Wesley - the true Hall of famer

Wesley Hall is one of the greatest fast bowlers to have represented the West Indies.
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 15:25 IST

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Barbados: Not many knew it was Wesley Winfield Hall. There was but an old West Indian walking into the Kensington Oval in Barbados with a walker and a couple of women helping him to a spot on a dismally hot Monday afternoon. 

It was someone somewhat important is all anyone knew. Even the Indian team which sat a few feet above in the pavilion was curious. But when Rohit Sharma, Rahul Dravid and Virat Kohli were summoned, you knew the man sitting under the blazing sun, behind sleek glares, was of cricketing pedigree, the West Indian kind: cool in a chequered shift and cool with his tweaking. 

Better yet, his 86-year-old frame still lets you know that he was a bowler. Those hands, those long, arthritic, discoloured fingers were a tell-tale, and as ‘The Reverend’ sat down to preach, the two or so people in attendance listened as he stumbled and mumbled his way through his journey, one which is temporally aligned to when cricket in the West Indies began to bloom. 

Born in 1937, Hall quickly established himself as one of the greatest fast bowlers to represent the West Indies. That, in and of itself, is a statement worth holding in high regard for the Caribbean has produced pacers aplenty. Still, with 192 wickets from 48 Tests at an average of 26.38, Hall remains a hallmark figure. 

He didn’t quite seem it as he ambled around with help as his aching knees buckled every so often without the walker, but history will be kind to him for he will go down as one of the most feared bowlers of any era. 

This is why when Jasprit Bumrah walked by - curious but without intention to ask - it was puzzling. Arguably, the greatest pacer from this generation didn’t have the inquisitiveness to speak to one of the most feared from a few generations ago. Alas.  

Rohit did. Dravid was typically grateful, even jocular, and Kohli was purely unsure for he was being called one of the greatest batters ever from a man who had actually witnessed some of the greatest in their prime. It was confusion for all, more so because Sir Hall’s arrival was not planned. 

As he sat with his, and (Charlie) Griffith’s, name in the background, he was quick to admit that he hadn’t done well at Bridgetown, but this was home despite his ‘worst’ (9 wickets in four Tests). 

Hall was here to promote his autobiography - ‘Answering the Call -The Extraordinary Life of Sir Wesley Hall’, and would talk to anyone who would listen, save for the media managers ruining the show for everyone. 

Hall was minutes away from home, but his mind (oh, that whimsical space) was stuck in the days before cricket was what it is now. Frankly, it made him about the most endearing person at the venue on the day. 


On being back at the Kensington: I played at this ground but it’s the only ground in the world where I didn’t get wickets. I tried too hard here. When I first came here, I was unknown as a bowler and I was trying too hard. It’s okay, I think I got wickets elsewhere. 

On the autobiography: It’s not a cricket book. It’s really about my life. It speaks of my beginnings, I was a guy from the proletariat (working class community). When I was eight-years-old I felt that the best way out of it was to have a good education and not to pay for it because I couldn’t afford it, and the second way was to play for the West Indies. I thought if I played for the West Indies I would be a millionaire by the time I am 30. I wasn’t so (laughs).

I didn’t only play for the West Indies, I coached them, I managed them, I was the President of the association, I represented them in the ICC, I was also a selector, and that was hard. It was tough back in the day. It was not bad, but it was hard. I went into politics for 22 years. This book will tell you exactly what I was asked to do, sometimes I was not even qualified to do it. You see, some people go overseas, diplomats, and if the prime minister calls me and asks me for a favour, I would do it. I am lucky that it went okay. I played in Trini (Trinidad), a priest asked me to help with a bad neighbourhood, and I did that and I am proud that that neighbourhood is still safe. People have asked me to help them with cricket and I have, people have asked me to help them with politics, I have, and every step out of the way… I have always helped when I could.

On the stand being named after you and Griffith: That’s a privilege, but you know, as your team gets better, they will rent out the space. The ends too, that’s how it works, but see; (Malcolm) Marshall to me was the greatest bowler of all time. In fact, I said that once, I am a priest so I was there administering his funeral so when I said that, you could hear a pin drop. Now many reputable cricketers say that but I knew that way before. Malcolm was beyond comprehension. People back then were not prepared for that take back then. 

On longevity: It’s strange isn’t it, despite all the years of playing, I think around 16 years, I have only played India a few times (13 Tests across three series, including the debut in India in 1958). The game has now changed. We must have played four teams in the past so yeah, obviously we would play for longer. 

On your run-up: I was so young (when I was in India for my Test debut). I went to England before that (county stint), and I couldn’t run properly (to bowl) but they (the selectors) didn’t know that so I took a year off myself, one whole year, but I ran ten miles a day. By the time I got to India, I only got into the team because Frank Worrell was not there. He was at the university. Four other bowlers had to play before me. I eventually got a chance. I used to run on the beach here. I used to do, 10 miles and 12 miles at the same rate. Unless you have your balance going, you can’t bowl well, It’s like a horse in a race, if you don’t train it to know when to pull away it can’t do it on the day so that’s how I trained: slow and steady and then sprint, slow and steady and then sprint. I never worried about the times, I only know that I did that three times a day sometimes. 

On the evolution of the sport: See, one has to be aware that things will change. If (WG) Grace was around, I am sure he would have wondered what we were doing, and the same goes to my generation with what’s happening now. T20 cricket is different. It’s so fast. I think there are certain things I wonder about such as why would batsmen be able to bat for 20 overs at a stretch when bowlers are only allowed to bowl four overs. That seems unfair to me. I often ask that. But seems to me that if that goes on all the time, people won't watch cricket anymore. 

On the death of the art of fast bowling: God forbid that doesn’t happen because the art of bowling fast is the one you want to see forever, but what would happen is that people who have another two years left in their careers will want to make some money. You can’t really blame a man who has never had any money but can make a million in six months or something like that. But then, you still have to consider your country. Something has to be done whereby we will have, anybody who could play, but see, you can't stop a fella, who has no money but is a great cricketer from getting his bite. 

On West Indian pacers: Except (Sonyy) Ramadhin and (Lance) Gibbs, we have not been very spin-friendly. We’re the land of pace. That’s what we do. I think we must have at least 20 pacers since my time who were legends, but India didn’t have anyone but say Kapil Dev back in the day. I didn’t see anyone at that time. But see what has happened now, your fast bowlers are mmmmm..,. exceptional. 

On West Indies cricket: If you ask me this today, I would say I’m not concerned. But if you had asked me two years ago, I was very concerned. You need players who will stick with you. But, if I’m from the proletariat and I don’t have any money, and someone offers me a million dollars for four years of cricket, well then I cannot refuse it (laughs). We have to deal with it in such a way that this situation does not happen.

Wes Hall to Virat Kohli: It’s my pleasure to be with the best batter in the world. I have followed your career very closely from the time you started. I have seen a lot of great players in my time and you’re right up there. When you are through (with your career), give as much help (the cricket world) as you can. I think you have another three-four years of cricket left in you at this level. I wish you well.  

Published 19 June 2024, 15:25 IST

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