Bridgetown, Barbados, April 22 - (www.bcacricket.org) - For the first time since gaining promotion to the premier BCA league Championship in 1978, country team St. Catherine will be missing when the new season starts.
A downright, depressing display in 2019 led to the clannish Bayfield, St. Philip side finishing rock-bottom on 40 points in the Elite division (rebranded from First division in 2012). They lost five matches and were the only team without a win.
It was a very hard fall for St. Catherine, with its roots in the Barbados Cricket League and who captured the last of four BCA league titles in 2016 - the others were in 1981 (shared with Carlton), 1997 and 2008.
Thirty-nine years ago, St. Catherine were the toast of St. Philip. In only their fourth season of the First division Championship and captained by the affable and inspirational swing bowler Trevor Clarke, they made a remarkable sprint in the second half of the season and kept interest in the race alive right down to the wire.
Of note as well was the fact that they had captured the major BCA limited overs title - the Barbados Fire Cup (later known as the Sagicor General Super Cup and now the BCA Super Cup) for the first time in 1978 with Clarke also at the helm.
Affectionately called T. Clarke, he knew how to get the best out of his players. But even before going into the details of the photo finish to the 1981 First division season, I must give a little background in relation to my admiration and respect for Clarke as a leader and true “club man”, dating back to my schooldays at Boys’ Foundation in the 1970s.
EARLY ADMIRATION FOR T. CLARKE AND ST. CATHERINE
Playing at Bayfield in an Intermediate division match at the start of the 1974 season in June, I first met T. Clarke. It was a rough baptism before a big, partisan crowd as St. Catherine crushed Foundation by an innings and 71 runs.
That man T. Clarke stood out with both ball and bat.
Thanks immensely to Mr. Bruce Cosens, a former long-standing and highly respected teacher at Foundation and who took on the role as cricket master for generations, I have in my possession a few scorebooks from that era, which I will always cherish. That’s why one of my mottos is: Stats are facts.
The Foundation team in batting order in the first innings showed Cyril “Primy” Best, Keith Holder, Vibert “Milks” Carter, Ronald “Duke Tank” Lynch (later Ronald Bradshaw, who died in 2014), Christopher “Sambo” Lashley, Mark Forde, Trevor Corbin, John Corbin (twin brother of Trevor), Richard Hurdle, Errol “Mac” Browne (captain) and Michael Armstrong.
After losing the toss, Foundation were bundled out for 64 in 25.3 overs with the topscore of 23 coming from wicket-keeper/batsman Trevor Corbin . T. Clarke, using the new ball, swung it all over the place and grabbed five for 20 off eight overs, including the first three scalps.
Spurred by an even century at No. 3 from Victor “Percy” Brathwaite, a little “red-skinned” man, who was also a brilliant fielder, St. Catherine rattled up 225 for four declared off 65 overs. And mind you, T. Clarke made 62 as an opener.
In the second innings, Foundation were dismissed for 89 in 50.3 overs (Gosh! That was painstaking). Three batsmen got into double-figures: Best (29), Holder (17, at No. 3, caught by Arden Hunte off T. Clarke after being bowled by the same bowler for two in the first innings) and John Corbin (13 not out). There were three run outs and Lynch retired hurt.
Carter, an elegant batsman and leg-spin bowler and the very gifted left-arm swing bowler John Corbin went on to represent the Barbados Under-19 team (commonly known in those days simply as Youth team) and whether or not it was a plan, Carter, Lashley and Browne, all residents of Christ Church as virtually all of the Foundation team were, duly joined the Royal Barbados Police Force soon after leaving school that same year.
This story is really not about me and Foundation but for the records, in our second match against Central at Vaucluse we ran into a couple more swing bowlers - M.E. “Bill” Murrell and a guy named Roland Toppin (now the Chief Executive Officer of the BCA).
In the first innings, Toppin grabbed eight for 25 off 15 overs in a total of 72. Central responded with 188 and then Murrell snatched seven for 29 our second innings of 156 before the home side won by seven wickets.
Foundation, however, hit back in the next match, beating Windward, another side with a wonderful seam attack including Lloyd Seale (better known as an outstanding Barbados goalkeeper), by three wickets at Church Hill (Keith Holder scored 38 and 50 not out at No. 3). Scores were: Windward 189 and 133. Foundation 182 and 144 for seven.
Two years later Foundation returned to Bayfield and were again undermined by T. Clarke as the St. Catherine captain in another Intermediate division clash (by then I had the privilege of captaining Foundation for the second straight season). We got another beating.
Foundation had a wonderful pace attack, led by Joseph “Judge Abdul” Coppin, who was one of three players from St. Philip (all from the south) - the others were Willatt Barrow and Adrian “Engine” Greenidge. They always spoke highly of St. Catherine at school with Greenidge worshipping one Thelston “Carew” Payne.
Payne was his “Engine’s” neighbour in St. Martin’s and often excitedly tipping on his toes, just like how he walked, he would say: “Carew boy, Carew boy, he can bat”.
(And by the way, “Engine” Greenidge, who has been living in the United States for donkey years hasn’t changed his hairstyle from schooldays. Big Afro man! A couple years ago, a group of us who played together at school from the days of the BCA Ronald Tree Cup Under-15 Competition, including Hendy Fields, who now lives in Antigua, Michael “Buggett” Jackman (former Deputy Police Commissioner in Bermuda), Adrian Grant (who played first-class cricket for Barbados), Joseph “Judge Abdul” Coppin, Wayne “Joe Busky” Nurse, Wayne “Crampy” Yarde, the incomparable comedian Trevor “Bam or Dynamite” Eastmond and Ken Mason (Barbados’ Consul, Liaison Service Officer in Canada; Ken is the brother of the Barbados Governor General, Dame Sandra Mason. He was a “real St. Catherine man”, a very stiff medium-pacer and also the headboy at Foundation with Keith “Hakim” Holder as his deputy), had a lime at Kermitt’s Bar in Thornbury Hill, Christ Church. “Engine” Greenidge’s afro stood out. Lol).
As far as the match at Bayfield in 1976 was concerned, Coppin bowled beautifully, snatching six wickets in the first innings including a hat-trick with all three of his victims - Stephen Lorde (who later represented YMPC in the First division), Lawrence Mapp (who soon joined Wanderers also in the Division 1) and Tyrone Brathwaite, all edging out swingers and falling to catches at the wicket by yours truly. Coppin also later removed Payne, caught behind on the second attempt, off an inside edge. I was again a victim of T. Clarke in the first innings, dubiously leg before wicket without playing a stroke.
So as a schoolboy, I had become fairly au fait with St. Catherine in an era of a very high standard of cricket in the Intermediate division.
Truth is, St. Catherine were a wonderful team and after dominating in the Intermediate division, their promotion to the First division a couple years later was inevitable and most deserving.
Playing at Bayfield felt somewhat different when compared with other venues (you had to put up with their diehard supporters and that special “Philipine” accent, especially of those hailing from the northern side). And the hospitality was tremendous, as it still is today. Real country-style!
TRACKING ST. CATHERINE’S MAIDEN DIVISION 1 TITLE
Now I can proceed to write with some passion about the journey of St. Catherine’s first capture of silverware in the BCA Division 1 Championship.
It was my first full year as a sports journalist at The NATION newspaper, although I had covered some matches in the latter half of the previous season, having abruptly ended my career as a cricketer after playing a couple matches for Barclays (my first year at that club after three seasons with YMCA).
In so doing, I am very grateful to T. Clarke for engaging me in a very frank Question and Answer interview on the Rise and Fall of his beloved St. Catherine.
He talks about some of the players who were instrumental in the 1981 success, including Thelston Payne, their most durable member as an outstanding batsman and later long-standing coach; the Wiltshire brothers, Luther, nicknamed “Ragoo” and the younger Stedson, better known by the sobriquet of Red Plastic Bag, RPB, or merely Plastic Bag or Bag, and who became an icon in the music field and has won the Barbados Calypso monarch competition a record ten times; as well as fast bowlers Neville Mason and Anthony Brathwaite. (NB: As a lasting recognition of the service to St. Catherine by Trevor Clarke, Neville Mason and Thelston Payne, their names are very pronounced at the club: The bowling ends are named after Clarke and Mason and there is also the Thelston Payne Balcony).
Left-hander Payne scored the only century for St. Catherine in 1981 - a brilliant, match-saving 102 not out against Pickwick at Kensington Oval. Scores: Pickwick 260. St. Catherine 67 and 177 for seven.
Fitness, though, was a very key factor and Clarke has singled out another famous son of Bayfield, MacDonald Fingall, for the vital role he played in preparing the team from the start of the 1981 season after he accepted an invitation from Clarke “to get the boys fit”.
Clarke recalls teaching RPB, then a 20-year-old opening batsman in the style of a “poker” and medium-pacer, how to bowl an outswinger.
On the field, St. Catherine started the season slowly and were joint seventh with Spartan on 11 points at the halfway stage of the then 12-team Championship, with early pace-setters Carlton at the top on 31 points, closely followed by the champions of the previous season, Wanderers, on 26.
But suddenly St. Catherine found renewed energy, beating Police by eight wickets at Bayfield with the Wiltshire brothers playing telling roles, while Carlton and Wanderers were held to draws by Combined Schools and Maple.
RPB was the St. Catherine bowling hero, snatching a career-best six for 25 to earn the Banks Player of the Day award as Police were “arrested” for 78 in their first innings.
Luther Wiltshire then hit 66 in a total of 263 for nine declared.
In Police’s second innings 237 all out, RPB picked up two for 32 and St. Catherine duly knocked off their target of 53 for the loss of two wickets shortly before 6 o’ clock to register their first win over Police at this level.
That seventh series was also long remembered for a fighting, unbeaten second innings century (116 not out) from Robert “Fat Boy” Headley, a student at St. Lucy Secondary (now the Daryll Jordan Secondary) and 52 not out by all-rounder Dave “Chief” Cumberbatch, who hailed from another northern school, Coleridge & Parry, as they frustrated Carlton.
Bundled out for 59 in their first innings to which Carlton responded with 273 for seven declared, the Schools went into the final day on 108 for six in their second innings - still 106 runs adrift with only four wickets standing.
But they batted all day, ending on 272 for eight as Headley and Cumberbatch added 137.
A bizarre situation followed in the next round as Spartan forfeited to St. Catherine on the last day at Bayfield with only four Spartan players including Andy “Vex” Yearwood, who lived as far north as Crab Hill, St. Lucy, making it to the ground for the start of play as it rained cats and dogs across most of the island.
It meant that St. Catherine crept up on the front-runners, slipping into third position on 27 points with Carlton on 35 and Wanderers 30.
Then came the key clash with St. Catherine opposing Carlton at Bayfield. Urged on by their boisterous supporters and spurred by a second innings haul of eight for 39 from exciting fast bowler Anthony Brathwaite, St. Catherine triumphed by ten wickets to draw level on 35 points.
Payne (86) and Winfield Brathwaite (82) also produced vital knocks in a first innings 247 for eight declared responding to a total of 150 all out.
And so the race remained exciting until the very last day of the season with wins for Carlton by ten wickets over Banks at The Brewery, and St. Catherine by four wickets against YMPC at Beckles Road.
That last round match was big for RPB. He will never forget it after scoring a career-best 93 with “crisp cover drives’ and four, but he created a record of sorts by being run out in both innings.
Scores were: YMPC 205 and 231. St. Catherine 259 and 184 for six.
But it was not a straightforward win as St. Catherine stumbled to 84 for six before Payne (60 not out) and Elbert Proverbs (42 not out) carried them home.
The Sunday Sun fittingly carried a photo on its front page (December 20) with Payne being lifted off the field by exuberant supporters, and under the headline: Carlton and St. Catherine are joint winners”. And on Page 17, there were also photos of a beaming Payne, T. Clarke and other team members being congratulated by their fans, and Tony “Fireworks” Edghill, the Carlton captain, excitedly leaving the field at the Brewery in the company of his opening batsmen Lionel Sandiford and Pedro Corbin.
It was a season to remember.
Sixteen players represented St. Catherine. They were (with matches in brackets): Trevor Clarke (captain), Stedson “RPB” Wiltshire, Henderson Jackman, Thelston Payne, Delbert Griffith, Luther Wiltshire, Neville Mason (11), Winfield Brathwaite (10), Elbert Proverbs (9), Anthony Brathwaite (5), Victor Brathwaite, Argyle Inniss, Henderson Sargeant (5), Sylvan Stoute (3), Roy Alleyne (not be confused with former BCL and Spartan batsman) (2) and Mike Barrow (1).
Carlton were represented by 20 players (matches in brackets) - Anthony Edghill (captain), Victor Sandiford, Ricky Harrison, Curtis Campbell, Jerry Kirton (11), Pedro Corbin, Lionel Sandiford (10), Mark Goodridge (8), Johnny Burke (5), Euclid Forde, Andrew Corbin (4), Trevor Greenidge, Julian Roach, Richard Straker, Calvin Hope (3), Steve Hinkson, William Hutchinson, Richard Lewis, Wesley Davis (2), Ronald Humphrey (1).
Final Points: Carlton 44, St. Catherine 44, Police 38, Spartan 36, Banks 34, Wanderers 33, Empire 30, YMPC 29, BCL 27, Pickwick 15, Combined Schools 10, Maple 8.
THE INTERVIEW WITH T. CLARKE
HOLDER: What was the feeling like to win the BCA Division 1 Championship for the first time in your fourth season?
CLARKE: It was very satisfying because the previous year I thought we had a good enough team to win the First division Competition, but I believe that the boys were not fit enough. So I contacted Mac Fingall and asked him if he could come and get the boys fit, leaving the cricket to me and just get them fit.
He agreed and he got the fellows very fit. Being fit and playing as a team, we won it. So I was satisfied because I had foreseen the problem. That is what gave me the greatest satisfaction.
HOLDER: How would you describe the support from the St. Catherine fans throughout the season?
CLARKE: That was a customary thing. It’s just that we got a lot more spectators as we moved into the First division, but we always had the most spectators out of all the clubs because most of the guys were from St. Philip and almost everybody in St. Philip used to come and support the team. I would say we had the best support out of all the teams in Barbados.
HOLDER: Thelston Payne was your top batsman with 506 runs and Stedson “RPB” Wiltshire, as a 20-year-old, had a relatively good all-round season, scoring 354 runs and taking 18 wickets. Tell us about the impact of their performances as well as others including Neville Mason, who was your leading bowler with 45 wickets and fellow pacer Anthony Brathwaite, who got 27.
CLARKE: Well, Payne was the leading batsman at the time and as the only left-hander in the team I wanted him to bat as long as possible so that the right-handers would be able to bat with him and he did that most of the time. That’s why he made the most runs.
RPB was a very good medium-pacer. At the beginning he wasn’t able to bowl the outswinger, but I showed him how to bowl the outswinger and then he bowled both the outswinger and inswinger and caused a lot of trouble. He was very steady.
HOLDER: As an opening batsman, what was RPB’s style like?
CLARKE: I would say RPB came along at that time because St. Catherine was always an attacking batting team. We would normally beat teams in quick time. When we were promoted to the First division I believed that we needed an opener, who was more traditional and RPB fitted the role because he was a very defensive type of player.
One thing I noticed was that he would play the ball even a lot later than almost everybody else, but he was a bit weak and could hardly hit a four. The St. Catherine supporters never wanted to see a defensive player, so I was lambasted when I picked RPB to open because I believed that to win the First division you would have to get a genuine opener. All along we were using makeshifts and he was the only genuine opener.
I picked him and told him his job was just to bat long. I told him if he batted down to the No. 11 batsman and made 10 runs that was good enough. He would bat long, but his runs came very slowly. His solidity was one of the main reasons why we won because when the pitch was good for a first day, before we would normally bat aggressively and get bowled out just after tea, making around 200 runs. I believe that when a pitch is good you should bat a whole day but we never used to. With RPB in the team, we were able to bat a whole day and that helped towards winning the championship.
HOLDER: Sixteen players represented St. Catherine that season. Were they all from St. Philip?
CLARKE: Henderson Jackman was from St. George and all of the other players were from St Philip.
HOLDER: What was special about your team?
CLARKE: Nothing special in my opinion. It was just a matter of getting the fellows to play as one unit, play as a team. That is the only way St. Catherine knew it from the beginning. We played as a team and not as individuals. We believed that we were unbeatable once we played as a team.
We had Luther Wiltshire (older brother of RPB), who had a good all-round performance, Jackman contributed, Payne made the most runs, Mason got 45 wickets and he could bowl a whole day. He was the most accurate bowler in the Competition.
And Anthony Brathwaite, a youngster brought in from the Intermediate, he was very deceptive and very fast. He was very good as a youngster, so I would say everybody contributed. That was pure team work.
HOLDER: How do you feel about St. Catherine’s demotion from the top division for the first time after gaining promotion way back in 1978?
CLARKE: To be frank, I believe not playing as a team and the coach (Thelston Payne) I observed would watch every game from square-leg, only going back to the dressing room at the intervals and at the close of play. He did not take a hands-on position.
All the individuals in the team believe that they know all the cricket. They were not listening to advice, nothing.
Another problem was that even though they were failing the team would hardly be changed. You could make five runs in three innings and you still played in the next game. That was ridiculous.
I suggested to the coach that he should try one or two of the youngsters and he and some senior players said that it does not make sense changing a losing team because the Intermediate is failing worse than the Elite division.
But all I wanted was that he should play one or two guys who I believe would try. You just wanted players who would try. The Elite division players were not trying. And he would even say in front of the young players that they were not ready. One guy got seven wickets in an Intermediate game and the coach told me in front of the players that he was not ready. I don’t think that was wise.
And the social aspect, after a game I realized there was a group in the team that would socialize and this group could never get drop. They could make eight ducks and still be playing. That is not how the cricket should be. As friends you should always be up front and if you are failing you should not be playing. You can change players and still be friends. That was not happening at St. Catherine and I believe that it should never be like that. So somebody has to take responsibility.
Seeing what had happened with the captaincy and all of that, the coach should step up and try to get the team play as a unit but that did not happen.
HOLDER: What do you believe is required for St. Catherine to battle their way back to the Elite division?
CLARKE: I believe that the president and the committee should select an experienced player as captain, one that the players will respect. His job would be to try to gel the team. Someone that knows the game thoroughly along with a good coach who shows interest in the team winning.
I believe that from the time they (BCA) started with this Points system, to me they (St. Catherine) didn’t have the winning spirit. Everybody is looking for batting points so they don’t play team cricket. You must mix some of the youngsters with the older players.
Recently St. Catherine were just depending on slow bowlers. You still need to have good fast bowlers that can bowl a good line and length and especially you also need someone to swing the old ball. Every team should have a bowler who can swing the old ball. These teams nowadays believe in trying to bowl fast but won’t accept the fact that if you are not fast, you try to bowl well and get wickets.
St, Catherine always won by playing as a team and you need people to play as a team, otherwise you can’t win. I believe that is the remedy for getting back on top.
HOLDER: I often refer to St. Catherine as a clannish team. Do you think my assessment is correct?
CLARKE: I agree that your assessment would be right. From elementary school days, the boys who played for St. Catherine Club, I would say that about 96 percent came from St. Catherine Primary School. The club was not always in Bayfield. It was next door to Marley Vale district and almost everyone came from Marley Vale. That was the only pasture that the whole of Marley Vale knew and everyone went to school at St. Catherine and played together. So it was always a team. All we needed was a captain who didn’t play friendly cricket, just play the best. That’s how we won.
I would definitely agree that it was clannish because all of us came along at the same time, played all in the road and at the beach together and went into St. Catherine Club. We came along that way so I would definitely say it was clannish.