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|December 4, 1999||
K N Prabhu, the doyen of Indian cricket writers, salutes the mighty Conrad Hunte who passed into the ages in a Sydney hospital yesterday.
Conrad Cleophas Hunte, who passed away in Sydney yesterday, served the West Indies as opening batsman through 44 Test matches. He scored eight centuries, but he will be remembered for the prime part that he played in the tied Test at Brisbane on December 14, 1960.
A swipe by Meckiff, batting at number ten, was cruising to the boundary as his partner Wally Grout was returning for the third and what should have been the winning run, when Hunte picked up the ball, swiveled round and threw to 'keeper Alexander. "Never in all cricketing time," wrote Alan Ross, "was there a better throw from the boundary. From some 90 yards the ball flew low and unerringly straight to Alexander, who took it perfectly and threw himself at the stumps as Grout dived at the line like a winger in a rugby match at Twickenham. A roar of appeal and Grout was out." Then, with not a run given away, Solomon's throw put an end to Meckiff, with the scores level.
India, and Bombay particularly, have also reason to remember Hunte. For he scored his first century against India - and the last of his career - at the Brabourne Stadium. He held the West Indies innings together against the threatening Indian spin attack. Bynoe, Kanhai, Butcher and Lloyd had gone for 192 runs, but Hunte, with 89, held on to the close against some tight bowling by Chandra. He refused to be drawn into a bold rash stroke, and I was moved to end my despatch for The Times of India with the line: "Had Hunte been Adam, man may have been playing cricket in the Garden of Eden."
Hunte, recalled this when I met him in the Times office in London in 1971. He was then with the Moral Rearmament Group in Lausanne. All this qualified him for the post of match referee and adjudicator which he held in recent years. But then, some of us were to wonder why Hunte kept Charles Griffith going for a long spell after Nari Contractor had sustained a serious head injury.
Moreover, when umpire Cortez Jordan called Griffith from the square leg for 'throwing', Hunte switched him on to the other end. This was either a case of cricket being played 'with no holds barred' or of a captain standing up for his bowler.
Hunte was tipped to succeed Frank Worrell as captain, for he had all the qualifications. But that position went to Sobers. It was felt that Hunte was not a forceful personality and would not be able to hold the disparate units in the Caribbean together, especially with the break-up of the federation. This was rather surprising, for in the game against India Hunte had shown that he could be tough enough.
As a batsman, however, Hunte did not quite have the attacking flair of Cammie Smith or Rohan Kanhai. The change in the character of West Indies cricket was perceptible, for with more players taking part in county cricket, the batting had begun to lose some of the dynamism associated with it in the past, though from time to time players like Greendige and Richards and Lara were to uphold the tradition.
Like most West Indians, Hunte was a superb fielder. He will hold his place in the records of statisticians in this part of the world. He made his Test debut against Pakistan at Barbados in the '57-58 series, scoring 147 against the bowling of Fazal and Mahmood Hussain. His last big knock was 101 in the first Test against India at Bombay in December 1966. He was only 67 when he collapsed while playing tennis. It is the way any sportsman would like to go.
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