Winston Davis still holding his own
Sydney Morning Herald article.
NEW ROAD, ENGLAND - Among the spectators at New Road on Friday, as the Australians went through their final paces for the Ashes, was former West Indies fast bowler Winston Davis.
From a shady spot near the Basil D'Oliveira stand, he cast his eye over the Australian bowlers and thought about when he was in their position, busting to play in a big series.
Davis started out as the fourth fast bowler in an attack blessed with Andy Roberts, Michael Holding and Malcolm Marshall. When it's put to him that he might feel a bit forgotten by comparison , he says, ‘‘I held my own".
"It was a good period of my cricket life, to be in their company. When I was bowling at my fastest I don't think I was much behind."
It would be understandable if Davis, 54, found it hard to talk about a time when he was young, fast and strong. For the past 15 years he has been paralysed from the neck down, the legacy of a freakish gardening accident.
‘‘I went up in a tree to prune a branch. I was standing no higher than seven feet off the ground. There was no visible sign of danger, really, but unfortunately for me the branch I was cutting was entangled with another branch. When the one I was cutting fell to the ground it ripped the other one from above, out of the trunk, and that came crashing down on the back of my head and drove me to the ground. I believe that is what broke my neck."
Davis, who lives in Bewdley, on the river Severn in Worcestershire, spent 15 months in hospital. These days he gets around in an electric wheelchair and depends on family, friends and professional carers to help him.
‘‘It's not a life I would have chosen, not one I would wish on my worse enemy," he says. ‘‘But I still enjoy my life. Your family and your friends and above all your God is who is going to see you through. I need help to do things, that's the negative. The positive is my attitude and what I can contribute to society."
He doesn't get to the cricket often but follows the West Indies on television. He thinks modern fast bowlers are less intimidating than the revered figures he played with, but picks out England's Jimmy Anderson as one of the best going around. ‘‘You wouldn't fear them in terms of hostility, but there are some very accurate fast bowlers around."
Davis outshone Roberts and Holding on one day, taking 7-51 against Australia at Headingley at the 1983 World Cup. He wasn't supposed to play in that match, but Clive Lloyd told him half an hour before the game that Marshall was sick and he was in.
‘‘It was a pleasing day the way it ended but it didn't begin very promising. Kim Hughes and David Hookes took a liking to me and were carting me all over the place. After I found my right length and line, things just clicked."
Davis' Australian connection doesn't end there. He toured Australia in 1984-85 but lost his place for the Perth Test to a young, long-limbed seamer called Courtney Walsh. On that tour he met a young Englishwoman in Sydney, and much later married her and settled in Worcestershire. He also played a season in Tasmania towards the end of his career. There, he was brave enough to bounce Jeff Thomson. ‘‘So he tried to bounce me and I hit him around the park," he says. ‘‘We had some battles."
Davis thinks he could have played more than his 15 Tests, even with all the great fast bowlers around, but has no regrets.
For all the advances in bat technology and the Twenty20 revolution, he is yet to see a better batsman than Vivian Richards. And the best fast bowler? ‘‘As an all-round fast bowler, it has to be Malcolm," he says without hesitation. ‘‘Garner was accurate, Michael was fast and deadly, Andy was feared, Croft and Sylvester Clarke had sheer pace and aggression, but Malcolm had it all."
He sits upright in his chair at Worcester, watching Jackson Bird and Ryan Harris strain for wickets on a dead pitch. ‘‘I'm looking forward to a good tussle in the Ashes."