All-rounders in Test cricket are like treasures for their respective teams. They often act as the plinth of the team and add a certain sting to their team and provide the team an extra edge in terms of both batting and bowling.
West Indies have blessed cricket with so many outstanding batsmen and a cluster of daunting fast bowlers since the inception of cricket. But apart from Sir Garry Sobers aside, the number of quality all-rounders has been limited from them over the years.
Here we will have a look at the top 5 all-rounders in Tests to have hailed from West Indies.
#5 Learie Constantine
On June 23, 1928, Learie Constantine made his debut at the Lord’s cricket ground showing the British crowd the high standard of cricket that the West Indians could produce. He took the first wicket for West Indies in Test cricket. Constantine’s batting had a very unique style – his quick reflexes, soothing drives, natural ability to cut, pull and hook made his batting very appealing to the cricket lovers’ eyes.
R.C. Robertson-Glasgow called Constantine the most exciting cricketer to watch of all his contemporaries. The West Indian was a naturally aggressive player with no intention to defend. In terms of bowling, Constantine had a short run which eventually led to fiery deliveries. He adapted himself to different conditions and oppositions by playing in various leagues.
Constantine played 18 Tests; in 33 innings, he scored a total of 635 runs with four half centuries. Constantine took 58 wickets in 29 innings with an average of 30.10 with best figures of 5/75 against England at Oval in 1939. He was also regarded as one of the best fielders of his time.
#4 Gerry Gomez
Gerry Gomez was an efficient cricketer with both bat and bowl. His first telling contribution for West Indies was a 161 not out for Trinidad against Jamaica when he was still a teenager and immediately was selected for the 1939 tour of England.
Unfortunately, his achievements later could not match up to the promise he made initially. He hit 101 against India at Delhi in the 1948-49 series, and in the 1951-52, he scored 324 runs against Australia at an average of 36 in a series where he also took 18 wickets. He took seven for 55 at Sydney in that series.
He played 29 Tests for the West Indies between 1939 and 1954, scoring 1243 runs and taking 58 wickets, and also captained in one match for the West Indies against England in 1947/48.
In the 29 Tests he played, he scored 1243 runs at an average of 30.31 with a century and 8 fifties. He took a total of 58 wickets at an average of 27.41. At the domestic level, he had a batting average of nearly 45 in the 126 matches he played. Adding to that, he also took 200 wickets at an average just above 25 with his medium pace.
#3 Collie Smith
Collie Smith became the only batsman to score a century on his first appearance against both Australia and England. In 1954–55, Collie scored 169 for Jamaica against Australia which happened to be just his third first-class match. After that, he got a call-up to the first Test squad. On his debut, he scored 104 against Australia, and also scored 161 in his first Test against England and 168 in the third Test of that series.
In 1957–58, he made 283 runs at an average of 47.16 and took 13 wickets at an average of 38.00 against Pakistan in the West Indies. In 1958–59, in the series against India he scored 287 runs at an average of 35.87 and took 9 wickets at an average of 29.66. In the fifth Test at Delhi, he scored 100 and took 3 for 94 and 5 for 90, and in 1959, he set a league record of 306* for Burnley in the Lancashire League.
In the 26 Test matches he played, he scored 1331 runs at an average of 31.69 having scored four centuries and six fifties. He took 48 wickets at an average of 33.85. He died in a hospital in 1959 died at the age of only 26, when he was at the peak of his career having suffered from injuries sustained in a road incident.
#2 Carl Hooper
Carl Hooper is the only player apart from Jacques Kallis to claim 5000 runs, 100 wickets, 100 catches and played 100 matches in both Tests and ODIs. In a career spanning a decade and a half, Hooper went on to score more than 10,000 international runs and picked up over 300 wickets. He hit a century in just his second Test match against India at the historic Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata.
Hooper was fascinating to watch as a batsman; he had a lazy elegance which could enthral the audience. The West Indian was also a talented off-spinner although he was the slowest to take 100 wickets in Test cricket. He returned to his side as a captain in 2001 and led his troops until the 2003 World Cup, and averaged 50+ with the bat as a captain.
Rated highly by Steve Waugh and Shane Warne, Hooper holds the unique record of scoring hundreds against 18 county sides. Hooper averaged 36.46 in Tests, having scored 5762 runs in the 102 Test matches he played. His highest score was 233 against India at Georgetown in April, 2002. He took 114 Test wickets at an average of 49.42.
#1 Sir Garry Sobers
What can be said about this legend that has not been said before? Considered as possibly the greatest all-rounder of all time, Garry Sobers defined pure class with the bat in hand or the ball. Sobers made his first-class debut for the Barbados cricket team at the age of 16 in 1953, and made his Test debut for the West Indies the following year. Sobers was once described as a 'five-in-one cricketer' by Sir Donald Bradman himself.
In 1957-58, he established a record in Test (international) cricket by scoring 365 runs against Pakistan, the highest score in a single innings. That record remained unbeaten till 1994 when another West Indian, Brian Lara, broke the record. Sobers had an incredible batting average of 57.78.
He was a cunning bowler who could bowl in any plausible style varying from medium pace to left arm spin and took 235 wickets at an average of 34.03.
Sobers had an outstanding career of 93 Tests, in which he scored 8032 runs, with 30 fifties and 26 hundreds. He also led the West Indies cricket team from 1965 to 1972.