Sir Everton Weekes: An Appreciation is a slim volume written with characteristic meticulousness by the legendary Barbadian cricket commentator and writer Tony Cozier. Published by John McKenzie after Cozier’s death, it chronicles the life and career of the great West Indian batsman in all its factual details with an endearing personal link running through the narrative. Arunabha Sengupta writes about the book and how it came into being.
It is not one of those formidable 400-page biographies that seem to flood the cricket market today. Neither does it have dozens of glossy-coloured photographs. In fact, the print-length runs only 50 pages, followed by 6 more pages of statistics. There is only one picture, that of the great batsman essaying one of his signature drives through the off-side.
Sir Everton Weekes: An Appreciation is, nevertheless, a delightful volume which chronicles the entire playing career of the superb Barbados cricketer in every desirable detail.
It is more than that. It is a history of that important decade of West Indian cricket during which Weekes batted for the islands, covering all the Tests played during those 10 years.
In many ways, it follows the art of the summary that Cozier almost patented with his definitive The West Indies: 50 Years of Test Cricket. The book is written almost in identical manner, with the career and deeds of Weekes providing the framework. It is as if the volume is not only a tribute to the great cricketer and his magnificent career, it is also testimony to the perfection of the craft of the man who was called the Voice of West Indian Cricket.
Cozier, who enjoyed a splendid relationship with Weekes, writes with his characteristic eye for detail, penchant for brevity and commendable restraint, seldom allowing the evident admiration for the batsman and person spill over the steady structure of facts. Additionally, there are frequent insights and insertions from Weekes himself which enrich the volume into a precious work of cricket literature.
The book came about as the result of a discussion between Cozier and John McKenzie, the Surrey-based cricket bookseller and publisher. In the 1950s, John Arlott had done a series of appreciations of cricketers he had been fond of, such as the Hampshire county cricketers. He only produced a very few copies of each of these books, but the readers loved them because they were written from the heart. It was during the discussion with McKenzie that Cozier came up with the idea of doing something similar on Weekes, a cricketer he was close to.
“They gelled very well. Sir Everton invited Cozier when he celebrated his 90th birthday,” McKenzie recalls.
The idea was soon transformed into action, and Cozier started working on what would be his final work. However, it was not a smooth ride.
“He took longer and longer and longer; the poor man was so ill,” McKenzie adds.
Eventually it was completed. McKenzie approached the Association of Cricket Statisticians and Historians and the West Indian statistician and cricket sociologist Keith Sandiford, and they gave him the permission to reproduce the statistics at the end of the book.
Twenty-five deluxe editions have been produced in original half-calf, signed by both Cozier and the 92-year-old Weekes. They are priced at £175 each. Additionally, there are 100 numbered copies in original cloth, also signed by the author and the subject of the book. These are priced at £100 each.
There is also the £20-edition in original pictorial stiffened wrappers, bearing a photograph of Weekes on the cover and produced in maroon to depict the West Indian colours.
Unfortunately, Cozier passed away before the book was produced.
“Sir Everton was very helpful,” McKenzie recalls. “If it had not been for him I would not have been able to insert certain minor details. He is still very sharp, very active. When I was in Barbados I called him to say that I would come and see him. He immediately offered to drive down to my hotel instead. The man is 92, but he drove down, got off his car and walked into the hotel. Still sprightly.”
The length of the book may lead one to believe that it is just an overview of the career, but one cannot be more wrong. As already indicated, the entire career of Weekes is dealt with in detail, encompassing every notable deed of the man and every event of importance in West Indian cricket during that period. Additionally, it does an excellent job in capturing the drama around certain pivotal situations.
The first hundred of Weekes, the one that started the sequence of five in successive innings, is recounted with every detail, including the complications surrounding his journey to the ground and the uncertainty that dogged his appearance in the Test.
Alongside there are anecdotes and insights shared by Weekes about topics ranging from how Viv Richards and other younger men teased him about his duck in the match where the other two celebrated Ws, Frank Worrell and Clyde Walcott, added 574; about how the residential buildings between which he played cricket while growing up, especially the glass windows and confiscated balls, contributed to his hitting only one six in his career; how his retirement was a result of problems with the management and how it relates to the modern day turmoil in West Indian cricket.
Every important event of the career of Weekes is scrupulously documented, and that goes beyond the Test days. Cozier describes his reign as the first black captain of Barbados, and his little used leg-breaks claiming 4 for 38 in the island’s win against MCC in 1960. There is also sufficient statistical and analytical detail to underline how incredible a batsman Weekes had been, and where he stood among his contemporaries.
But, in spite of the focus on Weekes, Cozier does not lose sight of other details of the Test matches. All the major feats in the Tests involving West Indies are covered, from the heroic deeds of Hazare and Modi in India to the Ramadhin-Valentine show in England to the demolition by Lindwall, Miller and Johnston in Australia to the brilliance of Hutton in the controversial 1953-54 tour to the padding-up tactics of May and Cowdrey to blunt the effect of Ramadhin to the triple-centuries of Hanif and a young Sobers in the final series of Weekes.
In retrospect, the amount of information and specifics loaded into the few pages of the book seem incredible. And after that Cozier also manages to talk about the post-cricket life of the legend, which includes emerging as one of the leading Bridge players of the island.
In short, Cozier’s final work is both a heart-touching appreciation of the legendary batsman and also a tribute to the writer’s art of crisp, concise and comprehensive narration.
Sir Everton Weekes: An Appreciation
Written by Tony Cozier
Ewell, published by JW McKenzie Ltd
8vo (6) + 50 + (6) pp. Frontispiece
Deluxe edition of 25 copies (numbered 1-25) signed by Everton Weekes and Tony Cozier, original half calf: £175
Limited edition of 100 copies (numbered 26-125) signed by Everton Weekes and Tony Cozier, original cloth: £100
Original pictorial stiffened wrappers: £20
Available only at JW McKenzie Ltd