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Was It All Cricket?

The West Indians

The West Indians

Cricket in the West Indies remained for many years much about the same standard as that of the 1906 team that toured England, and to which I have already referred. Then two giants of the game arrived on the scene and startled the cricket world. Constantine became one of the world's best all-rounders, and Headley a great batsman. It will be appreciated what an effect such a pair had on the West Indians' cricket. Not satisfied with tours to England, we next find them touring Australia. Our friends over the Tasman were too strong, but the players mentioned held their own in the best company. Constantine's versatility was amazing. His fast bowling, his dashing batting and his extraordinary fielding were a revelation. E. A. Martindale, also, was a splendid fast bowler. Headley was the outstanding batsman of the West Indian teams for a number of years and their best to date. His solid defence and correct style were more like that of an English professional; they called him the “Black Bradman,” for he was a prolific scorer.

En route to Australia, the West Indian team played a match in New Zealand. I was interested to meet Constantine, for I had played against his father at Leyton in 1906. During this page 437 match at Wellington I was to witness an unusual piece of fielding. When a ball is hit back slowly along the ground, it is a common thing to see the bowler put out his foot and make the ball bounce up off the outside edge of his boot, to be easily caught and thus save stooping to pick it up. As a boy I had been told that members of the first Australian team, who practised continuously for months before going to England, could do this in any position in the field when the ball was hit along the ground. Throughout my cricketing career I had not seen this done, except by a bowler as referred to above, and thought it must have been a fairy tale about the Australians, yet in this match I saw Constantine do it twice in one over when the ball was hit to him at third man!

I must record an interesting conversation of fifteen years ago. A team of English women cricketers toured New Zealand. The two opening batsmen were Miss Snowball and Miss M. MacLagen. We had never seen women bat as did these two girls. They often scored at the rate of up to 80 runs an hour; had all the strokes of a first-class batsman, and would jump in and drive the slow bowlers on the half-volley. Old cricketers said they had not enjoyed watching cricket so much for many a day. Speaking to Miss Snowball afterwards, I asked, “Who taught you to jump out and hit the slow bowlers in that way?”

To my surprise she answered, “Constantine.” He was then playing League cricket in England and had coached these young women.