Promising Windward Islands batsman Sunil Ambris has deservedly found a place in the West Indian squad scheduled to play two Test matches in New Zealand in early December. Selected due to an impressive display for West Indies A in their recent first-class games against Sri Lanka A, 24-year-old Ambris hails from the island nation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
Ambris, who has played a solitary ODI against England so far, is expected to make his Test debut for the West Indies at the Basin Reserve in Wellington on December 1. He will thus join the following select list of Vincentian cricketers who have had the honour of playing Test cricket for the West Indies’ national men’s team.
Besides these names, Vincentians Deighton Butler (five ODIs and one T20I), Miles Bascombe (one T20I) and Kesrick Williams (five ODIs and ten T20Is) too have played for the Windies, though not in Tests. Also, Wilfred Slack and Neil Williams were born in St. Vincent, but played Test cricket for England.
Middle-order batsman Alphonso Roberts became the first cricketer from a ‘small island’ to play Test cricket, when he was named in the West Indian eleven for the fourth Test of the 1955-56 New Zealand tour at Auckland. At the age of 18 years and 173 days, he was then the fourth youngest West Indian to play Test cricket. He batted at number seven, scoring 28 and 0.
This match, famous for resulting in New Zealand’s first Test victory, turned out to be Roberts’ only appearance for the West Indies. He moved to Trinidad after the tour, but his entire first-class career lasted just seven matches. By 1961, he stopped playing competitive cricket and instead focussed on a political career, emigrating to Canada and becoming a renowned political and social activist.
Vincentian fast bowler Winston Davis took 7/51 against Australia at the 1983 World Cup, then the best bowling figures in ODI cricket (source – gettyimages)
Wicketkeeper-batsman Thaddeus Michael ‘Mike’ Findlay played ten Tests for the West Indies between 1969 and 1973, making his debut at Lord’s. His career with the Windward Islands lasted from 1964-65 to 1977-78. He later became a journalist and a commentator, and also served on the senior selection panel for the West Indies team from 1997 to 2002 and as team manager in 2007.
Winston Davis’ peak clashed with the West Indian heydays of domination through their world-class pace quartet, which meant he ended up playing only 15 Tests in five years. A quality right-arm fast bowler in his own right, Davis first played for the West Indies during the 1982-83 home series against India, following a productive domestic season for the Windward Islands.
A couple of months later, Davis took the first seven-wicket haul in ODIs – 7/51 against Australia in a 1983 World Cup game at Headingley. These would remain the best ODI bowling figures until 1990-91 and the best World Cup bowling figures until 2003. Besides the Windward Islands, Davis played domestic cricket for Glamorgan, Northamptonshire, Tasmania and Wellington.
Ian Allen, a right-arm pacer, played two Tests for the West Indies on their 1991 tour of England. He debuted in the drawn Lord’s Test, scalping Mark Ramprakash as his first victim. He kept playing for the Windward Islands until 1997-98, and served as the team’s coach from 2004 to 2016. Allen’s best first-class return of 7/48 came in a losing cause against Trinidad and Tobago in 1990-91.
Standing at 6’7″, fast bowler Cameron Cuffy had the ingredients to carry on the legacy of his predecessors in the West Indian side. However, he was not able to perform with consistency, eventually playing 15 Tests in a career spanning from 1994-95 to 2002-03. Nevertheless, he had the satisfaction of dismissing Indian maestro Sachin Tendulkar thrice in Test cricket.
Cameron Cuffy became the fifth Vincentian to play Test cricket for the West Indies, debuting at Mumbai in 1994-95 (source – AFP)
Cuffy’s best series was at home against India in 2002, in which he played an important role in the Windies’ 2-1 victory with a tally of 17 wickets, the second highest in the series, at an average of 21.88 and a superb economy rate of 1.95. His stinginess once won him an ODI man of the match award – against Zimbabwe in 2001 – even though he did not take a wicket (his figures were 0/20 in ten overs).
Another Vincentian fast bowler who could not live up to expectations on the international stage was Nixon McLean. He had impressive first-class numbers, as 506 wickets at 27.51 attest, but could not translate his potential to the highest level. Outside of the Caribbean, he plied his trade with Hampshire and Somerset on the county circuit and with KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.
McLean’s last international outing was the World Cup game against New Zealand in 2003. His 19-Test career ended a couple of years before that, in the home series against South Africa. Having debuted against England in 1997-98, he never really cashed in on the opportunity created in the national side by the retirements of Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose.
Left-arm paceman Kenroy Peters played his only Test till date at the age of 32, against South Africa at Port Elizabeth in 2014-15. Dean Elgar was his first Test wicket. Since his first-class debut in 2000, he has been a tireless performer for the Windward Islands over the years, collecting 232 wickets at 20.37. He was part of the West Indian squad at the 2000 Under-19 World Cup.
Left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican, boasting a first-class average of 20.51, has played four Tests, first appearing in Sri Lanka in 2015-16. He performed well, taking 4/67 in the first innings. However, he fell out of favour after an indifferent outing in Australia two months later. Though born in St. Vincent, he moved to Barbados at an early age and began his first-class career there.