Memories of my Hero
Sat, Nov 11, '06
Today would have been Roy Fredericks' 64th birthday and as I reflected on him I thought of the numerous wonderful innings he played and the significant impact they made on me. He was one of my first cricketing heroes, not because he was the best batsman I ever saw, but because he epitomized the qualities of someone with a tremendous fighting spirit that is essential for success in life.
He made an impact on me in the very first match I saw him play. It was Guyana versus Barbados at Bourda in 1967 and in the first innings Guyana made over 600 runs with Kanhai, Butcher and Fredericks making centuries. Barbados replied with 550 runs with Lashley making a double century and of course Sobers making a big hundred.
It was Fredericks' first century for Guyana and it was noteworthy only because he was a late substitute for Stephen Camacho. His innings was overshadowed by Kanhai and Butcher. On the last day of the match, however, Fredericks played an astonishing innings which I will never forget. He played cautiously to reach 50 in 119 minutes and then raced to his century in another 19 minutes. In those days, we each had a small transistor radio listening to the commentary while looking at the game. From that day, I followed his career avidly and I was fortunate to witness the three times when he scored a century in each innings.
I remember staying up all night on Christmas night in 1968 when he made his test debut. He batted through the entire first day's play to end up 76* and the West Indies were 176-8. He got hit several times by Graham McKenzie and later I was to find out that the Aussies nicknamed him "Concrete head."
He was a true fighter and proved difficult to dislodge in that series when, after winning the first test, we were soundly beaten. Fredericks had two remarkably contrasting centuries which showed his versatility. In 1973 at Edgbaston, he batted for over 8 hours to score 150 to grind out a draw and in 1975, he hit that famous 169 at Perth.
That innings at Perth had special significance to me.I had met Roy in 1972 when his wife was a secretary at my high school and I always enjoyed talking cricket with him. He even gave me advice about wrist spin bowling. I left Guyana in 1974 and started at University in 1975. My first semester was tough. It was cold and I was lonely and generally feeling sorry for myself as I found the work difficult. I would never forget sauntering down to the television room one Saturday afternoon and putting on the TV to Sportworld. They then went to cricket correspondent Henry Blofeld who proceeded to describe the 169 along with clips of some of his shots. It might have been just five minutes but it was so uplifting to me that I felt a new found confidence that if he could succeed, then so could I.
There were many other innings that he played that I enjoyed immensely but that innings will always have a special place in my heart.
I was at Lords for the 1975 World Cup final earlier that year when he hooked Lillee for 6 only to slip and hit his wicket. The next year, he scored a second innings century at the famed St Johns Wood ground in the second test.
Roy Fredericks may not have been a great batsman but in my opinion he was a great opening batsman. He made it easier for the other batsmen and many forget that on the opening day of that 1975 series in Australia he put both Lillee and Thompson to the sword in making 40-odd off about twenty-something balls.
The amazing reflexes probably due to his table-tennis exploits allowed him to get into position early for the hook shot and many remember the 11th commandment -- DOWE SHALT NOT BOWL -- when he slaughtered Jamaican pacer Uton Dowe at Sabina Park in 1972. I also saw him twice hooking a teenaged Mikey Holding on to the roof of the South Stand at Bourda.
Fredericks retired from test cricket in 1977 and many felt his decision was premature. He had played in Packer cricket and felt he had made enough money and just wanted to stay home with his family. Indeed he made a double century and a century in his last two matches for Guyana when he was 40 years old.
Roy Fredericks gave me much pleasure from that first innings I saw him play in 1967 until his retirement from the game in 1983 and he will always have a special place in my heart. He understood what it meant for West Indian cricketers to give of their best because of the effect on the fans and for that I am truly grateful.
Thanks for the memories Roy