It is with much sadness and personal grief that I have learnt of the death of Mr. Courtney Gonsalves, the former Essequibo and Guyana fast bowler. In fact he was the first genuinely quick bowler originating from Essequibo whose pace was comparable to his compatriot Colin Croft during his extraordinary career, especially at the Inter-County level.
While his first class career was brief during the highly successful period of Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge, whom he had first encountered at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, his elevation to the national senior team though belatedly was an inspiration to Essequibians. His ascension had a significant impact on his team-mates’ realizing that through diligent practice, commitment, passion and perseverance they could overcome adversity. Courtney Gonsalves was a master at training for long hours in intense heat, running several miles on the rugged Essequibo road. He would repetitively practise his skill of fast bowling either alone on the beaches or with his colleagues including Alfred Maycock, Albert Stephens, Lennox Alves, John Floyd et al that formed part of a competitive Essequibo team that commanded the respect and admiration of the opposing Demerara and Berbice inter county teams which were made up of mostly test and first class players such as the late Roy Fredericks, Faoud Bacchus, Colin Croft, Sew Shivnarine and Milton Pydanna among others. Yet Gonsalves had excelled by consistently taking five wicket hauls bowling at a fiery pace while full of endurance. His love for the game never ceased even at the time of his death since he remained intimately involved as a national selector, coach and mentor before migrating to Canada. There he was also involved in coaching the Canadian youth team and several young players across the country. He was indeed an excellent Coach and I had the distinct privilege of being taught by him my first exposure to the formal techniques of cricket while he would share graphic experiences of his struggle in attaining success and his goals. He had a hands-on approach to coaching as his mental and technical preparation would then be transformed onto the field where he would bowl to us as fast as he still could, then turn to spin where he was also quite competent. Such demonstration he would forcefully explain was to experience what we would have encountered playing against the likes of Colin Stuart, Reon King, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Andy Chinsammy and even Gavin Nedd, Lennox Cush and Neil McGarrell of a later era of our playing career. It was tough preparation and I recall that he was to severely damage the eye of our wicket-keeper Keron Ramsaroop on the eve of an inter-county match whilst bowling fast at our practice session. I guess Keron had underrated his pace since the ball just burst the gloves and flew into his face; an indication even then that he was very intense at what he did. It was no coincidence therefore that he was named Coach of the Year by the Guyana Cricket Board (GCB) in 1998 when North Essequibo was unbeatable, winning every national competition including the S.N. Singh and Bristol tournaments under his guidance. He was compassionate too and would reward us when we had personal and team success. His humour had a riveting effect on our psyche since his ruthless and sometimes harsh penalties would then seamlessly be substituted by the humane side of him.
Courtney Gonsalves’ contribution to cricket in general was outstanding and he will remain as the architect and symbol of pride for Essequibo; an era of fast-bowling supremacy, idealist in defeating mediocrity, strategist of immense competence and a father-figure not only to his adorable children but to many who had experienced his grace and pleasant personality as I did. He is gone but not forgotten since his ideals will live on. I extend my sincere condolences to his wife and children during this very testing period for his family.