, faced with competition from Marshall, Garner, Holding, Baptiste, Davis and Small, he did not gain a Test place until the following winter when he played in all five Tests in Australia and one at home against New Zealand, taking sixteen wickets in all.

Later that season, he also made his One Day International debut against Sri Lanka at Hobart. He first played for Gloucestershire in 1984 and was a mainstay of the side until 1998. In 1987, Walsh was named as one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year. In 1988–89 at Brisbane he took his first hat trick, dismissing Australia's Tony Dodemaide with the last ball of the first innings and Mike Veletta and Graeme Wood with his first two deliveries in the second. During that winter he also took 10 wickets in a Test match for the first time against India in Kingston.

In 1994, he was appointed captain of the West Indies for the tours of India and New Zealand after Richie Richardson was ordered to rest because of "acute fatigue syndrome". In 1995, he took 62 Test wickets at an average of 21.75 runs per wicket, a performance which he bettered in 2000 when he took 66 Test wickets at an average of 18.69, including 34 wickets in the Test series against England at an average of 12.82 runs per wicket, coming close to the record for a West Indian bowler of 35 wickets in a Test series (set by Malcolm Marshall in 1988). In the 1990s, his partnership with Curtly Ambrose was one of the most feared bowling attacks in world cricket.

During the first part of his career, Walsh served as the "stock" bowler in an attack featuring Marshall, Joel Garner and later Ambrose, but after the retirement of Marshall and Garner he took the role of the opening bowler. His action lacked the elegance of those bowlers, but its economy and his natural athleticism ensured he was accurate and durable, even over very long spells and he used his height (about 198 cm, or six-foot-six) to extract occasionally vicious bounce. Even as he lost pace in the later stage of his career he continued to take wickets at an undiminished rate and developed a devastating slower ball and a deceptive in-swinger. Most teams tended to defend him and Ambrose and attack the weaker third and fourth bowlers.

In ODIs, Walsh was not as successful although he will be remembered for his best performance where he took 5 wickets for just 1 run against Sri Lanka in 1986. In first-class cricket, he took 5 wickets in an innings more than 100 times and 10 wickets in a match 20 times. Walsh's feats with the bat are rather less flattering, as indicated by an average of seven in both Test cricket and ODIs. He also holds the record for the most Test ducks (43), but also for the most "not outs" – 61 times. His highest score, coincidentally, was 30 in both forms of the game. By the end of his career, he had such a reputation for poor batting that the crowd would cheer every ball he faced.

Walsh is also famous for his sportsmanlike gesture of not mankading last man Saleem Jaffar of Pakistan in a World Cup match in 1987, which cost the West Indies the match and a place in the semi-finals. 

Walsh retired at an age of 39, another indicator of the workhorse that he was, and West Indies have found it difficult to find a suitable replacement for him. Courtney Walsh also owns a restaurant in Jamaica called Cuddyz.

By Abhishek De

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