Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Remembering 'Shotgun' Williams

Published:Friday | October 30, 2015 | 10:00 AMTony Becca
Captain Basil Williams (centre) and members of the Jamaica one-day team celebrate with the Geddes Grant/Harrison Line Trophy at the Norman Manley International Airport in 1984.

His name was Basil Williams - or to be more precise, Alvadon Basil Williams - but to Jamaicans and other West Indians, he was simply 'Shotgun'.

He was a cricketer, an opening batsman, and as the sobriquet suggests, he was a no-nonsense, attacking and aggressive batsman who feared no one.

He went in firing, all guns blazing, and, most times, he also went out firing. He never ran for cover, regardless of the situation.

He was, however, not a born cavalier.

As a young man, playing cricket for Jamaica Youths and Senior Cup cricket for St Catherine Cricket Club, he was a middle-order batsman, an elegant batsman, fluent and clean, and many saw him as one for the mountain top.

As a young man, he seemed destined to accompany his good friend, Lawrence 'Yagga' Rowe, possibly into the West Indies team, and another good friend, Lynden 'Muddy' Wright into the Jamaica team, but with runs hard to come by, that seemed a forlorn dream.

On his debut performance in 1970, batting at number six, he was disappointing, and he had to wait until 1977 for his second chance.

With Rowe as the Jamaica captain, Basil Williams was called to trials one more time. After batting in the middle and failing to make use of the opportunity on that occasion, he opened the innings in the last match, went at the bowling from ball one, and selected himself.

Williams made no mistake. He went out, and from the moment he took guard, he sent the fielders scattering with booming drives, some of which ended up one bounce to the third-man boundary.

 

DASHING DISPLAY

 

That was indeed that. Williams, in a dashing performance, made a good score, and when the selectors met, with Rowe in his corner, he was in the team - this time as an opening batsman.

And he embraced his new-found swashbuckling style with delight.

In that year of 1977, Williams went from strength to strength, reeling off shot after shot, and scoring 43 and 88, against Barbados and Wayne Daniel, Vanburn Holder, Joel Garner, Albert Padmore, and David Holford; 34 against Trinidad and Tobago and Bernard Julien, Inshan Ali, Imtiaz Alia, and Raphick Jumadeen; 27 against Andy Roberts of the Combined Islands; and 123 against Guyana and Colin Croft, and Sew Shivnarine.

And in 1978, he reeled off 96 against Guyana, Croft, and Shivnarine; 28 and 83 against Jumadeen, Inshan Ali, and Ranjie Nanan; and 78 and 54 not out against Holder, Clarke, and Malcolm Marshall, before joining the new-look West Indies against the Bob Simpson-led Australia.

 

SPARKLING BOUNDARIES

 

That was the West Indies without their Kerry Packer players against Australia without their Kerry Packer players, and 'Shotgun' enjoyed himself smashing 100 runs off 110 deliveries with 19 sparkling boundaries at Bourda in his first Test match.

Among the bowlers who beat a hasty retreat that day was Australia's speed merchant,

the 'Blonde Bombshell' Jeff Thomson, arguably - according to many, including myself - the fastest bowler of all time.

And that was not all. At Queen's Park Oval, in the following Test, Shotgun swatted the bowlers like flies, hitting 87 laced with 14 boundaries.

Basil Williams' sojourn in Test cricket lasted for only seven Test matches, all while the Packer players were absent. Before he went, however, he gave the fans something to remember him

for - a beautiful, stroke-filled innings of 111 at Calcutta's Eden Gardens, against the best of India and Kapil Dev, Karson Ghavri, Bishen Bedi, and Srinivasan Venkataraghavan.

Shotgun Williams lasted for only a short while, probably because of the presence of Gordon Greenidge and Desmond Haynes. It was, however, short and spicy.

Apart from his Senior Cup exploits at Kensington CC, however, his batting continued to be glorious and brilliant as he went for the bowlers, both pace and spin. It was a time to remember - a time when batsmen were bold, asking for no quarter and giving none in return.

Editor's Note: Basil Williams died in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday at age 65.