It isn't a gentleman's game anymore

Everton Weekes was an attacking batsman and his record of 4455 runs in 48 Tests with 15 centuries speaks for his awesome abilities. He was knighted in 1995.

West Indian batsman Everton Weekes seen in action during a match. (Circa November 25, 1957)   -  THE HINDU ARCHIVES

THE Indians would never forget Everton Weekes. In 1948-49, he aggregated 779 runs on the tour to India and hit four successive centuries. He missed the fourth by a mere 10 runs when he was run out. When he played the Indians again in 1952-53, he aggregated 716 runs which included a double century at Port of Spain.

V.V. KRISHNAN

Weekes was an attacking batsman and his record of 4455 runs in 48 Tests with 15 centuries speaks for his awesome abilities. He was knighted in 1995. At Barbados, as the West Indies snatched a win against India, Weekes spoke to Sportstar on various issues relating to the game.

Excerpts:

How would you compare cricket today from the time you played?

The game hasn't changed really. Maybe the attitudes of some of the players have changed. There are several reasons offered for that sort of behaviour but I can't pinpoint any particular reason why such behaviour that I've seen in the past few years exists. The players seem to be a lot more aggressive in attitude. Batsmen, when they are out, don't walk anymore making the umpire's job a very difficult one. It's difficult already for the umpires.

What do you have to say on all these innovations and the fact that a cricketer has to be fined to ensure good behaviour?

It's awful for the game, I think, when the batsman knows he's out, he can see the catch is taken, and yet he doesn't walk. He knows he's edged it big but doesn't walk and waits for the umpire to give his decision. It also, at times, leads to hold-ups when the umpire doesn't want to take the blame and calls for the third umpire. I don't think it's good for the game at all.

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How would you look at the game of cricket then?

It was supposed to be a gentleman's game. I think we can now delete the word gentleman. It's not cricket anymore but warfare I suppose because all the teams play to win. I don't think they should play to win at any cost. I think they should try and win honestly and all the help they can give the umpires they should because two umpires doing 90 overs a day is, in my view, pretty difficult.

How can the situation be improved?

My view is that we should have three umpires or four. These people are only human and they must get tired and lose concentration and make errors. Now, with the replays of some of the decisions made, not getting any help from the players, the decisions don't look too good. It can be very embarrassing for the umpires when they see the incident in the replays.

What solutions do you suggest?

I don't know the answers, really. I think there are several areas in which suggestions can be made but it is for the officials to come to the final decision to help the umpires. But this is such a great game, I wouldn't like to see it deteriorate to the point where we would've fights like soccer, fighting with the referees, like baseball where tempers rise so high that they come to blows.

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Is it not sad that cricketers are fined for bringing the game into disrepute?

It's certainly very sad because this should never have happened. I think all this is happening because of the bad behaviour of the players. They are responsible for this. It may sound harsh I know but look at it this way. To do a wrong thing you've to plan it, but if you've to do the right thing you do it quite easily. If I was thinking of breaking into somebody's home I would've to plan it. If I'm thinking of taking up the milk I might just drop it on the steps quite easily. I suppose with the experience and exposure and with the passion for the game things should be better. You might make mistakes when you're 19 and not when you're 26 and there are quite a few 26-year-olds playing the game at this time and they ought to learn from their mistakes.

How much has the game progressed because of the modern technology available to the players?

There's no doubt the game has become very competitive. Things have improved, fielding in particular. Field placements have made things difficult and the actual fielding overall has progressed so much. In fact it has improved tremendously, I must say. Today, the fielder in the point area saves so many runs. When I was playing, for instance, if you would hit the ball past the fielder at point you were certain to get four runs. Now you can get only a single. The players are more athletic and they should be so because they're professionals. And I believe they get paid pretty well. So they ought to play properly. They also become entertainers more than performers.

How well you, or the players from your era, would have adapted to modern cricket?

We would have. I would think so. Because I know there were players who would've done well in any era. You know Frank Worrell, Clyde Walcott, Gary Sobers, Viv Richards. You can recall so many names but I'm trying to name the great ones who would've excelled in any area because they were good enough to be able to adapt to any situation. Concentration is such an important factor for success in any field and all these players had great concentration.

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What changes would you suggest to improve the quality of the game?

I think we should've more umpires doing a Test match rather than just two doing them. It gets a lot out of them since it requires tremendous concentration, especially because of the pressure of the players as well. You can rotate the umpires. Have them change the position after 25 overs and that can be arranged by the umpires themselves.

What is wrong with the West Indies? Why is it languishing at the near-bottom of international cricket?

I wish I knew the answers. I would put it down to commitment, dedication, all sorts of things and again attitude. I know they've a lot of ability and talent in my view. But when they get into the middle the story seems to be a different one. I can't really pinpoint the reason or reasons why the West Indies has not been performing. We've got one of the greatest batsmen in the world, Brian Lara. And Hooper seems to be now coming into his own. There're one or two other nice players. They'll come good at some stage.

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Why were you so severe on Indian bowlers?

It wasn't a matter of picking the Indian bowlers. It just happened. I was in form and happened to be playing the Indians. But that's how it goes and I managed to get a fair amount of runs.

What kind of approach would you recommend to a youngster wanting to make it big?

It's important that he works with a lot of determination. He's got to be very fit and should practise the right way because if you practise the wrong way you could do the wrong things over and over again.

Try and look at some of the better players and try to emulate their style. A lot of us were not coached. We just watched one or two players and thought we could take a few things out of their books.

(This interview was first published in the Sportstar Magazine dated 6/07/ 2002)