In this week’s edition of In Search Of West Indies Cricket Roger Seymour looks at the forgotten scoreboard of the 1975 Shell Shield Match between Trinidad & Tobago and the Combined Islands.
On February 15 and 16, 1865, at the Garrison Savannah, Bridgetown, Barbados hosted British Guiana in the first ever Inter-Colonial game of cricket. In the 150-odd years since, cricket has become heavily engrained in West Indian culture. Icons of the game, writers, commentators, fans, mythical figures, often referred to by only one name, have traversed the passage of time and have become part of the everyday vernacular: Mas George, Constantine, CLR, Worrell, Garry, Rohan, Andy, Viv, Cozier, King Dyal, Tanti Merle…
You forget Tanti Merle? You kidding? After all de trouble she mek in de Oval in 1975 pon she birthday? How she promise to form delegation to go to de doctor? And how she stir up dem small island people fuh write all kinda argument like dem lawyer? Wasn’t she mek de West Indies Cricket cardboard preso’ Stolleymeher postpone de announcement of de Shell Shield winner?
The Shell Shield Competition, sponsored by the Shell Oil Company, commenced in 1966 and was the first annual first-class tournament encompassing all six members of the West Indies Cricket Board – Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, the Leeward and Windward islands. The latter two joined together as the Combined Islands in the inaugural year, then played two games each, as separate units in 1967 and 1969. There was no contest in 1968 due to the MCC Tour. From 1970 to 1981, they reverted to the Combined Islands banner in the Shell Shield. Barbados dominated the early years notching liens in 1966, 1967, 1972 and 1974. Jamaica put their name on the Shield in 1969, Trinidad and Tobago scored back-to-back victories in 1970 and 1971, with Guyana, last of the big four to lift the Shield, doing so in 1973.
The Combined Islands, the perennial underdogs from the inception of the tournament, began the slow climb up the ladder. In 1966, The Islands created their first major upset when they dismissed T&T for 85 in their second innings to win by 31 runs at Victoria Park in Castries, St Lucia. In 1969, at Warner Park, Basseterre, St Kitts, the Leewards beat Guyana by 43 runs (Kanhai, Butcher, Gibbs, Lloyd, Camacho and Fredericks were in Australia with the West Indies). In 1971, the Islands beat Guyana (at full strength) by 50 runs at the Botanical Gardens, Roseau, Dominica. In 1973, Jamaica lost to the Islands by 86 runs at Arnos Vale, Kingstown, St Vincent. With the exception of the first match in 1966, when rain intervened (at which point, Barbados were 255 ahead on first innings, with five wickets standing), every match against Barbados had been an outright loss.
The Islands complete record from 1970 to 1974 read: 15 losses – 5 by an innings and an average of 48 runs, 6 by an average of 131 runs and 4 by an average of 6 wickets. Besides their two victories, three encounters with T&T had been decided on first innings. The Islands holding the upper hand at home in 1972 and 1974, whilst trailing at the Queen’s Park Oval in 1973.
Under the astute leadership of former Test wicketkeeper Mike Findlay, the 1975 team included former Test spinner Elquemedo Willett; seasoned batsmen, Irvine Shillingford, Jim Allen and Victor Eddy, and the rising Test stars from Antigua, Andy Roberts and Viv Richards. After the second of two trial matches between the Windwards and the Leewards, both won by the former, Findlay was quoted as saying, “If the Combined Islands don’t win this year, it probably will be a long time before they do.”
The successful West Indies team that visited India, Ceylon and Pakistan from early November 1974, departed Karachi, Pakistan, on March 7, 1975 for London, England. Most of the players were back in their home territories by March 9, just in time for the first round of matches in the Shell Shield. Participation was a prerequisite for selection for the Prudential World Cup to be held in June, in England.
The points system was as follows: Completed Game – 12 points (pts) for Winner; Loser – 4 pts if 1st innings won, 0 pts if 1st innings also lost, 2 pts if tie on 1st innings; Tie Game – 8 pts each; Incomplete Game – 6 pts for 1st innings lead, 2 pts for 1st innings lost, 4 pts for tie on 1st innings.
Combined Islands vs Guyana, Queen’s Park, St George’s, Grenada, March 14 – 17
Viv Richards scored his maiden Shield century, 112 on the first day. Despite Keith Cameron’s 7 for 91, the tail wagged and the last three wickets added 40 precious runs, as the Combined Islands reached 272.
In reply, Guyana lost its last three wickets with the total on 260, falling 12 runs short. Captain Clive Lloyd, coming in seventh, was the top scorer with 66, as he defied doctor’s orders and batted with a fractured right thumb. In their second knock, the Islands made 302 for 8 declared, with good contributions from Lockhart Sebastian 86, Richards 59, and 51 each from Victor Eddy and Alfred Coriette. The game finished in a draw with Guyana on 138 for 2. Islands – 6 pts, Guyana – 2 pts.
Barbados vs Combined Islands, Kensington Oval, Barbados, March 29 – April 1
The Islands returned to the form of previous seasons, being dismissed for under 200, 189 on this occasion. Barbados were restricted to 211, a paltry lead of 22, with Roberts and his new ball partner Hugh Gore taking three wickets each. Collis King, 86 and Keith Boyce, 51, were the main scorers. In the second innings, Jim Allen hit 110, the first century by an Islander in Barbados as the Islands posted 314.
Roberts took 6 wickets for 29 runs, as Barbados were dismissed for 129 and lost by 163 runs. It was only their second loss at home in the Shell Shield, the first having been inflicted eight days earlier by Guyana. Islands – 12 pts, Barbados – 4 pts.
Combined Islands vs Jamaica, Recreation Ground, St John’s, Antigua, April 4 – 7
Jamaica batted first and accumulated 348, with Herbert Chang 90, leading the scoring, with good knocks from Maurice Foster 78 and Lawrence Rowe 64. The Islands had only scored over 300 (350 once) three times in the previous tournaments, now they needed to repeat the trick for the third game in a row. Test star Richards led the way with his first century at home, 101 run out, with good support from Shillingford 82, Allen 46 and Coriette 33. At the start of the final day, the game was delicately poised with the home team on 316 for 7. When Michael Holding bowled Willett for 3, it was 328 for 8. Roberts, the hero of Kensington was greeted with a standing ovation by the 8,000 strong crowd. Fifteen runs later, he departed to a brilliant catch by wicketkeeper Jeffrey Dujon off Richard Austin, 343 for 9. The second year skipper then flicked Austin for 2 to level the scores.
‘Grenadians went wild with jubilation in the Market Square here yesterday when Mike Findlay’s stroke-crashing Austin back overhead for four-gave the Combined Islands first innings lead against Jamaica, on the final day of their Shell Shield cricket match, in Antigua. City traffic was virtually at a standstill when scores were level. Taxi drivers, their car radios at full blast, danced in the streets as ‘small islanders’ moved towards their first ever Shell Shield Championship.
No local cricketer is on the Islands’ team….’
The crowd swarmed on to the pitch, as Findlay and Gore were lifted shoulder high and money stuffed into their pockets. Findlay 46 not out and Gore 25 added 62 for a new tenth wicket record for the Islands. Final scores: Jamaica 348 and 193 for 2, Combined Islands 405. Islands – 6 pts, Jamaica – 2 pts.
When the final round of matches began on April 11, the points’ standings were: Guyana 28 pts, Combined Islands 24 pts, Barbados 16 pts, Jamaica 14 pts, T&T 2 pts. Guyana, the only team to have completed its compliment of games led the table. In the second round, Guyana had beaten Barbados by 10 wickets, after pounding their attack for 552 for 7 declared. Fredericks 250 and Alvin Kallicharran 110 (on his birthday) added 297 for the second wicket. In Georgetown, Jamaica took first innings points by three runs and T&T were defeated by 10 wickets for their first loss at Bourda in the Shield. Fredericks had scores of 41 vs Islands, 250 vs Barbados, 8 vs Jamaica and 91 & 74 not out vs T&T for a total of 546, at an average of 136.50. He had eclipsed Butcher’s record of 505, set in 1967, and had fallen just short of the Shell Shield record of 553, set in 1966, by Jamaica’s Easton McMorris.
On April 11, all transistor radios in the Windward and Leeward islands and Guyana were tuned into the Queen’s Park Oval, for the clash between the Islands and T&T. It was a dry spell in Trinidad and the wicket was expected to favour the spinners. T&T made two changes to the side from the previous game, replacing Neil Ragoo and Ranjie Nanan with Kenrick Bainey and Dudnath Ramkissoon. The Islands kept the same 11 for the third consecutive game: Sebastian, Michael Camacho, Allen, Richards, Shillingford, Eddy, Coriette, Findlay, Willett, Roberts and Gore.
The hosts batted first and posted 259 runs on the scoreboard, with Larry Gomes 58, Bernard Julien 50, and Ramkissoon 42, leading the scoring.
The Islands were 228 for 9 at the start of play on the third morning. Only Coriette, 73, was able to get going against the Alis, Imitiaz and Inshan, who grabbed 4 wickets each. Richards and Shillingford, both suffered the embarrassment of being bowled around their legs, the former by Imtiaz and the latter by Inshan. One of the highlights of the 2nd day, was the spectacular fielding of the Trinidadian substitute, Sheldon Gomes, Larry’s older brother, whose spectacular dives in the covers, saved many runs. The last pair heroics of the Jamaican game were not to be repeated, as Gore was bowled by Raphick Jumadeen for no score and the Islands dismissed for 229. Trinidad finished the day on 213 for 7 with Prince Bartholemew and Ramkissoon at the wicket. Cheeky running between the wickets by Ramkissoon and Inshan, had brought the Sunday crowd alive and had disrupted the tight Island’s feeling, as Trinidad painfully eked out runs.
Paul Keens Douglas, is a Caribbean master storyteller who was born in Trinidad and raised in Grenada. He is the foremost practitioner today, and performs in the dialect of Trinidadian creole. In his composition of “Tanti Merle at de Oval,” he has spun a masterpiece which will pass on for generations. On the final day, April 14, he is burdened with the onerous task of escorting his wife’s aunt, Tanti Merle to the Islands match. Originally from St Vincent, she has been living in Curepe, Trinidad, for 15 years, but is still a diehard Combined Islands fanatic. It’s her 65th birthday and she has never been to the Oval. His humorous rendition is about 15 minutes long and because of constraints of space, only short excerpts are quoted here. The story begins with him recounting to his wife the impossibility of getting Tanti Merle out of the house to reach for the start of play:
“She only tittivaying, packin’ basket with ah set ah food,
Sayin’ how nobody eh go’ starve she in Port-of-Spain.
An’ yu know who end up carryin’ de basket…me!”
After a hair-raising taxi ride during which she gives the first of two oratories on the history of St Vincent, prompted by the intimidated taxi driver’s enquiry “where she from,” they arrive at the Oval with the match in progress.
At Jarrett Park, Montego Bay, Jamaica, Barbados’ slim chance of sharing the Shield was disappearing very fast as they conceded a first innings lead of 115 to Jamaica. Meanwhile, at Queen’s Park, a brilliant stumping by Findlay removed the impenetrable Bartholomew. The T&T innings eventually closed at 252, with Julien, 65 and Ramkissoon, 64 not out, being the principal scorers. In the 2nd innings, Ron Faria, like Julien in the 1st innings, had been forced to retire hurt following a hit on the head from a nasty bouncer from Roberts. Willette and Coriette took 4 wickets each.
“Islands battin’ and Trinidad bowlin’
Islands have runs to make,
Trinidad have wickets to take,
Time runnin’ out an’ excitement in de Oval.”
The chase target – 283 runs in 263 minutes. Ten minutes are lost just after lunch due to an unexpected shower, as Sebastian and Camacho launched the Islands with the perfect start. Their opening stand of 101 was broken when Camacho was caught on the long-off boundary, and Sebastian followed soon after, holing out to the mid-wicket boundary. 117 for 2. The stage has been set for Allen and Viv. Four months earlier to the day, at Feroz Shah Kotla, Delhi, India, in only his second Test, Viv had hammered the Indian spin trio of Bedi, Presanna and Venkataraghavan for 192. Here, he faced the best trio in the West Indies, the Alis and Jumadeen, in their own backyard, a dusty Queen’s Park pitch. He had just struck Inshan for a massive 6 over backward square-leg and out of the ground when misfortune struck. Jumadeen was attempting to take a stiff return catch from Allen and he only succeeded in deflecting the ball onto the stumps. Richards, backing up too far, was run out for 10. At tea, the Islands were comfortably placed at 145 for 3.
“Next ting braps Shillingford gone,
Braps Eddy gone, braps Corriette gone,
Imtiaz an’ Jumadeen spinnin’ ball like joke,
An’ wicket fallin’ like smoke.”
Shillingford, caught at slips, 180 for 4, Eddy, run out by Julien from backward point, Corriette caught at the wicket, 220 for 6. The savvy Findlay continued to give Allen the strike, who had raced to 50 in 75 minutes. Looking for his century, Allen charged down the wicket to Jumadeen, swung and missed, as the incumbent WI wicket-keeper, Murray, removed the bails. Findlay, Murray’s predecessor could only look on in disbelief as Allen returned to the pavilion with 96 runs to his credit. Islands, 254 for 7.
“Roberts attempt ah six an’ he out, the crowd roar,
Den Tanti start to shake she fist at Gomes for makin’ de catch.
She say de way Gomes jump is like he eat Dominica Mountain chicken.”
In fact, it was Ramkissoon who caught Roberts. Gomes then caught Willett as the Islands slumped to 276 for 9. If my memory serves me correctly, the commentator was former Test cricketer, Trinidadian, Gerry Gomez. His narration was smooth and beautifully paced. He set the scene as the drama unfolded at the picturesque Queen’s Park Oval and the entire Caribbean ground to a halt.
“Excitement in de Oval like yu never see in yu life,
Gore come in to bat an’ is den de action start.
Nine balls seven runs to go… noise in de place.
Eight balls six runs to go…Tanti start wavin’ de basket.
Seven balls six runs to go…Tanti on top de seat.
Six balls five runs to go…Tanti fall off de seat.
Five balls five runs to go…Tanti wavin’ de parasol.
Four balls four runs to go…police cautionin’ Tanti.
Three balls three runs to go…ah can’t even see Tanti.
Two balls three runs to go…Tanti climbin’ over de fence.
One ball three runs to go…Tanti on de people field.
Gore hit de ball, an’ he an’ Finlay pelt down de wicket for two run,
An’ is den de bacchanal start, score tie at 283
An’ everybody say Islands win.”
This writer, on Wednesday last, was fortunate to have former Combined Islands skipper Mike Findlay recount one of the most famous last balls, in the history of WI cricket – “Jumadeen was the bowler. Gore drove the ball back past the bowler and we took off. As I turned for the second run, the fielder was about to throw to the bowler’s end. I dived at full stretch. [Findlay was a former football goalkeeper.] My dive took me past the wicket and the umpire. As I tried to get up, I noticed Umpire Stanton Parris turning down Jumadeen’s appeal for run out. The wicket was broken and the ball was in Jumadeen’s hand. The game was over.”
The Islands were, in fact, 282 for 9. The scores were equal. Each side had made 511 runs. The calm before the storm.
The commentators announced that the match was a tie and the Islands had won the Shell Shield.
“Nex’ ting a see
Is Tanti parasol high up in the air,
An’ she in de middle of one set ah people,
An’ dey on de people pitch singin’ an’ dancin’, an’ carryin’ on.
Ah whole heap of small Island people, an Tanti in de middle,
An’ Tanti parasol only goin’ up an’ down, up an’ down, up an’ down.
Nex’ ting loudspeaker say match eh tie, it draw
So Islands eh win de sheld is Guyana.
Well who tell dem say dat, Tanti nearly cause ah riot.
She start to carry on.
She say dey teaf,
She say dey eh like de Islands,
She say change de rules,
She say tie and draw, same ting,
She say she forming delegation to see de Doctor,
She say she declare war,
An’ she have one big, big crowd round she,
An’ she on top one ah dem ting dey does roll de pitch with.”
Jeffrey Stollmeyer, West Indies Cricket Board of Control (WICBC) president announces that the match was drawn. T&T – 6 pts, Islands – 2 pts. Shell Shield winners – Guyana. The firestorm had been ignited.
Tuesday, April 15, 1975: Stollmeyer recants his earlier announcement that the match was incomplete and therefore a draw. Members of the WICBC are in dispute over the actual results of the match. “A decision will be made at the next WICBC meeting in May. Therefore, as the competition stands, there is no decided winner,” the board said.
The source of the confusion is the interpretation of the Laws of Cricket, or more specifically, Law 22, Note 4, which had been amended in 1948.
Law 22 States: “A match is won by the side which shall have scored a total of runs in excess of that scored by the opposing side in its two completed innings; one day matches, unless played out, shall be decided by the first innings. A match may also be determined by being given up as lost by one of the sides, or as the case governed by Law 17 (two minutes for each striker to come in or a side refusing to play). A match not determined in any of these ways shall count as a ‘draw’.
Note 4 states: “a draw is regarded as a ‘tie’ when the scores are equal at the conclusion of play but only if the match has been played out. If the scores of the completed first innings of a one day match are equal, it is a ‘tie’ but only if the match has not been played out to a further conclusion.”
Thursday April 17, 1975: Castries, St Lucia – The bi-weekly paper, the Voice of St Lucia, called for stout resistance. “Trinidad and Tobago had used substitute fieldsmen, the best experts, to replace resting and recovering bowlers, who were equally expert in bowling, but no match for the fieldsmen,” it said. This was an obvious reference to Sheldon Gomes, fielding for Bernard Julien, on the second day. At that time, Gomes ranked in the class of Faoud Bacchus, Clive Lloyd and Viv Richards, as a fieldsman.
Bridgetown, Barbados – ‘Victims of a loophole’ – Don Norville, a Barbadian, a former sports editor and now news editor, writing in the Advocate of Barbados, “What more ‘playing out’ can there be in a cricket match which has been played down to the last scheduled minute and overs?” Norville cast his support for the Islanders, but it should be noted that as a sports writer, he had travelled frequently to the smaller Islands to cover their cricket and had always expressed a strong interest in their cricket.
St John’s, Antigua – Commentator Victor Michael demanded a recount of the scorebook. President of the Antigua Cricket Association Lester Bird sent a cable to Stollmeyer, which read in part, “regret Board’s hasty and precipitate interpretation and decision. Cruel blow to cricket in the Islands. Unprecedented situation requires careful consideration.”
St George’s, Grenada – President of the Grenada Cricket Association Walter St John and lawyer Carol Bristol challenged Stollmeyer’s interpretation of Law 22 and the Shell Shield Rules. “Clearly in this instance, the match has been played out. Played out means that all innings have been completed to a result, or the time allotted for the match has expired.”
Calvin Wilkin, President of the Leeward Islands’ Cricket Association and Julian Hunte, President of the Windwards’ Cricket Board of Control, both lodged protest with the WICBC, over points awarded in the match.
Thursday April 17, 1975: Georgetown, Guyana – ‘It’s a draw!’ Cecil Kippins, recently retired Test umpire and leading statistician, ruled it a draw, citing Law 22, which was very ambiguous, prior to its change in 1948 and which came into effect for the 1949 season. He interpreted the term, ‘played out’ to mean all the wickets of the side batting last, must fall.
He cited instances of similar situations in the Kaye Book of Cricket Records and the Roy Webber Book of Cricket Records.
Saturday, April 19, 1975: Georgetown, Guyana – ‘Games are governed by laws – not sentiment or sympathy.’ Quintin Taylor, writing in the Daily Chronicle, observed “because of the shortcomings of the body (WICBC), the Bye-Laws governing the Shell Shield were not adequately framed and no allowance made for a situation as arose in the Trinidad/Islands game.” He also noted, following 1948, the English County Board, adjusted their scoring system as follows – County Cricket Rules (a) for a win – 10 pts, plus any points scored in the first innings; (b) in a tie, each side to score 5 pts plus any points scored in the first innings; (c) if the scores are equal in a drawn match, the side batting in the fourth innings to score 5 points plus points scored in the first innings. For example in the latter case, he cited the 1970 County Championship Match between Surrey and Warwickshire at the Oval. He laid the blame for this appalling oversight at the WICBC’s feet.
Monday April 21, 1975: Kingston, Jamaica – Daily News Sports Editor Tony Becca pleaded with the WICBC, “Don’t bend the rules like they did with the Kallicharran incident.”
St John’s, Antigua – The Antigua Star called the situation a “tie draw.”
The late Tim Hector, writing in the Workers’ Voice Editorial, noted, “It’s that we fail to see the logic of giving 2 pts to a team with 511 runs for 19 wickets and giving 6 pts to a team with 511 runs for the loss of 20 wickets. Using the English County System – the team batting in fourth innings and tying the score should be awarded equal points plus whatever points earned in the first innings. “Thus the points that should’ve been awarded in the game; Islands – (6 plus 2) 8 pts and Trinidad – 8 pts.
The Antiguan Times noted, “Whatever decision is handed down by the WICBC on May 12 to 14, will be an historic one. WICBC must award points on a reasonable basis… Clearly any statement that the match ended in a draw must be accepted as a statement of fact. Not even the most ardent cricket enthusiast will question this. What they can question is a point system which makes no provision for the distribution of points in cases where scores are equal.”
Monday May 12, 1975: Port of Spain, Trinidad – WICBC issued a statement that the match was drawn and Guyana had won the Shell Shield.
Hunte stormed out of the meeting in protest, citing his mandate for 500,000 people in St Vincent, St Lucia, Dominica and Grenada. Hunte said that Stollmeyer had written to D B Carr, Secretary of the Cricket Council in England, on the matter. Hunte further claimed that Carr in his reply, had said, “He would’ve awarded the Combined Islands half the win points in such circumstances plus whatever first innings points they might’ve achieved. Trinidad would only have received their first innings points.” A subsequent release by Harold Burnett, Secretary of the WICBC, noted the following statement from Jack Bailey, Secretary to the MCC, “Since your playing conditions do not appear to cover the eventuality of any points to be awarded, on the final result, should the match be uncompleted, it does seem that only first innings points are applicable in this case.”
The statisticians’ records show the result as follows: match drawn with scores equal.
This controversy was clearly the fault of the WICBC sub-committee, which was responsible for setting up the Rules and Points System for the Shell Shield. One would think that the committee would’ve referred to the Rules governing the English County Championship. Had this been followed, the Combined Islands would’ve been the deserving Champions.
It’s time to set the record straight and an asterisk needs to be applied on the Shell Shield next to the 1975 Winner, Guyana.
We can call it the Tanti Merle Rule: “Tie and win, same thin’ “
Trivia Question: Did the Combined Islands ever win the Shell Shield?