There have a been very few sports personalities who have won hearts on and off the field. Sir Frank Worrell was one such genius. A brilliant batsman and astounding captain on the field and a widely popular individual off it, Worrell had many achievements in his relatively short life.
Sir Frank Worrell, born on 1st August 1924, was the senior most among the cherished ‘Three W’s of West Indies cricket. He, Everton Weeks, and Clyde Walcott were born within 18 months of each other and within one mile of each other. They announced themselves almost in the same time in West Indies cricket and later in world cricket. The record 574-run partnership between Worrell (255*) and Walcott (314*) was achieved during 1945 season. The duo put up the highest stand in West Indies domestic cricket despite being just 21 and 20 respectively.
Worrell made his Test debut against England in 1948 at Port of Spain and against this same opponent made his name in the return tour of 1950. He scored 539 runs in those Test matches with his highest score of 261. For the entire decade of the 50s it was the ‘Three W’s’ who ruled the world cricket and although Worrell was the least prolific as batsman among the three, he finished with nine Test centuries, six of which came against England. His second double century, a masterful 237 was scored against the touring Indians in 1953.
By 1960, Worrell wrote his name in the history books as he became the first coloured man to be appointed as a permanent West Indies captain. It was a great moment for the sport the blacks weren’t considered for the job until 1960. The appointment thus helped West Indies cricket to avoid racial bias further. “Not to select Worrell would be an act of war,” was the argument.
In 1960-61, Worrell led West Indies in one of the greatest Test series ever. They met Richie Benaud’s Australia and delivered a 5-match series of most entertaining and competitive cricket. The tour reached its peak at Brisbane where the teams fought till the last moment and recorded Test cricket’s first ever Tie. The behaviour of the Worrell led team was impeccable in both on and off the field and they made lots of friends and admirers during the tour. Worrell ensured that his team played in excellent spirit and the sportsmanship was exemplary. The highest honour came when the trophy for which the teams were competing was named Sir Frank Worrell Trophy. Although West Indies lost the series 1-2 there was a brilliant picture with Worrell brushing the trophy with the sleeve of his blazer before handing it over to Benaud.
Worrell’s reputation was further established during a potential severe incident during 1962. The young Indians were touring West Indies and in one of the practice games, Indian captain Nari Contractor was seriously injured by a bouncer from Charlie Griffith. It was a brutal blow and Contractor was senseless and battling for life. Worrell was the opposition captain and was the first man to donate blood to save Contractor’s life which was followed by some of the other Indian players. Contractor did recover but his international career was finished. Worrell’s great gesture was lauded all over the world. Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) since 1981 celebrate their foundation day every year with a blood donation camp and call it ‘Sir Frank Worrell Day’. In 2009 Frank Worrell Memorial Blood Drive began in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009 and it was inaugurated by most fittingly Nari Contractor.
Sir Frank Worrell retired from international cricket after the 1963 tour of England. But he was still connected with the game and travelled with the West Indies team as manager to Australia and India. During the India tour of 1966-67 he was diagnosed with Leukaemia and left all his fans and admirers in tears next year when he died at the age of 42.
The man who once wrote that the island of Barbados, his birthplace, lacked a hero went on to become one. He was honoured with stamps and even with his photo on Barbados Bank note.